Well, what an eventful season it has been for Doncaster Rovers – to say the least. The start of the season was dreadful, with just one win in the first month, that being a 1-0 win over Tranmere Rovers in the League Cup. This was, of course, the reign of Sean O’Driscoll, under whom we played some fantastic football but failed to pick up results. As they say, it’s a results business.
With one win in 19, running over from the previous season into the next, the board soon sent O’Driscoll and his assistant Richard O’Kelly packing. Some fans cheered, whilst many were against the sacking. These arguments haven’t faded since, but the question then was ‘Who can we bring in to get results?’ Someone with experience, surely? Someone who can get the team to play good football AND pick up some results. The response was not what any fan would have expected. Dean Saunders, formally of Wrexham, a top Conference team, was to be put in charge. ‘Can he cut it? No experience in the Championship. He was a great player, I’m sure he’ll be a good manager.’ These were some of the words echoed around forums and social networking sites at the time. Dean came in with a clear sense of optimism and fight about him. Something I liked, and I was not really used to hearing following O’Driscoll’s time at the club. His first few games were great, a couple of wins, a few draws here and there, and a few defeats. Not bad for a manager with no experience managing a team in the Football League.
It was then that football agent Willie McKay was appointed as a ‘transfer consultant’. He hasn’t the best track record, and there has been mixed emotions following his arrival after he was previously suspended for dodgy dealings and accused of some along the way. But his presence has brought some good, well-known players to the club – El-Hadji Diouf and Pascal Chimbonda being a couple of them. This ‘experiment’ has helped us, especially after our top goal-scorer Billy Sharp left for Premier League-bound Southampton, and we may have been lost without it. Bringing in players on the cheap through Willie McKay’s connections is a very good idea, especially players of the quality that is Diouf, Chimbonda and Habib Beye is another one. But it hasn’t helped enough. Doncaster now sit at the bottom of the table on 32 points, 6 points adrift of safety with 6 games to go.
Dean Saunders’ optimism continues, but faith is being lost, and time is running out. Now, I’m normally the optimistic kind of fan, but in my opinion it’s simply too little, too late. A recent divide in the fan base seems to have become clearer and clearer every game that passes. Some seem to hope that Saunders’ fails, just to be proven right, while others keep the faith. At a time when we must stick together and fight out the rest of the season, bickering has occurred. I don’t blame anyone; it’s their right to feel upset with the way we are going.
The wounds have slowly begun to heal, as the realisation that we will most likely be relegated dawns on us. Alas, the calls for the managers’ head are on-going, as the stats tell us that Rovers have won just one in 16 in all competitions. A stat agonisingly close to that of Sean O’Driscoll’s while he was at the club. In my opinion, we should keep Dean Saunders at the club, and scrap the ‘experiment’. Let’s see how we re-build the squad to adapt to life in League 1 as it beckons, and I expect there to be the same kind of optimism. Promotion back to the Championship is a possibility, and we can certainly push for it – it is not beyond anyone in League 1. Look at Stevenage, who have pushed for the play-offs, and our local rivals Sheffield United, who look to bounce back up through the automatic spots. Bounce back. Two words I expect to hear from the mouths of everyone associated with the club come this summer. But for now, I expect to hear the word ‘fight’. Donny has punched above their weight, so to speak, for the past few years in the Championship. I hope to see the players giving it a good go as the curtains are drawn, and showing us – the fans – some passion and will going into the final stages of the season.
Now, we prepare, for life in League 1. This season has been one of the very few lows in a time that I have seen many highs as a Doncaster Rovers fan and I for one am not going to let that ruin the whole experience! Sure the Championships been a great ride, but League 1 is a very good league, as we know, and I’m sure that’ll be a damn good ride too.