IT WAS a busy week around the league with managerial appointments, signings and sponsorship deals keeping us all interested as we enter the second month of the off season.
Roddy Collins has been appointed Athlone Town manager and Stephen Kenny has had a short period out after taking the reins at Dundalk. You could not meet two completely different characters. While Collins has a big personality, Kenny is a reserved quiet man. I experienced Kenny at Derry for a short stint and he is an intelligent man who works hard. He would not be very approachable and needs a strong assistant to be the go between. I believe a lot of the success he had at Derry was down to Declan Devine.
He is a likeable guy with an outgoing personality who the players would have trusted deeply. We will have to wait and see how they get on.
There was plenty of transfer activity also with some clubs making excellent signings. Gary O'Neill to Drogheda, Paddy Kavanagh to Derry, Shane Robinson to Shams and Shane McFaul to Pats are some of the signings that caught my eye. The two lads returning from Finland are top players and will add quality to our league. O'Neill is a player I hated playing against and always caused us problems when we faced him. This is a busy time for managers as they go about constructing a squad for next season.
I'm concerned at our inactivity in the transfer market so far. I'm sure we have spoken to most off the top players,but unfortunately they have not signed. I believe the top players in the country are now signed up for next year with various clubs. I think our location is a factor in players not signing for us and even the lure of Champions League football can't get them to uproot to Sligo. We have to trust Ian Baraclough, but it seems we won't have our marquee sigining that we have had in recent years.
The big announcement of Umbro as Rovers kit sponsor on a three year deal took me by complete surprise. My initial thoughts were for Nicky and Fiona Brujos as they are good friends and have built Jako into a national brand. They were involved in the most successful period in the club's history and they can take great pride from the hard graft they put in. It was a deal the club couldn't turn down and is a hugely lucrative contract. Sligo Rovers is a great brand and Umbro have recognised this. There is great work going on behind the scenes and well done to all involved.
I'm hearing a lot of people bemoaning the lack of locals in the current Rovers squad. We would love eleven locals in an ideal world, but truthfully it has never worked. I think there are many reasons why players are not making the breakthrough. I would like to see the set up of an Academy where the best players come in once or twice a week for specialised coaching. The earlier we can get these players the better and the club can monitor this process as they progress.
These players can obviously stay with their clubs as not every player will make the grade. David Pugh's retirement from Summerhill College is a factor as it once was a conveyor belt for Rovers players. We were in three finals in the late Nineties winning one and losing two. We had great teams, but David prepared us with his simplistic approach to how football should be played and looking back I was mentally much stronger after playing under him.
There is extra pressure when you're a local and sometimes players struggle with that expectation. When you're a local you must work extra hard and you must have an extreme desire to make the step up. You must be single minded and the most important thing is that you must be good enough.
The best feeling is wearing the jersey of your local club and I hope to see many Sligo lads in Rovers team in years to come.