11 March ~ Although we are constantly told that managerial lifespans are too short these days and that every manager needs time to introduce their own philosophy, tactics and personnel to a club, there can surely be no doubt that the decision to remove Dave Penney as the manager at Bristol Rovers after less than two months and 13 games in charge was the right one. He joined a club that was struggling and left it in crisis, having accumulated a mere eight points out of 39 and with the team seemingly giving up before they’d even walked out onto the pitch.
For one man, even the manager, to have such an effect is quite an achievement. The flaws were obvious from the start, his “tactics” being the simple one of hit and hope, the players confused and demoralised by the reversion to long ball and apparently poor man-management. It had been an indifferent season under previous manager Paul Trollope but the team had actually been trying to play football, now they weren’t even trying.
Caretaker managers aside, the closest precedent to at Rovers this was Martin Dobson's brief reign when he replaced Gerry Francis in 1991 – Rovers got four points from his eight games in charge. But Dobson was taking over a relatively successful team that had been promoted two seasons previously, and Francis would have been a difficult act to follow for anyone (though I seem to remember Martin O’Neill being in the frame at one point).
Penney was brought in to do a specific job, that of avoiding relegation, and never even got going. The final straw was the defeat against fellow strugglers Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday which he compounded by seeming to admit that Rovers were going to be relegated anyway with 12 games still to go, an unforgiveable capitulation by anybody’s standards.
So it may have been a surprise but it doesn’t sound like anybody was sorry when the board made the decision to remove him and replaced him with skipper Stuart Campbell until the end of the season. Already an improvement in morale and performance has brought about a win at Tranmere on Tuesday, and if this team doesn't fight for Campbell, then they don't deserve to stay up. Jim Gwinnell