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Director of football search starts again at Plymouth Argyle

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 18, 2012

John Ward

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Plymouth Argyle are resuming their search for a director of football, after being snubbed by John Ward.

The 61-year-old was named as the new manager of Argyle's npower League Two rivals Bristol Rovers yesterday, with a contract until the end of the season.

Ward verbally accepted the chance to become the Pilgrims' director of football last Thursday, after impressing at his interview.

However, struggling Rovers sacked boss Mark McGhee last Saturday, following their 4-1 defeat at York City.

Ward told Argyle officials on Sunday afternoon that he would not be moving to Home Park but, instead, would be starting a second spell as Rovers manager. He was previously in the Pirates' hot-seat from 1993 to 1996.

Argyle sources have insisted that the Pilgrims remain committed to appointing the "right person" as their director of football. Ideally, that would be done before the January transfer window, when 20th-placed Plymouth are expected to shake-up their squad in an attempt to move up the League Two table.

However, the powers-that-be at Home Park are determined not to appoint someone for the sake of it. Unless Argyle find a suitable candidate to fit their criteria, as the vastly experienced Ward did, they will not rush into a decision.

The same sources have also stated that the director of football will be expected to have an input into team selection and tactics. However, the final responsibility for both will rest with the Pilgrims' manager, Carl Fletcher.

Club officials see 32-year-old Fletcher as a young manager of some promise, and they believe that appointing an experienced director of football will assist him in fulfilling his potential.

Rovers have turned to Ward, who was sacked by League One outfit Colchester United in September, after a disastrous start to the season. The Pirates have won only four of their 22 League games, leaving them in 23rd position in the table.

Ward was one of three candidates interviewed by Argyle for the post of director of football last weekend. He was the clear choice of the appointments panel, which included Fletcher, and a contract was offered to him.

However, Ward was in the Netherlands on official business for the League Managers' Association for four days from last Monday.

The Pilgrims had hoped to announce his appointment on Friday, after his return to this country, but all the arrangements were not completed.

It was then expected that Ward would travel to Plymouth by train yesterday morning and be named by the Pilgrims as their director of football in the afternoon.

However, the chance to return to Rovers as their manager, after the dismissal of McGhee, proved too much of a temptation for him.

Ward said: "The excitement was the thing that convinced me that this was the right thing to do. I had been three months without a job and I then had two choices, which was incredible.

"With my hand on my heart, Plymouth was a great job and a nice job, but this one puts my neck on the block. Part of me thinks I'm crazy, but part of me is excited about this fantastic challenge.

"I feel I have had to let Plymouth down a little bit but, to be fair to the people of Plymouth, they have been brilliant," he added. "They knew of my contact here and my affinity with this football club. I had to do it.

"You have some things in life where you think: 'I have to do that'. This is one of those things. I couldn't turn Bristol Rovers down. Had it been any other football club, then I would have probably said 'no' and that I had a commitment to Plymouth Argyle."

Ward will soon come up against Argyle when Rovers play host to the Pilgrims at the Memorial Stadium on New Year's Day.

The Pilgrims will reconsider the merits of the two unsuccessful candidates they interviewed for the post of director of football, but are also likely to wait and see whether any new applicants come forward.

The club issued a statement yesterday morning when, without naming Ward, they explained their plans to make an appointment had fallen through. It read: "Following a detailed interview process involving more than 20 high-quality applicants, we offered the position to someone.

"However, that person is now looking at another appointment, so we have decided to look elsewhere.

"We continue to believe in the merits of appointing a director of football and our aim remains to complete the process as quickly as possible.

"However, this is a key role for the club and we will not hurry into a potentially poor appointment."

It is believed that Peter Taylor, the former England caretaker manager, showed some interest in the director of football vacancy, but he was not interviewed by Argyle.

Taylor, 59, was the national coach of Bahrain until October. His managerial career in England has taken him to a number of clubs, including Leicester City, Brighton, Hull City and Crystal Palace.

Argyle have named senior professionals Warren Feeney, Jamie Lowry and Robbie Williams in their squad for a Devon St Luke's Challenge Cup second-round tie against Ivybridge Town at Home Park tonight (7.30pm).

The tie has been switched to Home Park because the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League's club pitch at Erme Valley Stadium is waterlogged. Admission is priced at £4 for adults and £2 for concessions. The winners will go to Witheridge in the quarter-finals.

Plymouth Argyle (from): Chenoweth, Walton; Watson, Purrington, Williams, Richards, Bradley, Lowry, Feeney, Vassell, Lecointe, Sims, Harvey, Elcock, Allen, Summers.

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