Next Bristol Rovers Manager: Four contenders to replace Graham Coughlan at The Gas

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 17 December 2019, 13:03

After a surprise 2-1 win at Ipswich on Saturday left them as high as fourth in League One, an even bigger shock awaited Bristol Rovers.

Manager Graham Coughlan spoke of his desire to leave the club and Mansfield Town – 18th in the division below – is his reported destination, partly for family reasons. A move that has now been finalised.

Who will replace Coughlan at the Mem? And who can continue Rovers’ unlikely promotion push? We outline four possible candidates from the next Bristol Rovers manager market.

Lee Mansell

Why he should get the job

With Joe Dunne leaving to join Coughlan at Mansfield, Lee Mansell has taken charge of the first team on an interim basis, having been Development Squad Manager.

From that role, the 37-year-old has acquired an inherent knowledge of the talent in the reserves and youth academy on top of the first team, so he already has a picture in his mind of how to build this squad over a long-term period.

Additionally, the former midfielder is well-regarded at Bristol Rovers, having served the club in a playing capacity for three seasons – they happened to be successive promotions followed by the club’s highest finish in 16 years.

Mansell has since stayed on to be Under-18s boss, then Under-23s Manager; he enjoys living in the area and loves the club, so there is potential for this to be the perfect marriage.

Why he might not

Mansell is yet to taste senior management.

Ideally, somebody in that situation would have a full pre-season to settle into the job but here, the boss would have to adjust straight away to a League One promotion race.

Verdict

While results are going well, it makes sense for Rovers to make an internal appointment to maintain stability; a management team of Mansell and Hargreaves would be a low-cost way of doing so.

Ian Holloway

Why he should get the job

As a midfielder in his playing days at the Mem, the Gashead by birth always performed selflessly, with spirit and determination – and he did a good job as manager in his previous spell before being headhunted by QPR.

Ian Holloway’s ability to galvanize a club and get players to connect on a human level is unparalleled, while his history and record as a manager is not to be dismissed at this level.

Why he might not

'Ollie has at times been openly critical of the board and their decision to dismiss former manager, Darrell Clarke, when results dictate that they had come to the correct conclusion, so one wonders whether he and president Wael Al-Qadi could foster a healthy working relationship.

There is an element of unease about how Holloway left the club for QPR in 2001, plus he has publicly defended Matt Taylor, who is very much a hero-turned-villain in BS7 due to his decision to go to the red side of the city in 2017.

Verdict

Holloway would have to compromise his wage requirements in order to return to his boyhood club, because Rovers are in a lot of debt and could not afford a manager of his pedigree in typical circumstances.

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Paul Tisdale lives nearby...

Paul Tisdale

Why he should get the job

Paul Tisdale has won promotion at both clubs he has managed previously, Exeter and MK Dons, reaching two Play-Off Finals at the end of his time with the former.

He brings cool-headed leadership to the clubs he managed and would get Rovers playing a controlled, disciplined style, which may yield the best out of Tom Nichols.

The withdrawn forward has divided opinion in his time at the club, but Tisdale is the one manager under whom he has consistently thrived when they worked together at Exeter.

The Mem is just a 40-minute drive from Bath, from which town Tisdale would look to commute for any new job, so it would work logistically, too.

Why he might not

‘Tis is a different type of character to his predecessor, which would be good if Rovers were performing poorly but, in this situation, the board arguably needs to minimize the change from the previous regime.

Plus, the 46-year-old wants his teams to play out from the back and one might question how well the likes of Tony Craig, Alfie Kilgour and Tom Davies can do that – the trio have an average pass completion rate of just 69%.

Verdict

‘Tis the season to be jolly? Possibly not.

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Could Darren Sarll be an outside option?

Darren Sarll

Why he should get the job

Darren Sarll did a very good job at Stevenage, delivering a respectable 10th-placed finish in his only full season in charge to date as a manager.

He is now at Yeovil Town who, after relegation and a year of crisis on and off the field, sit as high as second in the National League.

Sarll is a straight-talker not afraid to dish out home truths, so would certainly keep standards high in terms of work ethic.

The appointment would make geographical sense, too, because Sarll may not have to relocate to change job – and a journalist who once referred to him as Rovers manager may have had psychic powers…

Why he might not

All the aforementioned candidates have experienced promotion in some capacity, whereas Sarll has not done so at professional level.

Plus, the former non-league midfielder was sacked from a club in the division below, so some might question whether he deserves an opportunity to go to a club supposedly challenging to reach the Championship.

Verdict

Could be an outside shout.

Managers Departed

Last man down

Graham Westley
Graham Westley
(Stevenage)
16th February
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