Thursday 8 December 2016

Plea for patience as Rovers place trust in silky Stephens to revive good times

John Fallon

Published 19/11/2016 | 02:30

Stephen Bradley and Stephen McPhail will be hoping to give Shamrock Rovers’ supporters something to smile about next season. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Stephen Bradley and Stephen McPhail will be hoping to give Shamrock Rovers’ supporters something to smile about next season. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

It wasn't just the shiny new V-neck jumpers and slacks sported by Stephen McPhail and Stephen Bradley that gave yesterday's Shamrock Rovers event a first-day-at-school feel.

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Ireland's most famous club called the gathering to mark the appointment of Bradley as head coach, yet the brand new era was as much highlighted by the presence, and sentiments, of McPhail.

The former Ireland international, who retired last month, has taken up the newly-created role of Sporting Director and it soon became evident who would be calling the shots as the Hoops embark on an expedition to recreate the former glories these days enjoyed by Dundalk instead.

He is the man tasked with the firing and hiring, evidenced by the four new arrivals unveiled yesterday.

All arrive on 52-week contracts, former Bohemians captain Roberto Lopes sacrificing his job in ESB to join the full-time set-up, though McPhail was swift to dampen speculation of a splurge amid talk of lucrative offers on the table for Gary Rogers and Christy Fagan.

"The budget is the exactly same as last year," asserted the 36-year-old, part of the team which finished fourth. We're not breaking budgets here. This club is going to be run properly right down to the last cent.

''The fans and the people involved will know I'll make the right decisions for Shamrock Rovers."

Without a league title or FAI Cup since 2011, a desperate yearning for success by their notoriously fickle Hoops fans will have to be tempered by the resources earmarked for infrastructural and underage advances.

Their complex at Roadstone on the Naas Road, where McPhail starts work in his office daily at 8am, is in its infancy and will be the first-team's training base, rather than the AUL complex on the northside of Dublin, which they have renting in recent years.

It is this facility, not the playing budget, where most of the €1.5m interest-free loan committed to Rovers through the Wilson Family Trust and Pepper Group's Seumas Dawes is being invested.

Striking the balance between meeting the demands of supporters whilst developing a sustainable club equipped for domination at all levels remains the challenge for the pair of Stephens.

"In three to five years, Rovers will be very strong as a club," claims McPhail.

"Our first-team is the priority but we're trying to raise standards in every facet of the club.

"We need to give Stephen (Bradley) backing. If we lose a couple of games, the fans have to be patient.

"We've signed four good leaders today and there will be more to come. As a player, last season was so frustrating because of the pressure on young boys to produce.

"It wasn't sitting right with me. They shouldn't be thrown into that environment and that won't happen next season."

Bradley turns 32 today, the youngest manager in the Premier Division, and he'll need all his youthful exuberance to continue sharing the post with his duties as Arsenal's scout in Ireland.

The former apprentice Gunner is not only adamant Rovers won't be affected by his work for Arsene Wenger but that his new-look side are capable of breaking the stranglehold of a Dundalk side chasing a four-in-a-row.

"I'm reading loads of things about conflict of interest [with Arsenal] and our €3m budget, all of which is nonsense," Bradley retorted.

"I'm doing my business right with Shamrock Rovers and Arsenal. There will be no conflict of interest.

"There is no point in us being at Shamrock Rovers being happy finishing fourth or third. Can we do it? I don't know. But we might as well start and have a try."

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