As we embark upon our 17th match in 10 weeks in what seems like a never-ending schedule of Tuesday and Saturday fixtures, the biggest news since our last update has been the departure of Darren Moore and the recruitment of Andy Butler as our first team manager. The chairman was explicit in his statement at the time, he was disappointed by Darren’s decision to leave, particularly given the level of the Board’s support to strengthen the squad in January and to fund further improvements to the playing surface and the league position of the team.
The timeline of events was fairly sudden. The club received an official approach from Sheffield Wednesday at the end of the week prior to our fixture with Ipswich Town. Having been made aware of the approach, Darren confirmed that he wanted to speak with Sheffield and we were informed of this by his representative just before the fixture with Ipswich Town kicked off. They had agreed to speak on Sunday and we informed them that we wanted a decision made by 5pm that evening. Both Darren and Sheffield Wednesday agreed to this timeline and so by Monday morning everything had been agreed.
Given the league position of the club, the Board wanted to respond quickly and decisively. At the time of Darren’s departure, the team had gone five league games without a win and had that form continued, there was a sense that the hard work of the previous few months could have started to become undone. The decision to appoint Andy was made quickly but not without due process.
Andy had already done a brilliant job of rebuilding the Belles this season and the team had responded well to his approach when he had stepped in for Darren earlier in the season due to COVID-19 isolation.
He had already expressed a desire to take his first steps into coaching and management at the club during his contract discussions over Christmas and therefore he is an obvious choice to lead the team until the end of the season. Given how the team have responded to Andy so far (7 points from 4 games, following only 1 from the previous 5 games) we are hopeful he can maintain our position in the top six and do enough to ensure he keeps the job on a permanent basis.
Away from the pitch, the rest of the club’s staff are continuing with the efforts to maintain our stability. As lockdown begins to ease, we are encouraged by the national vaccine efforts (which we are also supporting locally at the stadium) and the roadmap that has been put forward for fans to return to stadiums. We are working to the assumption that there will be no COVID restrictions on attendances for next season on the advice of the government, but we will be extremely mindful of our recent fans survey so that we can create a bespoke solution that delivers what our fans have asked for as regards matchday experience so that they can enjoy the thrill of the game and feel safe. We will share our thinking as soon as we are able to.
When we have the reassurance that the government are achieving their deadlines to relax lockdown, we will put our season tickets for 2021/22 on sale. We are aware that many of you bought for this season and have not been able to attend a game, and whilst our recent survey suggested that close to 60% of you were happy to treat this season as a donation and buy again for next season, it is our intention to ensure that those of you who have bought are rewarded for your loyalty and patience and financially compensated, without damaging the financial stability of the club. Once again though, until we have further details from the Government and the EFL, we will be holding off on making any announcements on season ticket until the end of the season at the earliest.
The players and everyone at the club misses you every time we step out on the pitch – whether that be home or away – and we cannot wait to welcome you back when regulations allow. We will also look to find a way to remember and honour those members of our Rovers family who we have sadly lost this year.
Please continue to follow the national advice and guidance and let us hope that the lockdown easing rollout continues as planned.