Category Archives: Latest Blogs

Tactics Page – Richie Wellens has been let down

tactics doncaster rovers
Richie Wellens legs have gone.  There, I’ve said it.  We were all thinking it.  He is now well into his 30’s and he is no longer the mobile midfielder who dominated games alongside Brian Stock and Paul Green in those halcyon days gone by and, worse still, he no longer effects game as he once did.

Richie Wellens is the best central midfielder at the club.  There, I’ve have said it and we were all thinking it too, though its no longer socially acceptable to say it.  His quality on the ball, passing and ball retention is better than any of his peers at Doncaster Rovers.  His legs have gone but he could still win us games if we were tactically more able to accommodate him.

Statistical analysis shows us that on average possession of the ball changes around 400 times a game an around 30% of regained possession in the opponents third of the pitch lead to a shot on goal.  It is simple to acquire statistics such as this, however the true meaning of statistical analysis in football is to find the truth behind the numbers and the relevance to one’s own cause.

In this example then the numbers can be assimilated to indicate that when Doncaster Rovers lose possession of the football,  James Coppinger, Harry Forrester and Richie Wellens should press their opponents as high up the pitch as possible. They are the talented ones, they are the ones who you want in possession of the ball in the opposition half so it stands to reason that this is where we should look to regain the football.
richie wellens drfc
It is simple to point to the way Barca have become the gold standard in pressing high up and turning over possession, this ethos has become the norm among most of the modern day elite.  Richie Wellens should be employed to do his work in advanced positions, not go box to box and not sit in front of the back four.  He cannot create chances, thread neat passes through to the front men and be effective from a starting position in his own third, he no longer has the mobility.  The issue is that because we do not have an effective holding midfielder alongside Wellens, nor an effective tactical approach. As a result he is persistently forced back in order to try to get a grip on a game.  This means we have no mobility going forward, and the back four are suppressed into areas deeper than even our leaden footed centre halves would prefer.  I have lost count of the number of times I have pleaded with the two banks of 4 to “get out” or to move 15 yards forward, and it all stems from the central midfield area, or what should be the engine room.  There is no point in Wellens acquiring possession on the edge of his own area, he can’t have an offensive impact from there.

Richie Wellens is what his is now – in the last third he is an effective mover of the ball and can hurt teams.  We have been asking him to be the central mdfielder of 8 years ago at which point he becomes another ‘also ran’ fading into the inadequacy around him. The team should play higher up the pitch, press higher up and we should employ a more effective and more mobile holding midfielder to get through more of Wellens running (Keegan is ok to a point and has been missed, but he is limited and against better more mobile teams he is found wanting).
wellens wembleyWellens has been tactically let down by Paul Dickov, as have the rest of the team who are regularly becoming less than the sum of their individual parts.   It’s easy to see why Wellens so regularly cuts such a frustrated figure in an increasingly rudderless Rovers midfield and why the opportunity for something else would be such a draw for a player who can still offer more than he is currently allowed.

Wellens has attracted a great deal of criticism from some quarters for considering voting with his feet. I for one could not blame him for refusing to accept a seemingly increasing culture within the club of mediocrity.

Paul Dickov – End of the road for Doncaster manager?

I wrote this piece last season for PopularSTAND fanzine.  Four months on i believe its words are as relevant now as then.  Following a pre season of ‘no distractions’ off the field (the excuse put forward for the last 2 seasons of mediocrity) we find ourselves having taken two steps back and with a centre back playing at right back, a left back who isn’t good enough to play left back installed as a right winger and one goal from open play (that was on purpose) in 5 games….

Here it is (from April 2015)

 

simeoneI caught a preview on the Champions League quarter final first leg between Madrid’s neighbours Athletico and Real on the radio the other day.  It contained a warning for the free flowing Galacticos as the European correspondent noted a genuine physicality to Athletico; advising that they seemed to become more aggressive with each derby – Real should steel themselves for a genuine battle. The reasoning behind this was clear and appeared so obvious it barely merited saying (though as often is the case with TalkSport, it was anyway) “Diego Simeone – well, he’s built a team in his own image hasn’t he?”

Throughout his illustrious playing days the Athletico manager was known for his aggression and strength in midfield.  He was a battler who would roll his sleeves up and fight, but when the battle was won, he could play as well.
It seemed reasonable to consider the virtues someone extolled as a player would constitute the bear minimum he’d expect as a manager?  Reasoning I couldn’t translate to the Rovers. Our own manager, nicknamed ‘The Wasp’ and ‘The Pest’ during his own playing career, was the kind of player you hated if he was playing against your team; throwing himself into challenges; full of commitment, energy and bite.  He could be awful on the pitch, a right pain in the arse, but no one could say he lacked the desire to win.  So why then, given these qualities are what personified his playing days, do they seem lacking from his own team so regularly?  I don’t think things are quite a simple as that, it’d be easier if it were, I think things are deeper than commitment; that should be a given at this level.  There is however, more crucially, a lack of direction from the dugout at present.

I’ve a confession to make: when Sean O’Driscoll was sacked I thought the correct decision had been made. I’m aware of other factors, ‘experiments’ and what not, but let’s look solely at football for now; I thought that on the pitch he’d lost his way, becoming almost obtuse in his team selection as he refused to change things which weren’t working and hadn’t worked for months.
Paul Dickov drfcThe difference between him and Paul Dickov is that he had his way and wouldn’t deviate from it.  Our current supremo hasn’t got a way and hasn’t displayed the finesse required to find one. He hasn’t had the conviction to hang his hat on a style or a system and go for it, instead lurching from one failure to the next. Occasionally a couple of draws and a win will see one fling extended but it won’t last. Concede space, two holding midfielders, one up top, two wide men, two up top… It’s dizzying.  Little wonder the players seem ponderous so regularly.

At home we seem happy to concede two thirds of the pitch when we lose possession then, should we reacquire the ball, seem content to sluggishly play it square before whacking it up field for whichever ill equipped forward has got the nod up front.  It does not work and it is mind numbing to watch. Surely at home there should be an obligation to at least try to be mildly entertaining?

Let’s be honest, League One is poor, as it was the last time we were here.  It doesn’t require too much free thinking to direct a side to compete at this level; a team has to work hard, be organised and mobile. Dean Saunders assembled a side which was just that: big and strong at the back, good delivery from wide positions with runners getting in and around an effective big man, and whilst it was not always great to watch, he ultimately delivered the Championship.

Whilst in the process of writing these words, the local papers have reported that Paul Dickov has conceded, “As the manager I have to put in place a system, or maybe two, that we’re going to stick to” whilst also appearing to have been reluctantly awakened to this void by one of his own senior players, further explaining to the Free Press, “I don’t want to elaborate on it too much, but I did have a long conversation with Copps”.

Publicly conceding the need for a philosophy, a style of play and a direction for his team, comes as a startling admission and suggests prior to this he has had neither. This begs a important question – what have we been doing for the last 21 months then?

The recruitment is just as baffling.  Why, when your holding midfielder is injured do you bring in a forward from Rotherham?  Why sign people like Razak, Ikpeazu and Clarke-Harris who have offered nothing, when we have gained less than if these opportunities had been afforded to our own promising youngsters (especially given the development of youth was an important part of the ethos identified at board room level this summer).  Recruitment should be better, with players acquired to do a specific job, in a specific system, not simply because they are the best available at any one time.

If we had an identity; a way of playing and stuck to it, I’d find things far more palatable. Over a season you see which areas needs improving, who’s not up to it. The players settle into familiar roles and the individual parts become the whole. Over time, a direction emerges and, dare we dream, things improve.  We should be pressing high up the pitch and not surrendering the majority of it.  We should be playing at a high tempo; working hard and controlling games in our own back yard, using the quality we have to dictate games, playing on the front foot and giving the supporters something to get behind.

tactics boardTwo years on, that for me is the unacceptable element to Paul Dickov’s reign. Building for the future with kids, realistic budgets, sensible expectations are all things I can buy into but a team without identity is one I cannot.  What is the Dickov style? How do his team’s play? I still don’t know and, to be honest, I’m growing increasingly weary of waiting to find out and maybe the same could be said for him.  The way that gates are beginning to decline, I’d wager I’m not the only one losing patience with boring, directionless football.

Rightly or wrongly, O’Driscoll paid the price for sticking to his philosophies, something I can’t help looking back on admiringly, especially now, and by rights, Dickov should be on borrowed time because he still hasn’t one of his own.

For the record, Athletico delivered the kind of performance TalkSport’s expert suggested they would.  Even star striker Mario Mandzukic left the field bloodied and battle wearied.  Whether they progress following the second leg in the Bernabéu is up to the footballing gods, but how they will play is much more clear.  Like the other top teams, they will play their way, not least because they have a manager who will accept nothing less.

 

Check out PopularSTAND here, and better still treat yourself to a copy next issue on the 3rd October v Barnsley.

Retro Rovers – Crewe v Doncaster Rovers Video 1991

crewe v doncaster roversDoncaster Rovers Video : I stumbled across this the other day.  Dodgy VHS footage of the Rumbelows Cup 1st Round, 1st Leg between Crewe Alexandra and Doncaster Rovers from 20th August 1991.

We get hammered by a very good Crewe Alexandra side in truth, however the video features some memories, not related to the final score, which make it easier to watch.  The green away kit, Sammy in goal, Ranks and Noteman on either flank, Bruno Jones in one of his last outings – oddly enough at centre back, John Muir up front, Billy Whitehurst (scorer of 2 great headers) picking up a yellow which the ref takes an age to pluck up the courage to dispense and a familiarly anonymous outing for Tommy (his legs had well gone) Tynan.

I had to edit it together recording it onto my phone so its even more wobbly / blurred than normal with odd audio but its worth a look.

For the record, the teams (played in front of 2900);

Crewe: 1.Greygoose 2.Wilson 3.Carr 4.Jones 5.Callaghan 6.Walters 7.Hignett (Murphy) 8.Naylor (Garvey) 9.Futcher 10.Gardiner 11.Edwards

Doncaster Rovers: 1.Samways 2.Rankine 3.Noteman 4.Cullen 5.Jones 6.Boyle 7.Reddish 8.Muir 9.Tynan (Rowe) 10. Whitehurst 11.Bennett.

Doncaster Rovers Video

Uche Ikpeazu

Uche Ikpeazu  Age 19 (Born 28 Feb, 1995)

At 6ft 3 Uche Ikpeazu is big, strong and reasonably mobile.  He holds the ball up well and is a handful for centre backs because of his physical attributes (he has already scored against Rovers this year).    Went through the ranks at Reading before turning down a pro deal to sign for Watford (a deal which included an undisclosed amount of compensation).  Has spent two spells on loan at Crewe who were keen to extend his latest spell by all accounts.

A promising youngster, it remains to be seen if he will provide the cutting edge Doncaster Rovers are looking for (his goal ratio is around 1 in 4 for Crewe in League 1).  Many hoped the club would go for a proven goalscorer or otherwise give the Rovers very own promising youngsters a go.  Surely McKay and Madeville fall into the same category as Ikpeazu?  At the very least he may offer a physical presence and a different option to Curtis Main.

His record is below, as is a short video of his 2 goals for Crewe this year including the one against Doncaster Rovers..

Uche Ikpeazu video here

Club

From

To

fee

APPS

GLS

Doncaster

27 Jan, 15

Loan

0

0

Crewe

26 Nov, 14

26 Jan, 15

Loan

7 (1)

2
Crewe

13 Jan, 14

01 Jun, 14

Loan

10 (5)

4
Watford

01 Jul, 13

Free

0

0

Reading

01 Jul, 12

01 Jul, 13

Youth

0

0

Totals

 

 

£0 17(6)

6

 

Doncaster Rovers Documentary “They think it’s all Rovers”


IMG_2672Doncaster Rovers Documentary.
 The fascinating, painful and cringeworthy glimpse into the world of Doncaster Rovers during the 1997-98 season.  This period has been well documented and led to the clubs fall into the Conference and almost into extinction.

Look out for some spectacular match action as well as Danny Bergara’s spine tingling quotations from Winston Churchill (not sure he nailed it word for word, but judge for yourself) a vast array of dodgy looking blokes and Prince Moncrieffe’s collection of baseball hats and sunglasses.  Enjoy.

*Due to some issues with my web host I’m having trouble hosting the video on this site.  Fortunately some kind person has posted it on YouTube here –            They think it’s all Rovers (1998)

Doncaster Rovers Abdul Razak

abdul razak 2
Don’t know very much about Doncaster Rovers new signing Abdul Razak?  Well, you’re not on your own.  I’ve done some research and trawled through google to see what i could find on the Rovers newest recruit.

Born 11 November 1992 the 22 year old midfielder is an Ivory Coast international (well, not for a while and he did not make the squad for the AFCON  tournament currently in progress but he has 5 caps nonetheless).

Having been a youth at Crystal Palace he joined Man City in 2011, making a promising start with a handful of premier league appearances.  However he spent some time out on loan, latterly with Charlton where he couldn’t break into the first team and ultimately had his loan ended early.

A spell in Russia with Anzhi again only yielded 7 appearances before returning to England with West Ham.  Things didn’t work out in London and he failed to make an appearance.  Another handful of games followed in Crete before Razak signed for the Rovers.

For someone who promised so much he has hardly set the world on fire (of course not, he wouldn’t have signed for Doncaster Rovers otherwise) but more  worryingly, he has hardly played and at 22 he is running out of time to fulfil the potential he initially showed.  He is strong, mobile and has a great range of pass with the vision to match.  He could prove a useful foil alongside a more advanced Ritchie Wellens, but there are still more questions than answers against the player.
Such a promising but stuttering career is something of a conundrum.  When asking why, my cynical mind wonders about things like attitude and off field issues?  A view which is not reduced by reports of him being sent home for fighting with team mates while on International duty in 2013.  Given the Man City connection, surely Dickov has done his homework and must feel he can handle any issues Razak brings with him? Time will tell, but it appears as though the current short term deal will suit both parties well.

His record is below as well as a youtube clip of him playing while on loan at Brighton here.

2011–2013 Manchester City 5 (0)
2011 → Portsmouth (loan) 3 (0)
2012 → Brighton & Hove Albion (loan) 6 (0)
2012 → Charlton Athletic (loan) 2 (0)
2013–2014 Anzhi Makhachkala 7 (0)
2014 West Ham United 0 (0)
2014– OFI Crete 9 (0

Doncaster Rovers Abdul Razak

Doncaster Rovers – Value for money anyone?

doncaster roversI tried to tweet a couple of times on Saturday.  Doncaster Rovers v MK Dons was the kind of game which afforded one time to do things like tweet.  I failed due to the now familiar but largely irrelevant lack of phone signal at the Keepmoat.  Following the game, when normal service was resumed, I successfully tweeted about the performance which included the word ‘dreadful’.  I have purposely waited for some time to pass before exceeding 140 characters on events of Saturday for fear of being bogged down in negatives such as that and in the hope that with some time, some positives would emerge.

Yes there are a few (the full backs were better, Bennett did ok etc) but i still find the negatives almost irresistible.

I genuinely try to be positive about the current crop, however watching Rovers at the minute is like death by a thousand cuts and the constant theme which runs through this season (more likely the last 18 months) is that the whole is less than the sum of its parts, and this is the truly frustrating and most telling aspect.

Two shots on target against MK Dons, 12 goals in 12 league games and only 5 at the Keepmoat illustrates how difficult it is to watch the Rovers these days.

I have seen some shocking games as a Rovers supporter, I’ve seen us get hammered and I’ve witnessed some complete disasters but for me, Saturday illustrated an almost unrivalled lack of direction and guile which is difficult to stomach.

Better Times: We scored a goal!

Better Times: We scored a goal!

We have been spoilt in recent times, I’ll admit it freely.  Under Dave Penney we played fast direct football with two lightning wingers and a mobile midfield which would steamroller opponents.  Under Sean O’Driscoll we were treated to the kind of football I never imagined I’d see from a Rovers team as our very own ‘Arsenal’ seduced us week in, week out.

So what now?  If pressed I don’t think I could tell you what kind of football we play, could you? Could Paul Dickov?  On Saturday we were happy to concede two-thirds of the Keepmoat surface and run alongside shadows, seemingly to attempt to hit our visitors on the counter attack.  The counter attack, at home.  Is this what we have become?

Little wonder that when we go behind, we rarely get something from the game.  Plan A is so conservative, so frail and timid that Plan B is meaningless.

Dickov cuts a now familiar figure on the sidelines, berating officials with hands firmly stuck inside his pockets, as though he were a school boy outside the headmasters office, desperately thinking of something to say or do next to avoid the inevitable, saying the right things but betrayed by his empty expression.  There is no plan B, however meaningless.

Paul Dickov drfc
The man who as a player typified a never say die, never beaten, win at all costs attitude, seems only capable of displaying a fear of losing when setting up his team as a manager which is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy (I wrote about this following the relegation at Leicester last year) and his side are increasingly becoming like a ship with no rudder.

Bottom line is I pay money to watch Rovers play, something which at the moment, fewer people are prepared to do each week, and who could blame them? I’m not bothered about seeing a Rovers which win every week (though it would be nice..) but I do want to see my side have a go at the opposition and I expect some value for my money, I am a Yorkshireman after all.   Mostly I’d like a manager, and a team, who aren’t afraid to win.

 

George Raynor – Rovers greatest there never was?

IMG_1415In the summer of 1967, the Rovers installed former Coventry City boss George Raynor as manager. Raynor lasted little over a year as his team, which though never short of goals, struggled for wins away from Belle Vue and never achieved their potential. His swift departure meant Raynor was consigned to history as just another name on a long list of other Doncaster Rovers managers who fell short at the club. However the story of his career and his journey prior to his return South Yorkshire is nothing short of remarkable and offers clear evidence that the club may have had one of the game’s best ever coaches at the helm, though his legacy has never received the recognition he deserved.

A Barnsley born lad, he made a career from football as something of a journeyman in the lower leagues (brief and unremarkable spells at Sheffield Utd, Mansfield, Rotherham, Bury and Aldershot were as good as things got) until the Second World War when he was working as a training instructor in Baghdad. It was here he constructed the basis of an Iraq national Football team, turning a few heads in the process, before returning to England.

The impact he had on those around him whilst overseas had not gone unnoticed and he was recommended to the Swedish FA as they searched for a national coach in 1946 and looked to begin in a new post war era.
George Raynor led his new Sweden side back to Britain for the 1948 Olympic Games, where quite amazingly and against all the odds, they won the gold medal by beating a strong Yugoslavia in the final, (in front of 60,000 people at Wembley) and in the process eclipsing the Matt Busby led British side who could only finish third.

Raynor combined the national team duties with a management career in the Swedes domestic league before masterminding an incredible performance in the 1950 World Cup Finals. His side topped their group (notably beating Italy in their opening game) before falling to eventual champions Uruguay and finishing the tournament in third place.

Olympic success with Sweden

Olympic success with Sweden

He took Sweden to Olympic success once more in 1952 as his team secured a bronze medal, following which his burgeoning reputation throughout Europe saw him handed spells at Juventus and Lazio before returning home for an albeit brief (and rather less glamorous) spell at Coventry City.

He once again returned to take charge of Sweden and took his new side to the 1958 World Cup finals with the incredible achievements eight years earlier still fresh in the mind. Amazingly, Raynor’s side were once again the tournaments surprise package and again they began the competition in fine form, comfortably winning their group before brushing defending champions West Germany aside 3-1 in a fiercely contested semi final. Raynor’s side were ultimately forced to finish as runners up behind a Pele inspired Brazil, eventually losing the final despite taking an early lead.

george raynor 2Following his glorious achievements with Sweden he returned home to England. Given his glittering cv on the international stage it is staggering to consider that Raynor left the World Cup runners up and could only manage the position of manager at non league Skegness Town, such was the disparity of recognition he received at home as compared to the continent.
It is during this spell however that he undertook the work which would ultimately play a hugely significant part in the history of Doncaster Rovers. It was during these two years at Skegness that a player, once one of the games brightest prospects arrived at Skegness in the faint hope of reviving something resembling a career.
Understandably heart broken and trying to rebuild a life following a career ending injury,Alick Jeffrey, once so famously courted by Manchester United, went to non-league Skegness Town depressed and depleted but determined to make a recovery. Not long down an already almost impossibly long road, Jeffrey fell victim to another set back by breaking his other leg. This would surely have proved too much for most people but Jeffrey, guided by the progressive and forward thinking Raynor fought back for a second time and after months of further hard work he was ready to re-join Doncaster Rovers and try to resurrect his career.
Raynor had another brief spell in Sweden before having a lengthy spell away from football management before heading to Belle Vue and an (on the face of things) un characteristically underwhelming spell with Doncaster Rovers.
George Raynor left the club following those travails away from home which meant the side only finished 10. Lawrie McMenemy succeeded Raynor and building on his foundations, was able to reap those rewards which had been originally sown by George Raynor and lead the side to the Fourth Division title.

In spite of his vast achievements Raynor never received the recognition he deserved in England and when he took over at Belle Vue it was following several years away from the game. Though the statistics record just another manager with an average record in charge at Doncaster Rovers, history shows that George Raynor may in fact have been the most talented name on the list.

Is Paul Dickov really the man for a Doncaster Rovers return?

doncaster roversI was sitting bored, like many before me, a number of hours into an aeroplane journey. I’d read a newspaper, watched a couple of movies and listened to some music, but now I was bored. Bored of doing nothing. We’d hit a little turbulence so the familiar seatbelt signs were in operation and even a trip to the toilet was off the table. The plane rocked gently from side to side and with more nervous energy than I’d like to admit I explored my seat for something of a distraction. I settled, somewhat underwhelmed, for the airlines generically cheesy inflight entertainment magazine in the hope that it would distract me from the planes increasingly forceful agitation.
I flicked through the pages of adverts interspersed with scandals bad gossip before coming across an interview with Ronnie O’Sullivan. The world championships were due to start shortly in Sheffield so snooker was relevant enough for Virgin to speak to its premier exponent.
The article proved to be a decent read with one of sports enigmas, and one of O’Sullivans answers stuck with me long after the plane had landed and luggage had been claimed. He said that for a number of years during his early career he never really achieved much, certainly not what he was capable of. He said that from playing against, and losing to Stephen Hendry, the man who’s crown he would go on to take in the following years, he was able to see first hand that the difference between Hendry, a true winner, and the rest of the field was that when a match got down to its crucial frames were the pendulum could swing one way or another, Hendry changed his approach and played aggressive snooker, taking on risky pots and forcing the issue against his opponent. When the going got tough, Hendry went for it and O’Sullivan suggests it was the acquiring of this attitude that changed him from potential great, to the best there’s ever been. It stuck with me because I was surprised that someone with such natural talent, so far above his compatriots in terms of ability, considers the crucial caveat to success to be that of attitude and a mental approach to winning.

When Doncaster Rovers went to Leicester on the final day of the 2014 season the season was well and truly in the final frame. The only certain thing was that if they won, Rovers would be safe and avoid relegation from the Championship. Anything less would depend on results elsewhere.

Paul Dickov drfcI must admit that I was a little surprised when Paul Dickov’s teamsheet arrived and showed his side would line up with 5 at the back, with Lucas Neill as a sweeper.
I was even more surprised with this when I saw Leicester had gone with Nugent (a striker who has many pluses to his game, but blistering pace is not one of then) and Phillips (a man who was playing his last game before retiring at 40 Years of age and had never had any pace during any of his 20 previous seasons) up front, hardly threatening to run in behind a back line to bring a sweeper into play.
Anyway, the parking of the bus was understandable to a degree. Keep it all square then if results are going against us have ‘a right go’ late on. That was clearly the plan.
The problem was it was the plan of a side with the worst away record in the league and how often have we all seen similar performances from a team who defend doggedly before falling behind only to find the die is cast for the game and the ability to change tempo and direction is never really viable.
Still it was Paul Dickov’s plan and but for a dodgy penalty or a lump of injury time in Lancashire it would’ve worked, but I can’t help think it would’ve been more through luck than judgement. The truly baffling things happened after we fell behind. 15 minutes to go and we are 1-0 down. We might’ve well have lost 10-0 as 1-0 as in each possible outcome in the relegation lottery, that was fact and was known before the game. 0 points meant 0 points and we had the worst goal difference of them all so the moment Nugent’s penalty hit the net was the moment the bus needed to crank up the gears and get moving. We needed a goal at this point, one goal as a minimum and what was the response from the bench? Nothing.
Nothing for 7 minutes when with 8 minutes of the season remaining Dickov replaced the left back. With another left back. Even now the dust has settled, I cannot comprehend that decision. Assuming Husband wasn’t fit to continue there was still already 3 other fullbacks already on the pitch. Why not throw on a forward and change things at the back? It makes no sense to me to make such a short sighted and naive decision at such a crucial time (one which ultimately denied us the opportunity to have Theo Robinson on the pitch, the only player we have with any pace). Indeed it was not until 2 minutes later, with only 6 minutes remaining that two forwards were introduced.
In a game we needed to get something out of, we managed 2 shots on target.

The most frustrating thing of it all is that it feels as though we went down with a whimper. Not just on the final day but from winning at Leeds in March and being almost safe (we were 8 points clear of relegation at that point. I was almost confident), we managed only 1 point from the remaining 7 games and scored only 4 goals in the process. Going down from such a strong position at the end of March is the most unpalatable thing of all.
Certainly we can point to key injuries at key times, a small squad, financial disparity, terrible refereeing decisions regularly dished out to ‘small’ teams but there is also a lack of tactical guile which punctuated the season.
Rovers conceded the first goal 26 times this season in games which went on to yield 1 win, 3 draws, and 22 defeats. There was too often no plan B from the bench and too often games slipped us by with a familiar sense of inevitability.

Should the responsibility rest with the manager? Yes.

Should he be sacked just because he couldn’t keep Doncaster in the Championship? No, even Stevie Wonder could’ve seen it was a tough ask.

Is the run of form from March, and 1 point from 21 acceptable? No, absolutely not.

I am sure he is a genuine, hard working guy. There is enough evidence to suggest the players play for him and the dressing room is a settled enough place. Paul Dickov’s tenure has seen some astute signings (Sharp, Meite, Wellens, Tamas et al are all from good stock) and he was notably given the financial backing from the board to do so. There does remain however a huge question mark over his tactical nous. Ultimately he has been lacking all season in this crucial area. Granted however, it’s easy to be tactically astute when your sides better than the opposition and the simple fact is we haven’t been good enough.

I only hope that one can learn how to be a better tactician. God knows there have been enough lessons throughout this season for him to be going on with. Mr O’Sullivan has shown us albeit in a different sport, that it’s possible to work out how to win matches through losing them. Hope springs eternal, especially for a Rovers fan, but I still can’t help but think if Ronnie O’Sullivan had picked the team at Leicester the final frame, and the final reckoning might’ve been very different.

Doncaster Rovers – play offs at Wembley? No thanks

The best things come to those who wait they say. There’s a lot of convenient little sayings like that, some which are true in all walks of life and some which have become simple soundbites.
However when something has been over 100 year in the making, this particular snippet seems more than apt.
doncaster rovers wembleyDoncaster Rovers first and only appearance at Wembley in 2008 was such a moment – the best had come to those who had waited, few had been forced to wait so long.
That day, it’s not an overstatement to say, was a dream come spectacularly true and made all the sweeter by the sometimes soul destroying years spent waiting (that and because it was Leeds United that we beat).
The agonising seasons of mediocrity were the norm for so many years in which the club were always the bridesmaid.
Occasions like the Leyland Daf northern final against Tranmere Rovers, where the perennial strugglers which were the late 80’s Rovers team, found themselves within 90 minutes of a Wembley final. Alas it wasn’t to be and for decades it seemed like the only chance of a Rovers appearance at the home of English football would have been if the final of the Sheffield county cup had been switched to Wembley.

IMG_08562003 saw a change with the final of the conference play offs but the match took place in Stoke and since has quite rightly become a piece of well documented folklore.
It looked like a case of typical Rovers bad luck when the side steamrollered its way to the Johnstone’s paint Trophy final a few years later. What had always been a Wembley show piece had been moved to Cardiff while the old girl was rebuilt and looked like that would be that.
Then 2008 came along. Just being there was almost special enough, but we all had a quiet optimism where in other years there might have been an air of fear. That Rovers team had the best midfield in the league, and given that we had already played Leeds off the park twice that year, coupled with the semi final display against Southend, we all knew we were on to a winner, even if we dare not say it out loud.

Even with that said, I must confess those 90 minutes were among the most horrendous of my life. Gripped with the kind of tension that I have only ever felt in the queue for ‘The eagles claw’ at Lightwater valley (seriously, never go on that ride, it is purgatory) I have never been on the edge of my seat for so long.
The final whistle brought a feeling more of relief than anything else (much like those first few tentative steps after the ride has stopped before my 8 year old daughter asks “can we go on again Dad?”) and, just like the theme park ride, once it had finished I could declare that I enjoyed it, but a big part of me never wanted to do it again.

That day in London was so perfect there is a big piece of me that longs to draw a line under Wembley. Just pack it away in a box labelled ‘brilliant Rovers memories’ and leave it at that. I’m terrified that another day out might not go so well and might taint what is the most perfect of recollections, so easily summonable in minds eye even now in all it’s beautiful red and white glory, – from the annoying loud and incomprehensible PA system in the ground to the second of silence which seemed to last a lifetime that was eventually broken by the wall of sound which greeted James Hayter’s impeccably placed header. It was magnificent, and that’s how I want to keep it.
A bit of me hoped that if we didn’t go up automatically this year, that we’d miss out on the top 6 altogether to spare us the agony of the playoffs, (the platinum streaks on my head are gathering numbers fast enough as it is) because as ridiculous as it may sound, I’m not sure i can take it again.

Anyway, it might not come to that. Brentford seems as good a place as any to seal promotion and we are in a place most other teams would envy. Our destiny, for now, is in our own hands.
I desperately hope we make it over the line on Saturday 27th April 2013, of course, but with the extra motivation of avoiding a trip down to the capital once again. Should Wembley come calling however – I’ll be there. Try and stop me, after some of the seasons i’ve sat through there’s an element of perspective to be had, and there’s always ‘just for men’ anyway.
More importantly, we are equipped to see the job through at Brentford and I believe a side packed with the leaders and quality we possess will get the job done before the play off lottery tickets are handed out.
Come on you Reds!