Volume 3: 30/10/2017
J: Welcome to volume 3 of the weekly ‘Rovers Report’ and thank you for joining us. This time I am joined once again by TFF Talisman Doug Shields to talk past, present and future events – you can have your say by tweeting us @TFFBristolRov.
What does Darrel Clarke need to do to turn our form around?
J: For me, some of the players Darrel has retained from our previous promotion squads simply are not good enough to play league 1 football on a regular basis. The priority should be selling off the (To put it harshly) Dead-wood and investing in some proven players at this level. Rovers are crying out for a new winger to take the place of the misfiring Byron Moore and a defensive midfielder would add some much needed depth and competition for our existing options. Aside from transfer business I would like to see us perhaps settle on a first choice starting XI too. I understand the necessity of rotating the side occasionally to maintain match fitness especially with the gruelling fixture list we are facing in the months leading up to Christmas, but it seems impossible for anyone to retain their place in the team even after an impressive performance. It’s good to have competition and to have players fighting for their place on the teamsheet but the lads should still be rewarded for their displays. I am not for one moment doubting the managerial ability of DC – the man has done wonders with the resources he has been provided with – but perhaps an upturn in form depends upon settling on a definitive ‘ Best 11 ‘.
D: I think Clarke needs two full backs and a defensive midfielder in January. Stuart Sinclair isn’t a defensive mid and while Ollie Clarke and Linesy do a solid job in there they both seem happier moving the ball forward. I am not convinced by Daniel Leadbitter and never will be. Teams target him and he is by far the weakest link in our team. Joe Partington’s injury record means he is not going to play 40 games a season and while I like Bola we need a number 3 who can step into Lee Brown’s boots and be his potential successor. I would even say perhaps that Ryan Sweeney has let us and himself down this season after signing again. We were expecting great things – and lots of clean sheets – but the opposite has happened.
Do we have a better or worse squad this season compared to last?
D: I fear we have lost momentum now. The core of the squad which took us up twice remains but looking around the best of the rest doesn’t amount to much. Slocombe looks the better option between the sticks and I enjoy watching Sercombe and Bola when he gets a chance, but we need more. We haven’t adapted to this league as well as we did last season. We spend more time on the back foot in our own half in games this season than we did last. And we look nervous if we don’t get a feel for the ball early on. We have looked devoid of confidence at times. Saturday was a big result but despite that I would still be happy with a mid-table finish this season and a big push next time out.
J: This is a difficult one but I tend to agree with Doug, there are of course standout players from the last few seasons but the momentum achieved from back to back promotions is all but a distant memory. In fairness we had a productive summer in terms of incomings – Liam Sercombe strikes me as one of the best playmakers we have had in years, and our goalkeeping crisis of yesteryear is seemingly sorted for now. One thing I didn’t account for was how much we would miss Cristian Montano, The winger was never a spectacular player for Rovers but knew how to whip a cross in and I feel he would still be a regular for us had he not been released. The squad of players we currently have doesn’t seem to be the issue as we are arguably stronger than last year in most areas, but an upturn in form defensively could do us a world of good – Tom Broadbent starting alongside Locks regularly could be the answer to our reoccurring problems.
Is the division tougher this season than last?
J: On paper, League 1 this season was always going to be fiercely competitive, but then again, on paper table topping Shrewsbury Town were relegation fodder. Teams like MK Dons and Bury had impressive Summer spending sprees but the former looked extremely average against us Saturday with the latter just 1 point away from sitting at the very bottom of the league. It really is a shame we didn’t push for those 2 or 3 more quality additions during the last transfer window as a promotion place seems to be there for the taking, we are just 4 points away from the play-off places after all. League 1 is extremely competitive in 2017, but without that many outstanding sides at the top end of the table it still isn’t out of the question that we could be well in the mix by the time March of next year rolls around,
D: I believe this league is about the same standard as last season. Yes there are teams who have come down with more money then perhaps those who did last season, but Peterborough and Shrews are the only sides who have battered us and we weren’t at the races in either of those games. Wigan was a farce thanks to the referee and although they have good players they had a man more than us which made it easy for them. I am convinced we will give them a game at the Mem. Aside from that I’ve not been impressed by anyone else we have played and I think we three more quality signings we would have been higher up the table.
Vs West Ham Under 23’s (H)
J: A meaningless game but I hope we see some youngsters shine, 2-0 Rovers.
Vs Notts County (A)
J: A tough away trip to an in form side – I would be happy with 0-0 to take us to a replay.
Any questions you would like us to discuss? Disagree with our opinions? Tweet us at @TFFBristolRov