With Rovers on the hunt for a manager, and speculation rife amongst the fanbase, Lee Croft examines the Bookies’ favourites:
In today’s modern game, discussing and debating the next manager of your club is part and parcel for any football supporter. But I must confess that being a Doncaster Rovers fan is probably the exception to the rule. When Dave Penney was sacked in 2006 the only rumour to dominate the speculation was that of Kevin Keegan returning to manage his home town club, only for Sean O’Driscoll to be announced as manager.
When O’Driscoll was axed, Dean Saunders was brought in immediately. Rumour has it that Saunders was offered the position before Sean O’Driscoll received a middle of the night voicemail from then CEO Dave Morris advising him he was placed on ‘gardening leave’. Without digressing into the morals of that story; the point I’m making is that we didn’t have time as fans to spend a week or two deliberating and dreaming on who should be unveiled as the club’s new manager.
Alas, it is a rare opportunity as a Rovers supporter to see which names are linked with the job and who may be in the shortlist to become our new gaffer. But before I look at the ‘front-runners’ I would like to make a couple of points clear:
Those of you who are expecting a manager with a successful CV, experience in the top two divisions and a decorated managerial career with win percentages over 50% – prepare to be disappointed. Given our club’s league standings, fan base and history it is safe to say that we are either going to get an up and coming manager with little experience, or one whose experience has had both good and bad spells in the football league. The new manager will undoubtedly not be everybody’s choice and I think it’s important that as fans we don’t get carried away and confuse our dreams on Football Manager and FIFA with that of reality.
NEIL REDFEARN (6/4)
Installed as the bookmakers’ favourite since Dickov was sacked, Redfearn is one name that has been touted about amongst fans and the opinions on him couldn’t be wider apart. Redfearn enjoyed a decorative career as a player, in fact he has the 5th highest all time Football League appearances and had a spell with Rovers in the 80’s.
It’s not uncommon for Rovers to employ former players as managers. John Ryan’s first 3 appointments were all former players (Snodin, Wignall and Penney) and all things considered they didn’t do that badly. But one thing that looks to be missing from Redfern’s CV as manager is one of stability as he ventured through 5 different clubs with various spells as caretaker manager – it’s perhaps a little ironic that the two clubs where he did find stability was Leeds United and Scarborough, perhaps the two most unstable clubs of their time. One would be under the ownership regime almost on par with a dictatorship and the other would dissolve one year after Redfearn left.
But his spells as manager at those clubs have been far from impressive, at Scarborough he managed to guide the team to just 6 wins of the 29 games he was in charge and lost over half of those. At Leeds the circumstances were similar as the club were struggling both on and off the pitch and whilst he did well to lead the team to mid-table after a torrid start to the season, it does have to be said that 11 wins does leave a lot to be desired.
One thing Redfearn has in his favour is his experience and knowledge in the youth department. I have to confess that I don’t pay too much attention (if any) to the academy and the success it has had at Leeds United but it is clear that it is from there that Redfearn made his name and reputation at Leeds. Given the Rovers’ current ambition to build a younger more talented squad, this would certainly play into Redfearn’s hands and would make him a very strong contender for the Rovers board.
Lee’s verdict: Being 50 years of age, you have to question if it’s too late for Redfearn to become a manager now given how much little experience he has as a first team manager, it would be a hell of a gamble.
ROB JONES (2/1)
Like Redfearn, Jones has been the 2nd favourite with bookies since the departure of Dickov and being handed the caretaker job puts him in a strong position to show he is ready to make the step up to management.
Sadly however, the games Jones’ has been in charge for so far hasn’t done anything for the corporal other than showing the board he is probably not the right man. I also believe that the reason he remains so strong in the betting market is because the bookies rules say they will pay out on Jones as permanent manager if his caretaker spell reaches 10 games, and since the board seem in no hurry to make a decision it would be foolish of the bookies to offer anything more generous at this stage.
I believe the biggest problem with Jones is that he is (as development squad coach) part of the set-up left behind by Dickov that lead us into this poor position in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame Jones for our situation but you often find you need someone from the outside to come in, clear out the deadwood and restart from scratch. Being part of the coaching and playing staff for Jones makes this a very difficult task in terms of judgement and execution – coupled with his lack of managerial experience and I’m afraid that as much as I admire Jones he just isn’t the sort of fit we need.
Lee’s verdict: Bookies’ 10 game rule should be the only reason for his odds at present, and there probably couldn’t be a worse choice, apart from possibly Graham Westley or Steve Evans.
DARREN FERGUSON (2/1)
The son of arguably the greatest football manager of all time has seen his odds slashed from 40/1 right through to 2/1 and emerging as a possible contender, and looking at his CV it is easy to see why.
Keen to build up his own name and not rely on that of his father’s, Darren started management at Peterborough United who resided in League Two. In a spell that lasted the better part of 3 years he guided the Posh to consecutive promotions that bounced them into the Championship. Sadly he parted company with Peterborough after a disappointing start to life in the Championship.
From there he went to Preston and again struggled to adapt to life in the Championship and 49 games later and Preston bottom, Ferguson was sacked. He would later return to Peterborough a few months later and guide them back into the Championship and keep them there for 2 seasons before being relegated again and a failure to bounce them back into the Championship for a third time proved to be a task too far and Ferguson left Peterborough again.
His win percentage as a manager does speak for itself, 41% and the majority of which in the Championship and League One. Furthermore Ferguson’s sides are known for fast and physical attacking football, which showed when Preston would put 6 past Leeds at Elland Road. When Peterborough won the playoffs in the 2011/12 season they were the highest scorers in the entire country. Another thing that goes into Fergie’s favour is his scouting network whilst at Peterborough as he unearthed lower and non-league talents and sell them on for a hefty profit. Making a youngster into a saleable asset is paramount to keep a steady level of income at any football club and this must surely help his cause.
Lee’s verdict: The best of the candidates in my opinion and does everything that we look for as a young manager – wife beating aside.
SHAUN DERRY (6/1)
For the past 2 weeks you couldn’t get a bet on Derry apart from requests which would have probably been for odds around 40/1. However an article by the Dail Mail (of all credible sources) indicating Derry is to be considered for the job saw him enter the market at a good price of 25/1 and then 6/1 at the time of writing this article.
Whether the bookies odds reflect the rumours in the papers, or they are just covering their backs/responding to people placing bets remains unknown but of all the candidates (Jones aside) Derry is perhaps the least experienced. His one stint at management was at Notts County. In his first season with County looking relegated already Derry did mount a comeback and secured League One status for another season. However the Magpies would flirt with relegation far too often the season after and his spell was cut short without a full season in charge – 77 games over 2 seasons to be precise.
You would hope the article in the Daily Mail is nothing more than Derry or his agent getting his name into the press to be considered for the role, but truth be told there are probably better candidates for better odds (see below).
Lee’s verdict: Would be a huge gamble, failed to turn County’s fortunes around despite being in a similar situation to us.
STUART GRAY (10/1)
Similar to Redfearn, Gray is someone with very little experience considering his age and has spent most of his time as a coach with various spells as caretaker managers with two solid spells with Northampton Town and Sheffield Wednesday.
Often working in the shadow of Dave Jones and Glenn Hoddle, Gray has been coach and assistant manager with a number of clubs throughout the football league. His first stab at managing came in 2001 with Southampton, despite breaking the club’s transfer record for Rory Delap, 6 wins from 19 was enough to earn him his P45. It would be 6 years before he was handed the reins permanently at another club with Northampton Town, but after overseeing the club drop into League Two he was sacked after 18 months in charge. A few more coaching and caretaker roles would ensue at Burnley and Portsmouth before teaming up again with Dave Jones at Sheffield Wednesday – once Jones was sacked Gray was appointed caretaker and after a great run which saw Wednesday unbeaten in 11 games he would become the manager permanently and lead them to their highest finish in 6 years and equal their clean sheet record for a season.
Sadly though his tactical nous and great coaching skills were not enough to keep him the job when Wednesday were taken over in the summer and Gray has been out of work ever since. Like Redfearn, his skills on the training pitch are known better than his managerial stats and he may be the answer to turn the Rovers fortunes around.
Lee’s verdict: Could be a good choice but wouldn’t be a quick-fix solution and would probably require time (and financial backing).
NIGEL CLOUGH (16/1)
A poor choice in my opinion. Whilst he got off to a good start in management at Burton, his spells at Derby and Sheffield United were unimpressive and performances generally average and often stale.
Like Ferguson, Clough is keen to not use his family name to make a reputation and at Derby County I was told by one staff member on a tour of Pride Park that he would even cringe at the mention of his father and was very uncomfortable when being compared to him.
Lee’s verdict: Clough has managed in tiers 2, 3, 5, and 6 – if we we appoint him as manager, there is a very good chance he will manage in tier 4.
GARY JOHNSON (16/1)
A management career spanning 20 years and nearly 1000 games, Gary Johnson is easily the most experienced of the candidates, with experience in each of the Conference, League’s Two and One and the Championship. With his two spells at Yeovil – he won both the Conference and League Two as well as the League One play-offs, and nearly lead Bristol City to consecutive promotions after a 2nd place finish in League One and reaching the play-off final a season later (a day before we would play Leeds at Wembley).
He also has experience of managing a national side, although Latvia isn’t the first country that comes to mind when you think of international football, it’s experience none the less.
Lee’s verdict: Wouldn’t have an issue with this appointment and could be a successful end to an illustrative career for Johnson, but as the only candidate in this list currently in employment – it would be a difficult deal to pull off.
Being an opinion piece obviously means that the views above are strictly my own and not that of the DRSG, yada yada…
But it also means that I can show bias at my own discretion and it’s no secret from reading the above who I would pick as manager – Darren Ferguson ticks all the boxes for me and we could be the club that sees his real breakthrough to change his reputation to ‘Fergie Jr the manager’ and not ‘Fergie Jr the son of Alex’ or ‘Fergie Jr the wife beater’. On that topic as well, I think that particular incident was nearly a decade ago, he was found guilty by a court of law and served his punishment. Whilst I don’t think he should be spared of any chanting from rival teams – it should not hinder his chances at being chosen as our Manager in waiting.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint) it’s not my decision to name the next Doncaster Rovers manager, but I will enjoy the speculation and debating in the meantime.