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Monday 20 November 2017

No panic at Rovers despite traumatic start to the season

Shamrock Rovers coach Stephen McPhail has backed manager Stephen Bradley to turn the club’s fortunes around
Shamrock Rovers coach Stephen McPhail has backed manager Stephen Bradley to turn the club’s fortunes around

Patience is a virtue, but not if you are the manager of Shamrock Rovers.

Since the departure of Michael O'Neill in 2011, the average life span for the occupant of the hot seat with the Hoops is just 18 months as Stephen Kenny, Trevor Croly and Pat Fenlon all discovered how difficult it was to meet expectations, Kenny getting the sack only ten months into a three-year contract.

With five defeats from eight games so far in 2017 and a current placing in the bottom half of the table, a point behind Bohemians, there have already been murmurings from some sections of the Hoops support about the current boss, Stephen Bradley.

And the nervousness of decision-makers at certain clubs has come to light with two managers (Martin Russell and Dave Robertson) leaving their posts only last week.

But despite that sluggish start to 2017, Rovers maintain that there will be no panic buttons pressed.

"It's madness isn't it, pulling the plug on people six or seven games in," says Stephen McPhail, who oversees on-field operations at the club as the Hoops' Sporting Director.

"Football has gone crazy, I know it's like that all over the world. But speaking to members of the board, the chairman, they're very chilled of the plan here and we're going to stick to it, there is no panic."

McPhail yesterday took the national media on a tour of the club's new base at Roadstone.

A sign of the club's traumatic past will be evident today as the Hoops host Sligo Rovers, a repeat of the last-ever fixture played 30 years ago this week at their traditional home of Milltown. Supporters will walk from the old Glenmalure Park site to Tallaght Stadium ahead of the Sligo game as a reminder of what was lost.

And Rovers stress that their current set up, with impressive facilities for the club's players at all ages, especially the opportunity for academy players to meet and train with senior pros, is a sign of how they are planning for the future.

"You walk around here, it's a building site still, but we're doing the right things," McPhail says of the Dublin 22 site.

"We are building an academy at this club and will have a sustained future in terms of bringing players through the academy rather than taking 34-year-olds like myself," says ex-international McPhail, who ended his own playing career last year.

"We'll have young lads coming through the system and that's the way the club wants to go from now on. I 100 percent believe that's the way forward, that's huge and for an Irish club to do it, the board needs a lot of praise.

"So from my side of things, there is no panic on Stephen, we trust him in everything he does. His workrate is phenomenal so he'll be fine."

Rovers are of course glad to have a home, in the form of Tallaght Stadium, after two decades as itinerants, but the place is anything but a fortress. Since a 2-1 win over Bohemians, Rovers this season have lost at home to Derry City and Cork City and needed a late, late winner from full back Simon Madden to beat Finn Harps, while last week brought a defeat away to Drogheda United.

So the next few days offer more tests, for Bradley's side and for the supporters' patience as Sligo visit tonight in the league while Bohs travel to Tallaght on Monday for a League Cup tie.

But again, Bradley urges patience. "Don't get me wrong, if we lose the next ten games, that's not going to be good enough, I know that," he says.

"The focus is that we're all working really hard to try and get it right. Try and stay calm and let things proceed, try and find formulas to make things work, it's always going to happen. I think the fans, the majority, anyone that I speak to, they really believe in it.

"The last five or ten years, it's sort of being a rollercoaster, getting rid of people, it needs someone to say 'relax this hasn't worked let's go this way'. I think we all believe in it now."

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