The Big Interview: Grant McCann reflects on his first six months at Doncaster Rovers
When he walked through the door at Doncaster Rovers exactly six months ago there was an element of the unknown about Grant McCann.
Here was a manager who had been deemed to have fallen short in his first job, at a club with which he was synonymous.
There had been a positive start, exciting spells but worrying slumps that proved a struggle to get out of.
Rovers were looking for a man to take on the project started by Darren Ferguson, to use the foundations laid to create a team that would consistently challenge for promotion to the Championship.
Was a man still learning his craft the right person to take the job on?
The answer to that question will not definitively be reached for a good while yet.
But, putting it simply, it is so far, so good where McCann is concerned.
He quickly moulded a squad using his own ultra-positive philosophy for football and life. And it produced results.
A strong start to the season backed up his assertions to his players and those outside the squad that Rovers were capable of pushing for a top six finish this season.
Perhaps most impressive was the manner in which Rovers rode through a downturn in results, when promisingÂ attacking performances were not delivering the goals needed to outweigh leaks at the other end of the pitch.
McCann acted decisively, addressing the problem of set piece vulnerability to make Rovers more solid and give them the freedom again to attackÂ how he wanted them to.
And as he moved beyond the first six months of his Rovers career, his side are well-placed for that promotion push '“Â not that McCann is remotely satisfied with that.
'I think we're going okay,' he told the Free Press.Â 'I do think there is more to come.
'I've been really pleased with the group in terms of what they do every single day in training.
'Their attitudes are outstanding and it's a pleasure to come into training every day to work with this group.
'They all buy into what we want and what we want to achieve at the end of the season.
'Hopefully we can deliver that for the fans of the football club.'
When McCann was interviewed for the Rovers job back in June, what impressed the panel more than anything else was his depth of knowledge regarding the squad of which he would potentially be taking charge.
The 38-year-old had gone through every game from last season with a fine-toothed comb. He knew plenty of what to expect before he even set foot on Cantley Park for the first time
'It is what I expected but I also think we've added to it,' he said.
'We wanted to make the squad a bit more robust in terms of dealing with different situations in games and how they approaching training every day.
'We've done that and I think that's probably the biggest change we've made.
'But it's also that we've given them the belief they're as good as anyone in this league.Â I think they've got that now.
'It's about not throwing the toys out of the pram. Once you lose a game '“Â you're going to lose one or two games and we will do '“Â you don't dislodge what you put in place, your plans, you stick to your beliefs.
'You see a lot of managers when they lose a game they chop and change six players or the formation. That's not what I'm about. I said that when I arrived.'
'The boys have been good.
'I knew when I came in that there was a lot of players out of contract at the end of the season.
'There will be decisions made on them. Not knee-jerk decision. They will have to work and fight.
'A lot of people may think I should be offering this player a deal and that player a deal.
'I've seen it where players get deals and then go the other way.
'I'll make sure players are hungry, people want to be at this football club.
'If it gets to a stage where they say either offer me a new deal or I'll leave, that's fine. No problem at all, we'll replace them.
'Probably the support you receive at this club.
'Everywhere around the club, people want to help you, from the top right down to the laundry ladies at the training ground.
'They all want to help and they all want the same thing.
'There's no hidden agendas at this club, nobody trying to interfere in your thinking.
'It's just a clear focus on doing the job you're paid to do and that's what I like to do.
'I probably touched on it in the summer that it's not as strong as last year. There's no Wigans and Blackburns, although Portsmouth and Sunderland are flying.
'It hasn't got two who are going to run away with the league. We can get near the teams at the top.
'If we don't catch them, I've said before, we aim for the stars and if we don;t quite get there then we've done okay anyway.
'We'll keep fighting.
'It's a tough league but it's not got those two teams running away.
'It's continuing what we're doing.
'It's getting better, not standing still. I think the Kieran Sadlier signing shows we're not standing still.
'We've done ok to be where we are at this stage of the season, half way through, but the toughest bit is the second half of the season.
'Hopefully what we've put in place, the fitness programmes and the work, we'll be stronger in the second half of the season.
'Hopefully we don't have a dip of three games in a row where we've lost.Â If we lose one, no problem, make sure we win the next one.
'That will be the motto.
'And we want to be a lot stronger than we were in the first half of the season.