McGhee looks exactly the kind of steady hand Rovers need right now

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By Western Daily Press | Saturday, January 21, 2012, 09:00

The debate about whether Scotland should pursue independence from the rest of the United Kingdom is far too heavy and complicated a subject for page 45 of the Western Daily Press on a Saturday.

In brief, though, some cynics argue that the rest of us would not miss the Scots and that, after an early flurry where they gave us such frivolous luxuries as the world's first oil refinery and Penicillin, their output has been limited to Irn Bru, deep-fried confectionery, Andy Murray and a succession of twee indie bands.

This is not true, of course, as most people realise that, among many other things, the Scots have also given us the joy that is the early rounds of the Scottish Cup.

Before Celtic and Rangers join in, the Scottish Cup is a wonderful showcase of some of the finest club names anywhere in football, with Wigtown & Bladnoch, Civil Service Strollers, Inverurie Loco Works, Gala Fairydean, Burntisland Shipyard, Forres Mechanics, Auchinleck Talbot, Buckie Thistle and Keith, among others, battling it out for a shot at the big guns such as Stenhousemuir and Cowdenbeath, either side of a raft of postponements and fog-induced abandonments.

The other great contribution Scotland continues to make to those of us south of the border is the constant supply of football managers.

There are three English managers in the Barclays Premier League. Three! It is no wonder Harry Redknapp is always being touted as the next England manager when his only other compatriots managing in the top flight are Alan Pardew and Roy Hodgson.

In the same division, there are six managers from one Scottish city – Glasgow – and another, Owen Coyle, from Paisley.

There are four Scots managing in the Championship, two in League One and a further three in League Two to take the overall total to 16 – which is way higher than the number of top Scottish players plying their trade anywhere.

Scotland is flush with football managers – just as it is with television detectives – and Bristol Rovers this week became the latest club to wake up to the fact that, if in trouble, it is best to send for a Scot.

Richard Money, Sean O'Driscoll, Keith Curle and Geraint Williams were all considered by Rovers before they took the only sensible action and appointed Mark McGhee.

For a club who get through as many managers as Rovers – McGhee is the fourth in 14 months and the sixth, including caretakers, during that period – it is something of a surprise that they had not, until this week, thought of turning to a Scottish boss.

Indeed, their woeful record in appointing managers may owe something to that particular blind-spot.

But McGhee is in place now, the first Scot to manage Rovers since Bobby Campbell's exit in 1979, and his mere arrival has instilled a degree of calm to a club that has, at times in the past year or two, borne a closer resemblance to the events that typically take place inside a big top than on a football pitch.

Not that McGhee's Scottishness alone is enough to drag Rovers away from the scary bit of the League Two table – that would be a preposterously sweeping generalisation, as flawed as any negative implication about his compatriots' frugal nature.

And before anyone writes in, my best friend's father is Scottish and was my first employer as a 13-year-old, paying me £3-an-hour to tidy his engineering firm's unit on an industrial estate in Yeovil.

His generous, almost lavish, approach to remuneration financed my entire CD collection between 1995 and 1998. So there.

But positive national stereotyping aside, McGhee – much like his fellow Scot, Derek McInnes, at Bristol City – seems like such a sensible appointment that it is difficult to believe Bristol Rovers actually made it.

The former Reading, Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Millwall, Brighton & Hove Albion, Motherwell and Aberdeen boss has an impressive record in getting teams promoted – but that is not on his to-do list for now.

Rovers are 18th in League Two, the 86th best team in England, and McGhee has quite reasonably suggested that, with 20 matches to play, it is imperative he focuses first on keeping the club in the Football League.

"Nobody should be under any illusions," he said. "Just because I've turned up here, it isn't going to save us from a relegation fight. Nobody should think that I'm not very conscious of that and didn't think hard about it before I took the job."

After the disastrous reigns of Dave Penney and Paul Buckle, Rovers cannot afford to get their latest appointment wrong, particularly as they have just announced an operating loss of £1.9 million for the year.

And while there are no guarantees any manager will ever succeed at any given club, McGhee at least has the pedigree and the nous that suggest he will make a damned good fist of it.

Not just because he is Scottish – although that clearly helps.

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