Vital Gas Interview 2012: IrishRover
1)How long have you been a Rovers fans?
Since the 1993/94 season, when I was 10 years old. First game was Rovers 4 Bradford 3, with a Marcus Stewart Hat Trick and an injury time winner from Worrell Stirling. I'll probably never see a better game.....
2)Mark McGhee, your opinion please?
Very postive. I don't think we've appointed a manager with a better track record since I've been supporting the Gas (though Lennie Lawrence runs him a lot closer than many would think - wasn't manager though of course). Seems like a 'proper' football person. Took no time at all to sort out a defence that was frankly embarrassing. I have full confidence that he will take us where we need to go. My only concern is that he has always been fiercely ambitious and may leave us at an inopportune time. For example, if we were in the top 3 in January. This happened to Port Vale with Mickey Adams a few years ago and it sunk them. Other than that, I have no worries at all and every confidence in Mcghee. As ever I hope he gets time to set up a pattern of play. Away form may take a while to come for example.
3)Best and worst moments of last season?
Well as I'm in Manchester now I only got to see a dozen or so games last season, so my moments are probably different to others. I'll be greedy and have 2 best moments. One was the first day of the season watching Rovers beat Wimbledon in my local amid the sea of apathetic United and City shirts - that was fun! The second was the win at Morecambe, where I thought we played really well going forward (though the defensive holes were there for all to see even then) and Joe Anyinsah bossed the game in a way he obviously didn't do for the rest of the season. That was in October and was the last time I remember being confident that we'd do anything last season. It was also a top away day which I'd recommend to anyone. Also 2 worst moments. 1st Accy Stanley away, where we were pulverised in the first 15 minutes by a crap team. Just utterly shambolic - and I've never seen a Rovers crowd so poisonous towards their own team as they were that day. Just a horrible experience, that's when I realised Buckle was done though I don't think I truly accepted it for awhile. 2nd - Plymouth at home, don't think I need to remind people of that one. That really was the last rites. At that point I actually thought we might go down, there just seemed to be such an abscence of brain in the club and it was the only time I have ever thought that a manager got the stick he deserved.
4)What will your opinion of the board be if they deliver The New Mem as promised?
I've always broadly backed the board, though not from an uncritical standpoint. If they deliver the UWE and put the club on the firm financial footing (which is obviously the golden ticket) they claim they will have achieved something no Rovers board has managed to do in at least 2 generations (possibly ever), and I'll happily have the stadium named after Nick Higgs. If they financially cripple the club in order to build it and protect their own reputations (as many other clubs have done) then they deserve everything they get. I think the reality will probably fall somewhere in between those two because I think they are decent people working in a difficult situation with a lot of unrealistic expectations from certain quarters of the fanbase. There'll probably be a lot of work to do to make it all work. Who does that work will depend on the ability of the board to reconnect with the fanbase. Either way as has been much stated on the Alternative Forum, it is for us to watch and see what happens - there is little that can be done about it now. What will be will be.
Generally though, I think they've been quite brave in admitting that the original New Mem plans were flawed and developing an alternative. No one likes admitting to failure, and many clubs have ploughed on regardless with unfeasible developments that have stuffed them. They should have done it a lot earlier as it left many understandably disillusioned and added to their charge sheet against the board. But I'm happy that the board made that decision even though they received some predictable criticism.
5)Which players should Rovers look to sign over the summer?
More about types of players as I think Mcghee will make a few 'off piste' signings - getting players we're not familiar with. I expect to see a few more Scottish signings like Patterson, as that's where has good recent knowledge and I think there are potential bargains. We need to sign a brand new centre midfield that is more dynamic - it didn't work last year, we missed players prepared to run at the opposition and it wasn't tough enough either. We also need at least one more striker (probably 2) to complement Harrold. We actually have some decent options outwide but if Muzzy goes we need another attacking option for the midfield. All of that is assuming that the defence that finished last season will be back, which is a big if. I think Mcghee has lots of work to do, but that he will definitely do it and I'm not in the least bit worried at the lack of early signings. He has done this 20+ times, he knows what he is doing, plus the season kicks off later this year, and I imagine there is the usual cat and mouse game going on with agents.
6)Which player would you happily drive to his new club to get rid?
I don't go in for that kind of thing. I think people forget that players are professionals who have jobs and bills to play etc. I don't like seeing people lose their jobs, even if they're not that good at them. The human cost is too often forgotten and these guys are rarely on that good money that they are set up for life. Sorry to be pious about it but there you go. Oh, apart from Darryl Duffy - I'd have driven him to Fort William and beyond!
7)Favourite current player?
Difficult, not sure I've seen enough to decide. Woodards is probably our best player by a fair bit, but I'll go for Harrold. I like proper physical centre forwards and he's the first one we've had for quite some time. Needs to get a bit cleverer at the dark arts though. Too many fouls go against him because defenders work the referee better than he does.
8)Favourite all time player?
Varies, Ellington was the most exciting player I ever saw in a Rovers shirt in terms of just never knowing what he was going to do next. I also think Stuart Campbell was immense, a battling centre midfielder that we just always seemed to lack. But, with massive blue-tinted specs on my favourite player of all-time was Lee Archer.
9)Where do you expect to see us finish next season?
I'd be very dissapointed if we didn't finish in the top 7. I think once you get into that bracket of teams at this level a lot relies on luck with injuries/if you lose key players in January/making the right signings to get over the hump, as to whether you are automatic challengers or not. There's quite a lot of random elements that clubs can't control. But in this league, spending what we do, we should always be expecting a playoff finish at least.
10)Given the opportunity is there any question from the Club you would like to know the answer to?
Yeah, I'd like to know two things; 1)What happened to the deep heat smell that used to waft over the West Enclosure at half time? I associate that smell with the height of the Ollie era and relative success - there's a strong correlation between the West Stand enclosure smelling of deep heat at half time and Rovers being good. I feel the club ballsed up here. Maybe players stopped using the stuff, maybe the air conditioning was improved, maybe somebody shut a door. Either way big, big error. It's all gone down hill since then. 2)Any chance whatsoever of someone possibly turning the PA down from 11 in the West Enclosure?
11)And finally Which celebrity/s would you most like to meet and why?
Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers is something of a personal hero for many reasons - so I'd like to meet him mainly because I think we probably have very similar views on politics, music and sport. However, I think he'd probably massively object to being labelled a 'celebrity' so that would sink any chance of meeting him.