Western Daily Press
Garner speaks of his ‘frustration’ at Rovers
BEN Garner has reflected on his time in charge of Bristol Rovers with “frustration”, pointing to changing circumstances behind the scenes in the led up to his sacking, writes Sam Frost.
The 40-year-old was dismissed in November with the Gas 18th in League One following three wins from the opening 11 games of the season, and the subsequent appointments of Paul Tisdale and Joey Barton have seen the club slump to the bottom of the table with relegation already confirmed.
The former West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace coach was recruited with plans to build a new identity for Rovers, underpinned by a recruitment strategy focusing on young players and an investment in infrastructure.
Garner’s record across his 11 months in charge - just six wins in 36 games - left few people surprised when he lost his job following a 4-1 defeat to Fleetwood Town, then managed by current Gas boss Barton, but Rovers’ decision-makers may be wondering now - among the many internal debates required this summer - whether they bailed out of a project relatively soon in its lifespan. That is certainly Garner’s view and, writing for The Coaches’ Voice, he aired his annoyances over his final weeks in charge of the club. “In terms of our remit, we ticked a lot of boxes,” Garner, pictured, said. “We lowered the average age of the squad considerably, generated significant profits in transfer fees and reduced the wage bill. We were growing as a group, with a developing playing identity.
“The targets given to me of improving infrastructure, creating an identity, and developing young players were all well under way - all alongside a training ground being developed. Unfortunately, after going through that process and putting in an incredible amount of work across the club, the situation changed after seven league games of the new season.
“This was very frustrating, as we were having our best spell since I’d come in as manager. We’d put in a very strong performance in beating Northampton, played really well at Oxford in the EFL Trophy with a very young team, won away at Lincoln - who were top of the league at the time - drawn at home to Burton and then won away at Shrewsbury.
“It felt like we were on an upward curve and you could feel all the hard work coming together. It was a real blow that changes were to be made in how we had worked up until that point, and within three weeks I was sacked.”
Garner was pivotal in driving The Quarters training ground project forwards, influencing its layout and features, in addition to bolstering Rovers’ backroom staff. He also brought through the likes of Zain Walker and Tom Mehew from the academy.
Garner accepts, though, that his returns on the pitch should have been far better and he hopes the experience improves him as a coach.
He continued: “There were so many opportunities to win games and it didn’t quite happen - they are the fine margins in football, of course, and ultimately as manager you are judged on the results.
“However, I felt the priority was building infrastructure and delivering on the football and business model that the club wanted to put in place - even if that meant criticism for me in the short term.”
Garner has been linked with a coaching job at The Football Association, and he believes he is “in a great position for the future” after a period of reflection. He said: “I’d love to be a manager or head coach again, but if it’s another role at a club or organisation where I see a vision or way of working that I can buy into, then that’s what is most important to me.”
Meanwhile, Peterborough chairman Darragh MacAnthony has confirmed Bristol Rovers will receive a “six-figure sum” for clauses contained in Jonson Clarke-Harris transfer after the Posh sealed promotion to the Championship.
Clarke-Harris left Rovers for former club Peterborough in August last year with the Gas forced into a sale as the striker’s contract was expiring in 2021 with little indication he intended to sign a new one.
Peterborough paid £1.25m for the former Coventry City frontman but Rovers were able to maximise his value by including additional clauses for goals and should their League One rivals secure promotion.
Clarke-Harris, below, has proven an outstanding buy with the 26-yearold scoring 33 goals in 39 games across all competitions as well as being named League One Player of the Year last week.
MacAnthony told the Hard Truth podcast:“Bristol Rovers will get a sixfigure sum for us winning promotion from the terms of the Jonson ClarkeHarris deal and they’ll get £50k for him winning the League One Golden Boot. The Bristol Rovers chairman took time out to send me congratulations on winning promotion by the way. He’s a classy guy.”
Rovers’ sum for Clarke-Harris could be further swelled should the striker be sold with several Championship clubs keen on buying him this summer and MacAnthony confessing it’ll be hard to keep hold of him. Relegated West Brom, Bournemouth and Scottish champions Rangers are thought to be leading the chase for Clarke-Harris with Peterborough possessing a reputation of always extracting maximum value in any sales.