Darrell Clarke returns to the Mem on Tuesday and Bristol Rovers first-team coach Andy Mangan is full of admiration for the Gas legend turned Port Vale boss.
Clarke won back-to-back promotions with the Gas in 2015 and 2016, leading Rovers from the Conference to League One, cementing his place as one of the best managers in the club’s history.
Since his departure in 2018, Clarke had a spell in charge of Walsall before swapping the Bescot Stadium for Vale Park earlier this year. And the 43-year-old is doing a fine job, transforming his side from also-rans to promotion contenders over the summer.
Vale travel to BS7 occupying fifth place in the League Two table, with Clarke named the Manager of The Month for October.
Clarke managed his Saddlers side at the Mem last season in the group stages of the EFL Trophy, but fans were not in attendance due to COVID restrictions.
Mangan, handling press duties while Rovers boss Joey Barton received his not guilty verdict at Sheffield Crown Court on Monday, knows a difficult test awaits the 16th-placed Gas.
“Port Vale are a really good side, they are going well in the league,” he said.
“Darrell Clarke has got them going again, hasn’t he? I think he took the job in February when they were languishing in the lower half of the table and to get the turnaround from them is really good.
“He’s a legend here with two promotions and there are not many people who can say that who have managed this club.
“I’m sure the fans will give him a warm welcome. We’ll have a handshake but then straight away it will be we want to win for Bristol Rovers.
“Welcome back for the first time in front of fans for Darrell Clarke, but straight away it will be business as usual.”
When asked about the threats Rovers will be wary of in the Port Vale side, Mangan was quick to single out one man.
“Some of the signings he (Clarke) has made have been really shrewd signings,” Mangan said.
“Ben Garrity, for example. A really good player, especially for the level. He’s an absolute running machine and arrives in the box really well and scores from midfield.
“He brings everything that Darrell Clarke would want in an individual and he drags everyone in the team with him.
“They’ve got some really good players, mixed with a little bit of experience.
“I think two of the strikers they’ve had going really well are injured, but they’ve got (David) Amoo and (Devante) Rodney.
“It’s another test for us in front of our own fans, who have been absolutely fantastic recently. It’s going to be a really good game.”
Sign up for our Rovers newsletter
The League Two season is in full swing for Joey Barton and Bristol Rovers and you won’t miss a beat with our free newsletter.
All the latest news, views, interviews, gossip and analysis concerning the Gas, delivered straight to your inbox, every day at 12:00.
It’s completely free and you can sign up HERE
Mangan may be mindful that Port Vale have set a much better pace than Rovers in League Two, but the 35-year-old believes the Gas are coming on strong.
“It’s going to be really fast-paced game,” Mangan added. “They’re going well in the league and our form of recent has been really good.
“It will be two good sides having a really good game.
“From our point of view, we’re still building and I think you can see it.
“It’s a really good sign, winning straight after you’ve been beaten. We were frustrated at Forest Green, the game didn’t go as we planned out, but in the next game at home against Sutton to get the win is massive for the lads’ confidence because I believe in the previous couple of games against Salford and Tranmere we should have come away win a win.
“You feel that disappointment, the lads feel it, but they still know they’re performing quite well, so to get that win against Sutton will do the lads the world of good.”