Rovers’ four-year stay in the Championship came to an end last season
when they were relegated. It’s never a nice thing to go through as a football
supporter, especially when they tried to bring in some big-name players to
help them stay up.
Pascal Chimbonda, Habib Beye, Herita Ilunga and El-Hadji Diouf all came in and
on paper, it looked like Donny would have enough to stay up. It didn’t quite
work out like that and Dean Saunders’ men just weren’t good enough to stay
Saunders has brought in experienced men like Rob Jones, Paul Quinn and
Robbie Blake to try to get them up at the first attempt. Jones and Blake know
what it’s about at this level, so we caught up with Adam Grice (@adamgrice91) to see
how Rovers fans are preparing for life in League One.
How did last season measure up, compared to your expectations?
Last season was a disaster in all fairness. We never got off to the start that would have put us in contention for staying up. Parting company with Sean O’Driscoll and Richard O’Kelly so early on in the season, didn’t help matters but at the end of the day football is a results driven business and despite the quality performances that we were turning out under them, we were not getting the results. Times seemed to change briefly under the new management, but that did not seem to last long as we were blighted with the new ‘loan’ team that never worked. If anything that only sealed our relegation from the Championship, I watched numerous games last season with all the loanee’s and the performances were not great, but I remember Saunders reverting back to O’Driscoll’s team – against Burnley I think - and the performance was much better.
We didn’t get the win that day, but what we saw was 11 players playing as a team for the club, whereas we had become accustomed to seeing seven or eight players playing for us, with the loanee’s playing for themselves. It was a major blow the day we sold Billy Sharp to Southampton as well. He gave so much every time he pulled on the jersey and the number of important goals he scored for us was a credit to him. We never had that out right goal scorer during Sharp’s absence’s, when we was injured on the opening day of the season, we seemed to struggle to find the target and it was the same again from February onwards when he was sold to Southampton.
What do you think of your club’s summer transfer activity, are there more arrivals/exits on the horizon?
This summer we have lost some of our best players, Friend to Middlesbrough, Stock to Burnley, O’Connor to Derby as well as the players that we released in the summer, which some of them came as quite a shock. I know we needed to get the wage budget down after getting relegated but I still thought that some of the players, like Oster, Gillett and Dumbuya still had a place at the club. From what I have seen of the new players during the pre-season campaign I have been quite impressed. Syers and Cotterill seem to have settled well into the team and have filled the positions left by other players.
Robbie Blake and Billy Painter are two good signings, I said we should have signed Blake years ago when Burnley released him but now he is with us, so that does not matter. He is good at the club because he is a proven goal scorer as well as the wealth of experience that he has at playing across various levels of the English game. What happened to the last Billy that we signed? He ended up becoming an fans favourite and is now playing in the Premier League with Southampton. I have not seen anything of Painter as of yet, but all we can hope is that he knows where the target is, something we have struggled with over the years.
What would be a dream new season for you?
Instant return to the Championship, however I do think that is not going to happen. If it does, I can see us becoming a yo-yo club, just like West Bromwich Albion several years ago when they kept floating between the Premier League and Championship.
What would be your worst nightmare?
Relegation. It would be disastrous if we suffered back to back relegations.
Who will be your most important player/s this season?
If we manage to keep hold of him, and I am not sure we will because there has been a considerable amount of interest from other clubs, James Coppinger will once again be one of the most influential players at the club. If he goes, which I hope he doesn’t then I can’t really pick an individual, all the players would just have to work together as a team and support each other throughout the whole of the season.
Any players you would happily see the back of?
I’m not going to name names, but I think EVERY Doncaster Rovers supporter will know who I mean. There were many of them that came in and floated around the club, reports even suggested that some never trained with the club and just showed up on match days, and walked straight into the team. None of them are here now, but the loanee’s never seemed to show much interest for the club, they were all in it for their own personal gain and putting themselves in the shop window for when that better deal came.
Do you have the best manager for the job?
Who knows. All we can do is trust the board of directors on their judgement from when they appointed Dean Saunders and see how well he does for the club. Last season my initial thoughts were that jumping from non-league to the Championship was a step too far, but this season I am entering it with an open mind. I believe every manager should be given the opportunity to try and change things when they come into a club, and if their plan takes them 6 months or 3 years then I would be prepared to stand by them to ensure that Doncaster Rovers remained a stable club.
Best away fans/ground in your league?
I don’t know who the best away fans are going to be this season, because with it being a new league for the club. There are twenty-two new clubs that we never played last season. The bets ground in that league would probably go to MK Dons or Coventry City even though Coventry’s ground is too big for them at this level.
Ideally I’d like to see Donny beat everyone but I know that is not going to happen. If we can take points off the teams at the top of the division and off local rivals like Sheffield United then I will be happy. In fact as long as we get enough points to say this season was a success then I will be happy, no matter where they come from.
Finally, where do you honestly think you will finish?
I honestly believe that we will achieve a mid-table finish. I am not expecting a immediate return to the Championship basically based on the number of players we let go and we have not replaced the majority of them to the same standard. We are budgeting ourselves on League One now and not the Championship, so things have to be done differently. If we somehow manage to succeed all expectations and get promoted that will be fantastic for the club and supporters, but I honestly believe that we will be aiming to achieve a mid-table to the play-off finish.
Donny fans, do you agree or disagree with Adam’s comments? Why not sign up and have your say in the comments section below?