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Albion Rovers – whither noo?

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Paul Martin was indeed a legend. When he announced at the end of last season he was going to have to give up the game he so clearly loves due to the illness he was unable to shake off there were tears and no tantrums. It isn’t in the guy to have a tantrum but he accepted his fate and the team he brought into the 2nd Division had managed to stay there so he walked off a relatively happy man.

Possibly pioneering the now well established protocol in the SFL that you appoint from within Todd Lumsden became the new manager. He had been in temporary charge whilst Paul had recovered at times so an opportunity for the Rovers Board to see the particular cut of Todd’s particular jib had been given. They liked what they saw and Lumsden became the coach.

If he had thought a seamless transition was likely he was in for a rude awakening. August 2012 will never go down as the finest month in the Coatbridge history books. The season before there had been huge celebrations – even commemorative mugs – for the 7-2 humbling of local rivals Airdrie United. There had been street celebrations when Coatbridge’s own Ricky Burns had been crowned and defended his World title. There were no parties in August; The Rovers won nothing.

Out the Ramsden’s, out the Scottish Communities League Cup and 3 league games in August where they didn’t even score! 5 games, conceded 9 goals and scored 0. Both cup exits had come at the hands of SFL Division 1 sides so no disgrace there. The 3 games in the league were against the 3 teams at time of writing sitting in the top 3 positions in the league; perspective arrived!

This was a tough start to your managerial career and a tough start to the season! September brought 2 wins, a draw and a loss (To the team currently sitting 4th in the league!) and things began to look better. So the first goal of the season in a competitive game was an own goal – it was enough to start the ball rolling. September was going to kick start the whole campaign – surely?

With only 4 points from the next 6 games in the league in October and November, apparently not! Sure they forced Greenock Morton to a replay in the Scottish Cup but Turriff United have done that too!  Their only win was a 4-0 romp at home to Arbroath but that aside Lumsden has little to cheer about.

Once again his defence looks like it is very generous. On average over the last 2 months it has been giving away 2 goals per game. If you have to win each game by scoring at least 3 every time you play you won’t last long in any division; Albion sit 9th; 3 points adrift of East Fife. If they start to drift any further they will become seriously detached.

December does bring them some hope. They will be playing teams in and around themselves. Apart from Forfar who are in a play off spot the rest are just above the aforementioned East Fife. It could be the month in which their season becomes defined. IF all games are played Rovers could be sitting just under the play offs or will seriously look like relegation fodder.

Last season they did manage to keep their 2nd Division status through the play offs but at a second time of asking? They will also be viewing the prize of a Rangers team coming into the division with fans who could line the pockets of Rovers’ coffers! The drop needs to be seriously avoided.

Looking at their squad they have players that catch the eye because they have played at a higher level like Ciaran Donnelly, Tony Stevenson and David Crawford. First choice keeper, Chris McCluskey is ex Stenhousemuir and Brechin City whilst Ryan McWilliams has played at a higher level with Ayr United and Morton before that. Martin McGinlay is their back up.

In defence – which appears to be the major problem – there are Alan Reid, Ciaran Donnelly, Mick O’Byrne (formerly of Livingston and once of Rovers), Barry Russell and Kevin Green. If the Rovers are to stay up this unit will have to lift itself to play like a second division team and close down the opposition more.

Midfield has Conor Stevenson (once SFL 3rd Division player of the month for Clyde in 2010), Gary Philips, Gordon Dick (former Celtic boy who was in the Scottish under 17s squad), Tony Stevenson, Peter Innes (former young player of the year at Motherwell and Scottish internationalist), Simon Marriott, Danny Ferry (coach and highly experienced player at this level), Chris Boyle (back for second time after having been at Dumbarton), David Crawford and Kieron Brannan in the squad. They have added two loanees – and decent ones at that – in the shape of Jordan Halsman and Christie Elliot of Partick Thistle.  This looks like a squad that should be up the top of the league and not down the bottom!

Up top Jason Crooks (formerly with Elgin City), Ryan Tiffney, Jamie Gilmartin, Steven Howarth and another loanee from Thistle – Mark McGuigan are responsible for banging them in, or in this case the goal drought! Christie Elliot is just the type of player they should be looking for, for goals. Their last game – against Stranraer – David Crawford got the goal. He has also been much mentioned in despatches this season. There are bright spots on which a case for staying in the second can be made; but it needs to be made soon!

Paul Martin may have gone but the spirit of the side that he built is still beating strong. For me there really needs to be a tremendous change in December – more wins than losses otherwise whither now will be the wilderness and back to the 3rd. Nobody this season wishes that on anybody!

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About Author

A lifelong supporter, since seeing Alex Ferguson play for them, of Ayr United he now contributes here, at KickTalk and Ringside Reports for things sporty. He is also a theatrical type and an educationalist. As an Ayr fan he clearly can explain the inexplicable, place fanatical faith in the most fantastic of dreams and deal with dark periods of depression and disappointment. Perfect as a teacher..

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