Season Preview 2016 - Sligo Rovers

Mon, Feb 22 2016

Credit: John Doyle

Manager: Dave Robertson


Stadium: The Showgrounds


Players in: Ciaran Nugent (Harrisburg City Islanders), Michael Schlingermann (Drogheda United), Tobi Adebayo-Rowling (Peterborough United), Tim Clancy (Shamrock Rovers), Mick Leahy (UCD), Jordan Richards (Notts County, loan), Jimmy Keohane (Woking), Liam Martin (Ballinamallard United), Craig Roddan (Free Agent), Kieran Sadlier (Peterborough United), Chris Lyons (Bray Wanderers), Jaanai Gordon (West Ham United, loan), Philip Roberts (Free Agent).


Players out: Richard Brush (Finn Harps), Ryan Coulter (Released), Jake Dykes (Ballinamallard United), Gavin Peers (Released), Danny Ledwith (Wexford Youths), Alan Keane (Retired), David Cawley (St. Patrick's Athletic), Kevin Devaney (Galway United), Liam Flatley (Finn Harps), Ruairi Keating (Galway United), Ryan McManus (Released), Sander Puri (MFK Karvina), Keith Ward (Released), Dinny Corcoran (St. Patrick's Athletic), Anthony Elding (Released), Morton Nielsen (FC Roskilde). Key Man: Michael Schlingermann


In recent years Sligo have based their success upon a solid defence. By contrast, 2015 saw the Bit o' Red concede 55 league goals, a record which kept the north-west club locked in a relegation battle all season. With league-winning stalwarts Gavin Peers and Alan Keane leaving the club, along with regular goalkeeper Richard Brush, the Sligo defence is vulnerable. Furthermore, it was only a year ago that league winning goalkeeper Gary Rogers moved to Dundalk. Neither Brush or Ryan Coulter impressed last season as they attempted to hold a firm grip on the number 1 shirt. A lot of experience and quality has left while, in its place, Sligo will be relying more upon youth players. Therefore the acquisition and performances of Michael Schlingermann will be key. Last season he was brilliant in an otherwise dreadful Drogheda United team. Sligo will be hoping he'll provide the necessary stability behind a new-look defence. One to Watch: Janaai Gordon


Among the many young players that new manager Dave Robertson has recruited from England is the young, talented West Ham striker Janaai Gordon. Having previously been on Peterborough United's youth books, Gordon worked with Robertson when he was involved in the youth coaching at the club. Gordon made his senior debut at the age of 16 in the English Championship. His development at such a young age earned him a move to West Ham, with whom he is contracted until the summer of 2018. He joins Sligo on loan until August, having previous loan experience in the National League and National League South, while also being in good scoring form for West Ham's under-21 team this season. He possesses lots of pace, power and strength and is the obvious choice to lead the line for Sligo this season, and that seems to be exactly what he'll do, while West Ham believe the experience in the League of Ireland will benefit him greatly.



How they did last season:


League: 9th (Premier Division) –  A season defined by dangerously flirting with relegation, that unlikely scenario almost became believable before Micky Adams was appointed. He steadied the Sligo ship and changed its course completely. A penultimate day victory away at St. Pat's earned Sligo their 2016 Premier Division status.


FAI Cup: Quarter Finals – Comfortable victories over non-league opposition in the second and third round (Crumlin United and Cobh Wanderers respectively) saw Sligo make it to the quarters. Unfortunately the Bit o' Red were then well beaten by eventual cup winners Dundalk 4-0.


EA Sports Cup: Second Round – Sligo destroyed Mayo League 8-0 in the first round, but were beaten 2-0 AET at home to Derry City in the next round.



What to expect this season:


This season represents a fresh start for Sligo Rovers. Owen Heary's appointment seemed to suggest Sligo had captured the league's next success story, but the 2015 campaign soon turned into a nightmare. The club has decided to look to England once again to find an able appointment, and in ex-Royal Marine Dave Robertson it is hoped the right man has been found. Along with his military career, Robertson has put a lot of time into youth coaching. He was involved at Peterborough United for many years, overseeing the promotion and graduation of many youth products. He even earned a shot as manager, when in February 2015 he took over from sacked Darren Ferguson. His results earned him a three-year contract in May 2015, but after a poor start to the season he was sacked in September.


Having been poached from his position as Southend United's U21 manager, Sligo has appointed Robertson clearly with a mind towards youth development. The club's budget has been cut year-on-year since the glory days of 2012, and only two senior players remain at the club; Raff Cretaro and John Russell. Sixteen players have moved on during the off-season, while twelve players have joined the Robertson revolution. To highlight Sligo's shift towards youth, the average squad age at the club has fallen two years from 24.5 to 22.5 years. This is going to be a transitional season for the Bit o' Red, and one where Robertson's project must be given time to blossom. The club and its fans know the club needs to improve massively upon the relegation scare of last season, yet Robertson has made many exciting acquisitions, of whom he has worked with some before. Therefore, a mid-table achievement should not be beyond Sligo this season, as long as the team gels together quickly.


Title Odds: 40/1


First game: Shamrock Rovers (The Showgrounds), Saturday 5th March 7.45pm