Last month Sligo Rovers confirmed the inevitable news that Owen Heary had left The Showgrounds and was no longer the manager of the club.
Who’s next to take over the Connacht side permanently? And is there to be an end to this managerial merry-go-round?
In January, 2014, Sligo Rovers were coming off the back of an FAI Cup win and were tipped to challenge for the Premier Division title, but in June, with the club 5th in the table, Ian Baraclough was sacked. A deeply controversial move by the board at Sligo, as Ian Baraclough had won the club their 3rd league title, an FAI Cup and the Setanta Sports Cup.
John Coleman took over from Baraclough following his sacking at Southport with the club only two points above the relegation zone. Coleman’s reign did not last long, however. After being approached by Accrington Stanley to take over the vacancy there, Coleman and his assistant, Jimmy Bell, decided to accept the offer to move back into the Football League after only two short months in charge of Sligo.
During his tenure, Sligo overcame FK Banga in the Europa League 1st qualifying round and narrowly lost to Rosenborg in the next round.
Sligo missed out on European football last season due to a poor 5th place finish in the league and Coleman left the club. In October, 2014, the club appointed former Bohemians player and manager Owen Heary as the manager of the club.
Heary brought in a host of young players and looked to rebuild the Bit O’ Red with fresh talent. That decision did not end well as in June, 2015, it was confirmed by Sligo that Heary had left the club, following protracted proceedings, which lasted over a fortnight.
From then on, Gavin Dykes and Joseph Ndo have been put in charge of the first team until the end of the season. But with poor results and poor performances throughout the season, Rovers are a mere shadow of their former selves and are in desperate need of reform if they are to taste some of the glory they have seen in recent years ever again.
So, what is needed at Sligo Rovers if they are to return to the top?
Cease Cutting The Club’s Budget
Since Sligo last won the league in 2012, the club’s budget has been cut significantly. After departing last month, Owen Heary told Newstalk that the budget had been cut again this year.
“The budget has been cut for the last couple of years and this year when I went in, the budget was cut by 30 per cent again.”
The fans have seen key players such as Gary Rogers, Danny North and Romauld Boco leave the club and not be replaced. It seems ludicrous that any club can expect to maintain a high level of success yet cut the budget year upon year, losing key players who leave in search of a better deal at rival clubs such as Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers.
There is no sign of attempted progress by the board at Sligo Rovers. Unless they can attempt to compete financially with title contenders such as Cork City and Dundalk, there will be no return to the top for Sligo Rovers for a long time to come.
Tie A Manager Down To A Long-Term Deal
Sligo Rovers have had four managers leave the club in the last 18 months, and are now on to another in the form of the partnership of Gavin Dykes and Joseph Ndo. This instability can only serve to hinder the club’s progression.
Last season Sligo parted company with the club’s most successful manager in Ian Baraclough and the first team has gone downhill ever since. Baraclough won three trophies during his tenure at the Showgrounds and led Sligo into Europe.
The appointment of Owen Heary was the perfect opportunity for the club to lay out a blueprint of what direction they were going in and where they wanted to be in the coming years, whether it be challenging for league titles or consistently qualifying for European competition.
Heary was attempting a completely rebuild at Sligo and was not given the time to put his plan into action. Obviously the club’s directors have every right to be concerned with the club’s league performances, but as I will point out, this is not the Sligo Rovers of 2-3 years ago.
This is a Sligo squad which has been greatly diminished due to the loss of key players. The loss of these players being solely down to a lack of budget provided by Sligo, which leads me to my final point.
Accept The Club Is In Need Of Reform
This is a club which is feeding off past glories. That is satisfied with a league title and cup success, and are prepared to rest on their laurels. The directors at the club have to be prepared to accept that Sligo are no longer what they were in recent years, and that they need several years under stable management to – it’s that word again – rebuild.
If the board are not willing to accept that fact, they will have to be content with their club being a mediocrity in Irish football, and the closest they will come to playing European football again will be an away FAI Cup tie against Derry City.
Shane McDonnell, Pundit Arena