New Pirates Boss Is Joining A Sinking Ship

by Mike Moore

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Walking the plank?

I don’t really like Bristol Rovers. As a Bristol City fan, that’s not really that surprising. I don’t like their kit, their players, their ever-changing roll of managers, and I especially don’t like their branding of themselves as Bristol’s “Friendly Club”, despite the fact they attract only a third of City’s fanbase, and sold their old stadium to Ikea.

But their acquirement of new manager Paul Buckle, purloined from Torquay following their unsuccessful play-off efforts, is another chapter in managers and players treating their old clubs with seemingly very respect.

Asides from the usual backroom staff exodus to join the manager at his new club, it isn’t unusual for key players to follow the boss to pastures new as well, particularly if he’s moving up the divisions. But in this case it seems to make very little sense. Rovers are a club in freefall, having had a disastrous second half of last season, falling from play-off challengers to relegation in a few short months, mainly under the leadership of player-manager Stuart Campbell, and have just sold their stand-out player, striker Will Hoskins, to Championship new boys Brighton, along with releasing 17 (yes, 17!) players. Torquay, on the other hand, were an upwardly mobile team with a strong fanbase, board support, and a talented young manager. After spectacularly upsetting the odds to qualify for the play-offs on the last day of the season, then to beat Shrewsbury in the semi-finals before losing to Stevenage (perhaps the division’s major success story), Gulls fans had every reason to hope that next season could bring good things.

But instead Buckle, one of the most promising young English managers in the lower leagues, has been seduced by the Pirates gold, supposedly earning a major pay rise (probably funded by the Hoskins transfer). He claims that they club “were too good to go down” and “will be playing in the championship in a few years”. Big words, that require major investment. He now seems set to bring Gulls keeper Scott Bevan, one of the players of the season having kept eighteen clean sheets. Who else will he bring up the M5 to the Memorial Ground?

It just seems to make very little sense – swapping good harmony (albeit tempered a bit with play-off disappointment) for a downward spiral. Many relegated teams, especially in Leagues One and Two, take at least a season to regroup and recover from the turmoil, whereas play-off contenders remain in contention most years. If Buckle is seeking a new challenge, or feels that he has outgrown Torquay, why did he not go for a more high-profile job? Surely he could be more challenged at Rochdale or Cardiff (to state the immediate available vacancies) than at a club in the same division as his, only with less money and support?

Maybe I’m just moaning because I don’t want to see Rovers succeed. That’s not true. I wish them all the best, the Bristol derby is one of the best in English football and needs reinstating. I’ve previously highlighted the dire state at another West Country club in Plymouth Argyle. The region needs more than one successful team; it certainly has the catchment area to prove important to football throughout the country. But I just cannot understand Paul Buckle at all.


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  • Barrie Armstrong

    Perhaps you’ll understand one day!

  • Dave

    Need to put the record straight as this article contains factually incorrect statements.
    Campbell’s record as manger was P12 W4 D3 L5 having just 12 games to save Rovers from the drop, this record over the season would have been enough to keep Rovers League One status. Dave Penney was brought in after Christmas and only managed 2 wins from his 13 games in charge losing 9 – it was under Penney the real damage was done.
    Buckle operated on a shoe-string budget at Torquay and has gone to Rovers after 4 years stating that he felt it was the right time for a change. To state that Torquay has more money and support is just simply wrong. Rovers do not have a 3rd of City’s fanbase, although it is fair to say that average gates are down to half of City’s last season. Rovers took 40,000 to the Millenium Stadium and Wembley in 2007 so you could say they have the potential to be a Championship club.

  • Mike

    I can certainly tell you’re a City fan, what with your lack of knowledge and all.

  • luke

    id love to see the bristol derby happen soon,maybe 2013? once we rise out of league 2 and you get dumped into league 1..once maynard is poached from you and david james crumbles to dust between the sticks… pretty sure you aint scored in the last 2 derbys either?! the fanbase will drop once you get relegated…i mean id like city to succeed but its difficult seeing as i hate you lot! all the best hey?!

  • Tom Close

    I’m terribly sorry, but as a proud City fan can you honestly say that you have had a ‘successful’ season this year? The sort of money that has been invested in the City squad warranted a promotion push, not a bottom half of the table finish. The honest truth is that all the west country teams struggled this year, and to say that City were the most successful is frankly laughable.

    On the subject of Buckle, you have to assume he saw Rovers as a team that have bottomed out and therefore the side with which he could move forward with the most ease. As a previous commenter pointed out, the form picked up dramatically under Campbell, so to describe the club as a sinking ship, while being an hilarious play on words (they’re the pirates, you see!), is wrong. Buckle certainly seems confident in his own abilities, and with Rovers needing someone to take proper command after last season’s multiple cock-ups his appointment makes sense.

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