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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 37

1 May 2013

Before a ball had been kicked in anger I predicted on this website that Barnet would finish bottom, and that Burton Albion would join them in the drop zone.

With everything now done and dusted, I'm thrilled to confess I was so wrong about Gary Rowett and his Play-Off side. It's been a marvellous turnaround at the Pirelli Stadium.

I don't believe many people saw their form coming, certainly not the unreal level of consistency they've shown on home turf, and it goes to show what can be achieved on a low budget if you get the recruitment, coaching and motivation right.

Those three factors are a must if you want to defy the odds like Burton have, so well done to all involved with the Brewers.

Good players like Billy Kee also help no end. I tried to sign him from Leicester City when I was at Morecambe because even though he's chunky, and to the untrained eye looks like a pub player, he is a natural finisher. The boy knows where the net is, and that's why I predict he'll play at a higher level very soon. First, he'll have a big part to play in the Play-Offs.

As for Barnet, it really saddens me that my prediction was right, even if I was out by a place.

I never thought I'd say this as I was extremely dubious about his appointment, but I do feel sorry for Edgar Davids. The Dutchman has thrown his heart and soul into the club, and I really admire him for that.

He could have breezed around Underhill acting like a big-time Charlie but he's been the exact opposite, mucking in and proving that he is desperate to cut his teeth in management with a club that he's fallen in love with. Davids hasn't been too big for his boots at all in npower League 2.

I also felt he was doing a reasonable job. For long periods they looked like they'd be comfortably safe, but at the back-end, when it mattered most, his side crucially fell away.

The Conference is a fierce, unforgiving division but, by the sounds of it, Edgar Davids fancies the challenge of bringing the Bees back up - and I respect that. I hope he gets the chance.

It's Play-Off time now of course, and I feel we've got four strong contenders.

At a push, I'm leaning towards a Cheltenham Town versus Bradford City Final. I sense their recent experiences could be a decisive factor in their favour.

The Robins are a tough nut to crack under Mark Yates and will be driven on by the pain of losing to Crewe Alexandra in last season's Final, while Bradford City have proven pedigree as a top cup side this year.

With their big following and Capital One Cup Final exploits fresh in the memory, it's hard for me to look past Bradford as Play-Off favourites, even though they ended up in seventh place.

Outside of that, I was fascinated to read about how Southend United boss Phil Brown brought his good friend Jeremy Kyle into the dressing room at Roots Hall before their final day clash with Morecambe. The plan was for Kyle to rouse his players with a motivational pep talk.

I know Jeremy Kyle is alright at sorting out nutcases on TV, but I would ask what he actually knows about football?

That said, I played similar games with my players when I was in charge at Macclesfield Town. I didn't use showbiz friends per se, but if I invited my old Manchester United pals to a game, guys like big Norman Whiteside, I'd ensure my boys clocked he was there.

I'd either deliberately take him down into the dressing room area so that he was seen, or I'd drop Norman's name into the team talk, telling the lads not to let me down because I'd told the big man they were all good players and I didn't want to look stupid.

It sounds silly but you should have seen the players' eyes light up. They really wanted to impress the star guest.

It's part of man-management to give your team a lift or a little surprise every now and then. It doesn't always work - as Southend discovered last Saturday - but I feel it's worth trying these ploys once in a while.

Last word this week goes to Martin Ling at Torquay United. He's been off work for quite some time now with a stress-related illness, and this week he revealed that the club has let him go.

It's a sad situation for Martin, because he's a very good manager that's well respected in football. It must have been a tough call for Torquay to make, too. I hope he gets himself fully better now, and then, I'm sure he'll be back in management again very soon.

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