First of all, how did you get into supporting Bristol Rovers?
I never took a strong interest in football growing up, even though my Dad tried his best to bring me up as a Gashead. I moved to a new school in Wiltshire when I was 14 years old, and a lot of my new classmates were Swindon Town fans. Having told them I was a Rovers fan, I then needed to look into my team in more detail so that I’d know what I was talking about and be able to defend my hometown appropriately.
Incidentally the first game I voluntarily went to was Rovers vs Swindon in 2011, which we won 3-1, and from that day onward I was a fully-fledged Gashead really.
Are there any Rovers players in particular we should be looking out for this weekend?
Jonson Clarke-Harris is the obvious answer, and Argyle fans will know what he’s capable of after seeing the best of him in the 2-2 draw at Home Park last season. But for me, there are a couple of players who have stood out in recent weeks and have been influential in our good form. Rollin Menayese has been a rock at the back, grabbing his chance in the first team with both hands after breaking through from the U23’s.
A welcome return to form from Liam Sercombe has also been a key factor to recent success, the midfielder scored one and assisted two in last week’s 4-3 win at Shrewsbury.
How is Argyle legend Graham Coughlan getting on at the Memorial Stadium?
Graham is doing a fantastic job. The football isn’t always the best to watch, but it produces results. Since taking over as Caretaker Manager in December last year he has a win percentage of 44.2%, (P52 W23 D16 L13).
When you take into consideration that he inherited a maxed-out wage bill and was given no transfer budget he has done a superb job with the players he’s been given. If he carries on at this rate we will be turning a few heads come the end of the season.
What would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the season?
I think there’s a lot of deadwood in our squad on high wages that the gaffer would ideally like to move on so that he can bring in some new players and explore a more expansive style of football. So many see this as another transition season whilst we move players around.
That said, the core of our team is very settled, and is getting some great results. Survival was the aim, but with the club 3 points off the play-offs going into December, Gasheads could be forgiven for looking a bit higher up the table.
What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Sunday?
We usually roll out with a tried-and-tested 5-3-2 formation, with the wing-backs pushing very high up the pitch, however against Shrewsbury we tried a new 3-4-3/5-2-3 shape, which was much more attacking (and not so solid defensively), as seen in the 4-3 scoreline. I think at home in the cup we will roll out with the basic 5-3-2 we’re used to seeing, that’s what we deployed against Bromley and I can see us sticking to our guns there.
And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?
The midfield lacks a lot of creativity. Our primary game-plan is generally play it long and/or try to spread it wide to the wing-backs to carry the ball. Very little goes through the middle of the park, and if our wide players and strikers are isolated then it could be a difficult match.
Do you think Coughlan may take the chance to rotate his side? Or would you expect to see a full-strength lineup with the third round in sight?
I’m expecting a full-strength side, given we’ve had 8 days since our last game, and want to progress in the cup for the competition money. With a leasing-dot-com trophy knockout game on Wednesday, there’s a small chance that maybe one or two may come in, but I’m expecting the bulk of the rotation to be for that game instead of this one.
What first comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?
“Difficult”. I can’t ever remember us playing a game against you in recent years and not struggling to get a result. I’m not expecting Sunday to be any different.
Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?
I am gobsmacked that Danny Mayor stayed in League Two after the season he had with Bury. He was a player I was desperate for us to sign and play in the #10 position, an area we’re still weak in. If given the opportunity I’d love to see him in a Rovers shirt playing behind Jonson Clarke-Harris.
And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?
I think it will be tight and low-scoring, and may even go to a replay. 1-0 to either side, or a 1-1. I’m fairly confident that it won’t be pretty affair.