By Ollie Neno
If a week is a long time in politics, then it’s certainly a long time in football – even longer at Bristol Rovers!
I think it was obvious to every Gashead that the 4-1 loss at York would be the straw that broke the camels back, and signal the end of McGhee’s time at the club.
After a very respectable second half of the season under Mark last campaign, it would have been almost impossible to predict that we’d be in this position again six-months on.
He seemed like the perfect man to lead us forward at the time, articulate, knowledgeable, experienced and respected throughout the game.
“We want our Rovers back” was the cry ringing out during the finals few weeks of McGhee’s tenure, and the club listened with the appointment of John Ward as his successor on Monday.
They’ve been criticised for not acting decisively enough during similar situations in the past, but praise has to be given to Nick Higgs and co. this time for acting so swiftly.
In John Ward we have a man who, in some ways, seems very similar to McGhee. The 61-year-old has knowledge, experience and respect by the bucket load. But what sets him apart is a key ingredient that has been missing for too long – a Rovers connection.
Whether it’s a good thing or not, I do believe that our club is somewhat unique and that only a man who has been involved with it in some capacity will ‘understand’ us and what we’re all about.
In that respect, John Ward would appear to be the perfect choice. Despite having not been at the club since his first spell as manager ended here in 1996, you get the impression he has had Rovers blood coursing through his veins ever since.
On returning to Rovers with other clubs, he has always been warmly received by the Gas faithful – still very much considered to be one of ‘us.’
This despite having enjoyed a stint in the dugout of the red half of Bristol in the late 90’s - perhaps the biggest testament you can pay to a man still held in such high esteem at the Mem.
They say that in football you should never go back, but there is an overwhelming feeling that Wardy has unfinished business here, and that leading us into the UWE Stadium would be the perfect end to his career.
Initially he has been awarded a six-month contract, with the sole aim being on the short term and trying to retain our Football League status.
To do that, he’s going to need to get the players on-board quickly, most of which were of course brought to the club by McGhee. But if he can instill his infectious passion for the club into the playing squad, then we stand a good chance.
Ward was in charge when we were at Twerton Park, a part in Rovers’ history that is considered to be a time when the club was at its most unified.
Just his appointment has suggested a hint of that unity returning to us supporters, and we have a key role to play in giving our full backing to Ward and the players over the next 24-matches and beyond.
Tomorrow is the first of three crucial games we have before the January transfer window opens, when there is sure to be some much-needed reinforcements added to the squad.
Rotherham were widely tipped to be one of the favourites for automatic promotion in the close season, a billing they’re living up to having spent wisely in the summer.
But with Ward back at the helm and his barmy army back in full voice, a trip to a lively Memorial Stadium will not be one that Steve Evans and his men will be relishing.
Bring your scarf with you and lets finally bring the Twerton spirit to Bristol.
Come on Rovers!