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‘In my opinion, it is not a good appointment, but let’s hope I’m wrong’ – Frank Gregan on Ian Burchnall

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Ian Burchnall is the head coach of Forest Green Rovers for the 2022-23 season. Yeah I know, Oasis have split up and man has landed on the moon.

His appointment in the fast-moving news cycles of football is as ancient as those two statements. However, perhaps because of the ‘small club’ mentality there seems to have been very little scrutiny of the appointment or the decision-making process that led to it.

 It’s an absolute dream job. Consider the millions of people in England that would love to be in charge of a football club. Narrow that figure down to the amount that are realistically qualified for the FGR post and you probably end up with a number that is in excess of three figures. Shave it down again and look at how many people were qualified, suitable, readily available and interested in the post and I think you’re into low double figures. Having applied that criteria it’s difficult to see how Ian got onto the list. 

Let’s put it into perspective. Burchnall is now one of the top 68 bosses in English football after one season in work and without having achieved anything of note in the English game either on or off the pitch. The highest I ever achieved on that ladder of fame was 104th and I admit I used to scratch my head in bemusement not sure how I got to within touching distance of the top ton. 

Looking back, I know I achieved that placing due to the efforts of dozens of players who won back to back promotions for the club. Not in my wildest dreams would I have expected an offer from a league one club to be the gaffer even though I had a CV that was pretty impressive. So how on earth did Dale and his team make what from the outside looks like a bizarre decision?  Remember, Ian has never managed or worked (to the best of my knowledge) with a first team in the English Football League. 

I have no inside knowledge so can guess away and see if readers agree or disagree with my theory. The owner has never been ‘conventional’ and an appointment out of left field was always an option if the guy coming in could bring something different to the table. All of Burchnall’s work experience except his one season at Notts County is in Scandinavia and that is a market that Rovers have never looked at. It may well be that the new coach has in-depth knowledge of quality players from Scandinavian countries and this is seen as being a key to Rovers future progress. 

I just can’t see it. Anyone who has ever holidayed in Scandinavia will attest to the cost of living and I don’t think there are players over there that are better than are available in England on similar wages. I could understand it if he was bringing detailed knowledge about the second tier in Greece, Portugal or Spain where there is an abundance of talent available for reasonable renumeration but that’s not the case.

He has no experience of the third tier of English football. Let’s not kid ourselves, League One is a real tough gig and the dream is not to stay in it, it’s to get out of it in the right direction, the Holy Grail for FGR is the Championship. So is Ian Burchnall’s appointment a good one? 

I remember the first thing I was told during media training at Lilleshall many moons ago was ‘tell your audience what they want to hear.’ That’s never been my way, consequently, I’m about to be as popular as a new variant of Covid at my old club because I have to say in my opinion it is not a good appointment. I wish him all the best, I really do, but I think that the momentum Rovers have consistently shown in recent years is about to suffer a self-inflicted blip. I’ll explain why next time but in the meantime, let’s hope I’m wrong. 

I usually am!

In a regular column, iconic former Forest Green manager Frank Gregan has teamed up with Stroud Times to look back on his time at the New Lawn.

Now living in Spain and a published author, the former sergeant major joined Rovers in 1994 – leading his side to back-to-back promotions and Wembley final. Frank transformed the club from non-league minnows, charting the way for what they have gone onto achieve under the late Trevor Horsley’s successor Dale Vince.

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