'Cat came back

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

Tom Higgins walked into his team's morning meeting with some bad news, both for Greg Marshall and the Calgary Stampeders.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats fired head coach Marshall yesterday, replacing him with the Little General, Ron Lancaster, on an interim basis.

But Higgins is more concerned about his team's fate.

Whenever a head coach is fired mid-season, the team usually gets a temporary boost in performance.

Calgary travels to Hamilton Friday to take on Lancaster's Ticats in what will surely be an emotional game for the struggling and winless (0-4) home team.

"That's the first thing Coach Higgins said. It's hard to play against teams like that because they are free-spirited now," said Stamps linebacker Scott Coe, a former Tiger-Cat who played under Lancaster.

"They can just go out and play with no distractions and be loose about it. That's when you can play good ball is when you feel loose and energized."

Rumours about Marshall's dismissal were swirling the past couple of weeks.

Owner Bob Young fired him yesterday.

Marshall won the coach of the year award in his first season after taking over from Lancaster. The Ticats went 9-8-1 in 2004 -- a dramatic rebound from their previous 1-17 season.

Lancaster went upstairs to become the senior director of football operations in what was a semi-retirement.

The team then went south in Marshall's second season, starting the campaign 0-8 en route to a 5-13 record.

When the Ticats opened with four straight losses this season after making several key changes on offence, the Marshall experiment was finished.

The former McMaster University coach is now looking for work.

"This was a very, very tough decision," Young said in a statement. "His contributions to the organization, the Hamilton community and to our fans can not be understated."

In Lancaster, the Ticats get a coach who has two Grey Cups, two coach-of-the-year awards and 138 career victories, fourth most in league history.

Stampeders backup quarterback Danny McManus worked under Lancaster for eight straight seasons between Edmonton and Hamilton.

McManus said Lancaster will bring a stabilizing force to the locker-room because he is both authority figure and a friend.

"He helped me with my career," McManus said. "He's an outstanding individual on and off the field. What you have to understand about Coach Lancaster is two things: He wants you to be on time and give everything you've got. If you follow those two things, you'll be successful."

Marshall was criticized for being too fiery and allowing his emotions show on the sidelines.

Coe, who played under Lancaster in 2002-03, said the CFL legend is just the opposite.

"(Coach Lancaster) earned the guys' respect so guys want to perform for him," Coe said. "He doesn't need to be yelling at the guys or performing any antics.

"He demands a lot from his players but he doesn't do it vocally. He just kind of expects it. Guys really respect that."


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