Tuesday’s result against Barrow was devastating. You can’t spin it any other way. Rovers now need to win their last two games to give themselves any chance of making the playoffs, writes Frank Gregan
That’s a big ask for a team that has won once in the last ten games and not scored a goal in their last three matches. Doable but massively difficult. I wrote the article below on Tuesday morning before the Barrow game. It would be easy to edit now with hindsight and blame the board for changing head coach at such a critical stage of the season. That wouldn’t be fair, as you can see from what’s written below I thought it was the right decision. Football has a nasty habit of not following the script. If the club does produce a ‘Harry Houdini’ and reaches the playoffs then my suggestions below remain relevant.
The next few weeks are going to be a test of Dale Vince’s strategic skills. In my opinion, the key figure in Forest Green’s promotion hunt is now the Chairman. I accept that he won’t be out there kicking a ball and ultimately it will be the performances of the players along with sporadic appearances from Lady Luck that will ultimately decide Rover’s fate but the Chairman’s strategic planning will have a massive impact on the eventual outcome.
Dale has been there done that and doubtlessly (given his famous dress sense) has the tee-shirt when it comes to promotion battles. He has history and hopefully, he will learn from that history. Forget the success of 2017, that strategy can’t be repeated as it was the culmination of the first season of a new manager in the hot seat, Mark Cooper.
That won’t be happening this time because Mark, who had been in charge for over forty league matches this season is no longer at the helm. The lessons to be learned come from 2016 when the Chairman’s strategy didn’t work. I accept that Monday morning quarterbacking is the easiest thing in the world but at the time I was telling anyone that would listen that his staff appointments were wrong. He was 100 percent right to relieve Ady Pennock of his duties. Ady’s tenure had run its course and the club and most importantly the first team needed new impetus heading into the playoffs having gone seven matches without a win. A ‘sugar hit’ was needed and that’s what happens with a new appointment.
Everybody at the club gets a wake-up call. The club found itself in a similar situation this season having lost four on the spin at a crucial time and again Dale has chosen to replace the current incumbent because he knows that Einstein’s theory of Insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results) is true and ‘Coops’ was unlikely to lead Rovers to promotion.
Dale must handle his appointments differently this year. Scott Bartlett was the surprise interim appointment in 2016. History is starting to repeat itself with Jimmy Ball being promoted from within and handed the task of getting Rovers into League One. Rumblings of the insanity theory? I think not, there’s nothing wrong with the interim appointment.
The lesson that I hope Dale learns from 2016 is clarity. A clear and concise message as to who is in charge of the team. In 2016 he appointed Mark Cooper to take over the following season whilst the playoffs were in progress. That was a mistake. He should have waited until after Wembley before announcing that appointment even if the deal was already done between himself and Mark.
The timing of Mark’s appointment led to confusion within the club and hindered the work that Scott was able to do. He was supposedly in charge but the real gaffer was stood looking over his shoulder. It was a recipe for disaster and contributed massively to the subsequent Wembley failure.
This year I hope Dale takes one of the following two options: 1. Make it clear to everyone that Jimmy is in sole charge from now until the promotion issue is settled and if he is successful he has given himself a great chance of landing the head coach role on a full-time basis.
2. Keep Jimmy in charge until the regular league season is completed and then appoint the new head coach for the playoffs and the following season. The playoffs are two games and whilst it’s impossible for the new appointment to stamp his or her mark on the style of play the sugar hit will more than compensate for that. The players have played around fifty competitive games together this season, it’s man-management they need now, not patterns of play.
Follow Frank on Twitter: @Greegers