The search for a new manager at Bristol Rovers continues over Christmas following Graham Coughlan’s departure to Mansfield Town this week, writes Andrew Clayton.
The Irishman was announced as the new Stags boss on Wednesday after Rovers ‘reluctantly’ gave permission for him to enter talks. Former Plymouth Argyle captain Coughlan led his new side in their League Two clash at home to Northampton Town yesterday, after replacing the outgoing John Dempster.
The move has delivered a sucker punch at the Memorial Stadium, with Rovers going into their Saturday match against Peterborough United under the stewardship of coach Kevin Maher. Joe Dunne, who had been assistant manager under Coughlan and was jointly in charge for the FA Cup win over Argyle on Tuesday night, linked up with his number one after departing on Friday.
It emerged that the Bristol Rovers board had rejected two initial approaches for their manager by Mansfield last Wednesday and Saturday. However, Coughlan left the Gas reeling in a post-match interview following the 2-1 win over Ipswich Town last weekend, revealing that he was not sure how much further he could take the club and needed to see his family to make a ‘decision’.
Addressing the questions surrounding Coughlan’s exit, Rovers chairman Martyn Starnes said that he was ‘disappointed’ with the Irishman’s actions but understood the personal reasons behind them.
Starnes said: “Obviously I was very disappointed after the fantastic performance the boys put in at Ipswich.
“I know how these things work in the background and there may well have been contact between the club and Graham’s agent, but who knows. The driver, I think for Graham, is that he’s been away from his family during the working week now for ten years.
“It must be grinding to go back on a Sunday to Sheffield, where’s he got a young family, to only see them for a short period. I know that he’s been at Rovers for sometimes three weeks in a row without going home because of his commitment to the club.
“I do understand why the opportunity to join a club much nearer to his home was attractive to him. I’ve got nothing but praise for the job Graham has done here.”
On the next manager, Starnes confirmed that the search is on-going and that an appointment before the weekend was never likely. The chairman added that a promotion from within, in a similar manner to how Coughlan replaced Darrell Clarke at the helm, remains a possibility. The likes of Maher, academy manager Chris Hargreaves or development squad manager Lee Mansell will all be mooted if the club does not opt to bring somebody new in.
Coughlan, meanwhile, looked to endear himself to the Mansfield faithful with an extended statement on Wednesday, saying that he had inherited a ‘top squad’ but also revealed that he will be ‘happier’ in Nottinghamshire.
He said: “The football club is obviously local to my family, to my home, so that would have a big bearing on it.
“I think I’ll be a happier person, I think my life will be more fulfilled – you’ve got to look at your own personal well-being as well – it’s a massive opportunity, it’s a massive chance. I think it will make a massive difference to both myself and my wife.”
He added: “We’ve got a tremendous group of players at the club and they’re just not functioning.
“It’s a real top squad. They may be short in confidence, they may be missing one or two vital ingredients and it’s up to us to put that in.”
Coughlan was named first-team manager of Bristol Rovers in January this year, having been appointed caretaker manager in December 2018.