Tag Archives: Paul Dickov

IN FERGIE WE TRUST?

Has Fergie learnt anything from last season?


Let’s not sugar coat this, Fergie can consider his tenure at Doncaster Rovers last season as an absolute failure. With just 6 games gone last season the Rovers board acted swiftly to axe Paul Dickov and give the team a realistic chance to turn the season around and challenge for promotion, instead we start the season a division lower.

Ferguson is lucky to still be in employment at Doncaster Rovers, and surely he realises that if he fails to get the results this season then it is over for the Scotsman. Personally, I will not accept anything less than 100 points, the League Two title and Aaron Taylor Sinclair to make 0 appearances for the club.

Although this sounds like a task that would be quite difficult for a team that went 17 games without a win last season which included games against all but one of the bottom 8 teams in League One, Ferguson has been making the right noises during the off-season period by securing the return of Tommy Rowe and Gary McSheffrey on permanent deals (more on this later), bringing in Ross Etheridge and Mathieu Baudry from Accrington Stanley and Leyton Orient respectively. Young talent also enters the squad in the form of Joe Wright and Tyler Garratt, highly respected and accomplished players Matty Blair and John Marquis have also joined the ranks along with non-league star Alfie Beestin.

These additions coupled with the retention of most of the squad from last season has been enough for pundits and the bookmakers alike to tip Fergie’s men to challenge the likes of Portsmouth for the League Two title. Sadly however, I don’t share the same sense of optimism and I do have to question whether Fergie has learnt anything from the implosion of last season?

Before I go any further, I probably should point out that I’m not writing this as someone who was against Fergie’s appointment or the sacking of Dickov (Hello, Mark Hughes), no in fact I wrote an article before Fergie was announced highlighting that he would have been my choice as well. I truly and honestly expected Fergie to be the man to lead Doncaster Rovers out of the mediocrity of League One – which truth be told he did, he just lead us in the wrong direction.

Obviously Fergie has been talking the talk in pre-season, signed some decent players for this level, kept arguably (and I use that word with caution) our best player at the club in Andy Williams and has said what fans wanted to hear in press conferences and fans meetings etc., but all this is starting to look and feel a little bit like the last two seasons. Players more than capable were brought in, the manager (then a Mr Dickov) was saying the right things in press conferences but on each occasion we couldn’t do anything more than accept mid-table mediocrity.


The lack of pre-season games has not given fans much time to see the action on the pitch, but even with the recent additions and our new injuries in pre-season the squad still looks very bare in the middle of the park. The noises coming out of the club seem to suggest that we will be using a combination of entering the loan market and using our development and young players as a solution. On the face of it, it doesn’t seem a bad idea but I probably only need to mention the names of Mitchell Lund and Lyndon Gooch as evidence that these solutions can have calamitous effects if you don’t build strength in depth. I fear that if this backfires on Fergie (again) it will be a blunder that would make Aaron Taylor Sinclair blush and point towards a season languishing in mid-table (or worse) of League Two.

The decision to bring back both Tommy Rowe and Gary McSheffrey on permanent deals is in my opinion a dubious decision. Whilst both players did shine towards the end of last season let us not forget that they were shining in a squad that couldn’t defeat a Colchester side that hadn’t won at home for 6 months and were 1-0 down to the Rovers going into the break, or even a Crewe side already relegated. Put simply, Habib Bamogo and Harry Worley would have been able to play in that squad and leave with ratings of 7 or above.

Tommy Rowe is certainly a player who knows both Leagues One and Two very well, but he failed to light up Glanford Park when loaned to Scunthorpe last season before being loaned to us, his career has been on a downward spiral since suffering an injury and breaking his leg in late 2014. We have to question realistically whether his 14 games for us last season were the last bit of shine in a darkening bulb, or whether it is the reignition of his career. As a club that finished the season relegated and not a single player out of contract, you do have to wonder why we have taken such a gamble and given Rowe a 3 year contract.

Onto McSheffrey, again someone else who we signed as a result of feeding off the scraps of local rivals Scunthorpe United. McSheffrey probably knows his best days when at Coventry are behind him and regardless of whether we win promotion or not, I do believe this season will be the start of a new era for McSheffrey as his career will take him into the lower depths of non-league football where he will probably continue playing until the age of 45. One thing McSheffrey does highlight however, is just how much we have fallen as a club, if you had told me 5 years ago that our salvation would lie in Gary McSheffrey I’d have probably told you where to stick it.


Finally, Ferguson has told the press recently that Coppinger will remain team captain because “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. Now Harry Forrester (arguably our most technically gifted player last season) was shipped out for what I can only imagine was showing a lack of interest towards the manager. Curtis Main was dropped as a result of not making an impact after only a handful of sub appearances and made his way to Oldham and helped them to survive. Meanwhile, we watched our club suffer relegation despite being tipped to finish in the play-offs. We were relegated for the most part thanks to the run of 17 games without a win, now during this abysmal run we lacked character, fight and spirit, we needed a leader, a man to rise up from the ashes of defeat. When everyone looked at Coppinger to make the step from Club Legend to God amongst men his leadership proved as reliable as Aaron Taylor Sinclair. 

Maybe these are the ravings of a madman. But whether or not come May we’ll be celebrating promotion, the pre-season has thus far proved that not everything is going to be as straightforward as Fergie had hoped. This season will undoubtedly have highs and lows. If Fergie manages to deliver he may earn himself a place in Rovers folklore. Should he fail however, then he will only have himself to blame.

DRSG DEBATE: IS FERGIE TIME RUNNING OUT?

Should Fergie stay or should he go? Lee Croft argues the case for him to stay at DRFC:

Read the case for him to leave by Rob Johnson  here

Whilst I can’t deny our current form; 2 points in our last 10 games and without a win does look bleak for the Rovers – I have to question if sacking Fergie really the answer?

Fergie came in just a few months ago and proved to be the breath of fresh air we needed, he instilled his philosophy into the Rovers squad and for the first time since the days of SOD you could actually see the game plan the manager had actively instructed his team to carry out. Prior to the Gillingham game we were in with a realistic chance of the play-offs.

Since then we have hit a slump and I have to ask whether or not a bad run of games in 11 games is enough to wield the axe? Granted we sacked Dickov after 6 games this season but that was on the back of last season which was a tough and enduring one under Dickov’s tenure. Yes things are bad now, but this is over a period of a couple of months, Fergie has only been in charge for 24 games and this bad run doesn’t even amount to half of that.

In my honest opinion he should be given more time: I know that Fergie doesn’t appreciate being compared with his father but this current run does remind me of Sir Alex when he first arrived at Old Trafford to a team going backwards and after a couple of seasons and a bad run it looked like his tenure was to be brought to an end and is heavily rumoured that had Mark Robins not scored that goal against Forest in the FA Cup; then Fergie may have been sacked. I think what that teaches us is that sometimes patience and time with a manager will reap rewards.
In a time where many are criticising the board and making comparisons to when John Ryan was here and missing the ‘good ol’ days’ there are things we need to remember. If there is one thing John Ryan taught us whilst he was Chairman of DRFC it was that knee-jerk reactions and sacking managers after a bad run was not always the right thing to do. In fact the only time John Ryan acted swiftly to sack a manager during a bad run with Sean O’Driscoll in 2011 resulted in the team relegated anyway.

Speaking of the board; the last time we went through a manager change earlier this season the board went through a very long and drawn out process to select the next candidate. This state of limbo undoubtedly affected the team’s performance; whilst Dickov was sacked after just 6 games we were still effectively watching Dickov’s team under Rob Jones until game 12. If we are looking to change managers with 10 games to go then I don’t think we can afford to risk another 4 or 5 games under a caretaker whilst we find a new manager. Chances are it will be too late.

Furthermore the time the board took in selecting Fergie as the man to lead Doncaster Rovers to salvation does at least infer their intentions that this was a long term investment in the club. They made it clear that they brought Darren here as the man to remain at the helm for years rather than months. Whilst that doesn’t grant Fergie with a free pass to not win a single game I do think this allows us to make a fair assumption that they too will not be looking at a knee jerk reaction.

Whilst it may sound like I’m clutching at straws here, the stats do suggest that despite our bad run we are currently in, Fergie has improved our points per game ratio. After 6 games Dickov was sacked with Rovers picking up just 6 points in their first 6 games – an unimpressive point per game. Since Fergie has taken over he has picked up 26 points in 24 games which averages over 1 point per game. Admittedly a minuscule increase in the grand scheme of things but I believe that when you take our current predicament into account with 3 points in 11 games then it makes the stat far more impressive.

I think what we all need to remember as well is that this bad run still hasn’t seen us slip into the bottom four. I admit we are dangerously close and with Oldham having two games in hand then it is still a possibility. But that being said we have to keep faith and believe that a couple of good results will steer us clear and provide us the momentum to get a run going and look a little bit higher up the table.

Darren Ferguson is still a young manager who has a lot to learn, his refusal to change from the 3-5-2 formation can be a worry and his reliance on youth players when players such as Main, Forrester and Jones have left a void are possible mistakes the Scot has made. But he is genuine, he is passionate and he has a long term plan for the club – I don’t think sacking him now is the answer; with 10 games left I think it’s too tough a task for anyone to come in and work such a miracle. Fergie knows these players more than any alternative and we have to trust that he knows what is required to ensure League One football for next season.

In Ferguson We Trust.

IS FERGIE TIME RUNNING OUT? The case for

Should Fergie stay or should he go? Rob Johnson argues the case for him going:

By the time Paul Dickov was finally sacked after a 1-0 defeat against Gillingham his position had become untenable. The ferocity of the fans dismay was unleashed on Dickov with vocal and numerous chants of ‘Dickov Out’ at the final whistle at Priestfield and as the diminutive Scot walked down the tunnel he looked a defeated man.

Dickov was never really wanted at the Keepmoat stadium following a dismal spell at Oldham and he did nothing whilst at Rovers to suggest he was the man to take the club forward. Darren Ferguson however was hailed as a saviour upon his arrival. A last gasp winner at Shrewsbury was to be the stepping stone for a run of 2 defeats in 12 games. During that glorious run Rovers scored 25 goals and swept teams aside with a 5-3-2 formation that seemed to get the best out of a limited squad.

Fast forward a few weeks and all that good will that Fergie generated during his honeymood period has been swept away by Rovers worst run of form in a single season since the end of the 2010/11 season. If Donny don’t win on Saturday that will be 13 games without a win, that would be our worst run since the ill fated 97-98 season in which Rovers were barely a football team.

In the last 12 winless games, Rovers have scored just 8 goals, 17 less than in the previous 12 games. They have contrived to lose 9 and draw 3 of those games and haven’t won at home since December 12th. Yet throughout that time Darren Ferguson has continued to persevere with wing backs despite the fact that this system has clearly been found out by the other sides in league 1. He has signed Lynden Gooch and Ricardo Calder who have provided exactly 0 goals between them. Fergie has allowed McCullough and particularly the abysmal Taylor-Sinclair to keep their place in defence despite constant individual errors.

On Saturday against Bradford Cedric Evina started right wing back. Still there is no answer to the right sided defensive positions. It is a ridiculous situation that Rovers are still playing a formation that ensures that most of the players are playing out of position. Various central midfield partnerships have been tried since the injury to James Coppinger and none of Conor Grant, Richard Chaplow, Paul Keegan or Harry Middleton have looked comfortable playing as part of a central three with no creativity and no cover for a mistake prone defence.

Rovers now find themselves 2 points above the drop zone with 10 games still to play. Now is the time to stick or twist. It is ludicrous to think that this team could get relegated. This is the same team who finished 13th last season give or take a couple of players. It has taken an immense case of mismanagement from board level down for Rovers to find themselves in this position.

The thought of watching Rovers play to 3000 fans in the Keepmoat next season is a sobering one. Rotherham have shown how a change of manager can coincide with a change of fortunes. Since Neil Warnock has taken over they have beaten Brentford, Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough and most recently come from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with Derby County. This from a team who had won just once in their previous 11 games.

Rovers must not be relegated to league 2. It would be an unmitigated disaster for a club uncertain of its future. We need someone to come in, send these pampered kids back to their premier league clubs, bring in some nasty, experienced lower league players to fight and scrap our way out of the relegation places. Darren Ferguson has shown in the last 12 games that he is not the man to do this. Fergie has to go.

TOP TEN GREAT THINGS THIS SEASON

Mid way through a topsy-turvy season seems as good as any to have a retrospective over the season so far, Neil Taylor takes a look back:

DRFC a look back season

 

10 Oyston Out Banner

While it seems odd to start a list about positives from Rovers seasons with a protest about another sides owner, for a club like ours that has suffered a destructive owner in living memory the ability to call out a “benefactor” who seems to revel in the pain he’s inflicting on the heart and soul of a club is second nature. That was the first experience I’ve had of both sets of fans united and singing together and I was proud to have played my own small part with the OYSTON OUT banner. I’ve re read some of the drunken texts I sent to fellow Rovers fans that night, after enjoying the hospitality of both the Blackpool Supporters’ Trust and the Tangerine Knights and they tell a story of someone who was incredibly proud to be a Rovers supporter that night although towards the end of the night they tell a story of me being sick in the street and taking my clothes off to hail a taxi. Still, most of ‘em relate to that feeling of pride.

9 The BFG

One thing Rovers fans do well is a cult hero (hello Dougie, Colin Cramb and Leo Fortune West) and the BFG has filled that vacant niche with aplomb. During an “interesting” start to the season the supporters were desperate for a bright spot and that was provided by Thorsten. Probably the best example of the BFG doing his thing was the embarrassment at Port Vale where a typically toothless Dickov Rovers side could well have been 6 down by half time if not for a string of great saves including a penalty save by Stuckmann. Not many players came out of our first 8 games with a huge amount of credit but Stuckie did.

8 Black Bank Tifo

Unless you’re some sort of stationery fetishist 2200 A3 sheets of cardboard shouldn’t give you a sexual thrill but I’m a big enough man to admit a certain tightening in my loins after watching the last couple of seconds of this video made all the better for me personally knowing the blood, sweat and tears that went into it by so many people (I hope you all washed your hands after holding those cards up). From the Black Banks earliest days where unfurling a banner seemed to be beyond us to synchronising over two thousand people. We’ve come a long way, baby.

7 Beating Leeds

You can say plenty of things about Paul Dickov, I certainly know I have, but you can’t knock his record in a Yorkshire derby. For the weeks leading up to this game the hard core cadre of Leeds fans at my work (you know the ones, live in Balby and have only ever seen the “mighty whites” when they play at Donny) were assuring me that they would steamroller little old pub team Donny. Well, I feel this video probably conveys more than my words ever could:

6 Andy Williams coming into form

Has a Rovers player ever immediately introduced the concept of cuckolding to so many fans? I’m not sure what Andy does in his spare time but if the Keepmoat faithful are to be believed he spends at least half of his precious time off ploughing through their wives, showing an incredible amount of stamina considering his 100% commitment on the pitch. I’m thirty five years old but when I grow up I want to be Andy Williams.

5 Crewe game winner

Nothing, absolutely nothing exemplifies Rovers new found “never say die” attitude like this game. With Callum Saunders putting Crewe in front in the 89th minute and the subsequent rush to the exit by less hardy souls made it even more vital that those that remained in the stands ramped up the volume and the lads on the pitch responded perfectly. Two injury time goals. 3-2 win. Thank you and good fucking night.

4 Keegs goal

“We’re on the pitch, if Keegan scores” and, for a couple of brave/foolish souls at Burton, that’s exactly what they did, and who can really blame them? Often the forgotten man at Rovers Keegan is, to me, a bit of an unsung hero. He does the nitty gritty stuff so well that I can forgive his goal shyness. Now if only he’s listen to the chorus of “SHOOOOTS!” every time he gets the ball he might make the heady heights of three Rovers goals. Or perhaps not.

3 Appointing Fergie

I’ve seen over a dozen managers at Rovers and not one, even Stalwarts like Snods or ones who’d later have hugely successful spells managing Rovers, were met with anything like the sense of euphoria that the appointment of the Dazzler faced. For two days Wes Grimes and I stalked the Keepmoat, Cantley Park (which I was ejected from…) and the Crown hotel for clues on the appointment, we even ran the Black Banks successful #Managerwatch campaign on Twitter and still the appointment of Darren caught us a little off guard. An experienced manager with great contacts and a track record of promotion for this league, one who doesn’t talk shit and certainly doesn’t take it from his players (as our bench found out against Gillingham when they were late out for the second half). The club took their time but by god did they get it right.

2 Sacking Dickov

It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of football and I’m certainly as guilty of that as anyone but I won’t apologise for my repeated calls for Dickov to go. Devoid of ideas, unable to get quality players to perform, weak leadership (such a contrast to his playing days) and the suggestions that he’d lost the dressing room meant his time was most certainly up. Most telling was Dick Watson saying (and I’m paraphrasing slightly here): Don’t blame Paul for being bad at his job, blame us for appointing him. “Come in Number 9, your time is up”.

1 Black Bank

Have you heard anyone mention the library or the KeepQuiet recently? Back in April last year I wrote an article for Pop Stand (link) that included the following paragraph:
“Football isn’t a matter of life or death, It’s much more important than that. – Bill Shankly. I think it’s safe to say that Bill Shankly wasn’t at the Keepmoat stadium on Saturday for the now infamous (and viral) nil-nil draw ground out between Rovers and Fleetwood but if he had been at the game I’m sure he wouldn’t have thought it was a matter of life and death, although there was a reasonable chance of being bored to death, perhaps he’d have thought it was a matter of meeting a couple of mates in a half empty stadium, sitting and half watching some mediocre football while chatting about what you’ve been up to at work and making plans for a night out. Is this what we want from our collective football experience, making small talk in a stadium nicknamed the “Keepquiet”? ”

 

I’ve been a lot of things in the Black Bank this season but being bored isn’t one of them and for that I thank every last one of you. Football is a tribal thing by its very nature and that extends to fans but I’ve never seen a stand so united as I have this season. Stone Island clad youths, middle age knackers in replica shirts (hello, me), OAP’s, Infants, it’s not mattered a single bit. I’ve grabbed people I’d not speak to in the street and given them a slobbery kiss, I’ve bounced up and down between teenagers and nanas (which is starting to sound like a niche porn film) I’ve seen an entire cross section of the Doncaster public united behind OUR team and I’ve never been happier.

Also, a couple of notable mentation: the entire crowd’s reception of Ben Parkinson. Absolute class personified and the clubs embrace of some fairly major changes. Making the South Stand unreserved was a brave decision, one that could have back fired spectacularly.

 

Enjoyed this article, think I’ve missed something major? Have your say in the comments section.

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Rovers Review: LIFE AS A ROVER by Lee Croft

With 15 games (in all competitions) gone, Lee Croft looks back at the Rovers season to date:

With just 5 draws and 4 losses in the opening 11 games this season you would think you’d be on a safe bet to state that it’s been an uneventful opening 2 months for the Rovers, the reality of the situation is completely the opposite.

For the first time in 3 years – and in the first time during Dickov’s tenure – we had a close season of no takeover talk and backroom unrest. The effect of this was plain to see with some quality additions to the squad (namely Thorsten Stuckman and Andy Williams) and after our pre-season victory over Sunderland (a result, which in hindsight is no great surprise) it looked like we were going into this season with promotion high on our list of priorities.

The opening game against Bury was typical of a curtain opener. A very close game with some gritty football where in truth Bury had the best of the chances. That being said it was always heading to a 0-0 draw until Forrester accidentally lobbed the Bury keeper when attempting to kick the ball back to him and the Rovers took a shock lead in injury time. After failing to get the ref to disallow the goal, Dickov ordered the Rovers to stand aside and let Bury walk the ball into our goal. After the game Dickov said that his intention was only ever to do the ‘right thing’ for the game, but you would be stupid to not think that he thought – even if for half a second – what if we just steal the three points from here?

As it happened that isn’t how it played out, and bizarrely one of the greatest moments of sportsmanship in Dickov’s career would be the opposition literally walking the ball through our 11 players and into an open goal. With as much respect to Paul Dickov as possible – it is probably the best representation of Dickov’s time here as manager.

During that opening game we looked a little stumped in the final third and whilst some build up play was much better than last year, we lacked that killing instinct and that look of desperation to win. In the beautiful line of vision that is hindsight, all the signs of what was to follow were present. When the best performance in a Rovers shirt came from the fans in the new Black Bank we should have guessed that it would be a long season ahead.

A few days later Leeds would come to the Keepmoat in a League Cup 1st round tie and were in complete control of the game and leading 1-0. A Rovers penalty converted by Williams and a red card for Leeds would sway the odds in our favour and after 120 minutes had been played our players must have walked off the field disappointed they couldn’t put a single chance away after wave and wave of attack on the Leeds goal. Luckily we managed to come out on top in the shootout and the Rovers fans would finally see a win (or at least a victory – in sorts) over Leeds in the Keepmoat Stadium at the 7th attempt.

The next game at Wigan seemed to pick up where we left off and what was a credible performance which saw the Rovers create some great chances, yet again failed to produce a goal during open play and somehow, Wigan survived enough to walk away with a point. The scoreline would be the same against Southend days later at the Keepmoat – although that performance was more reflective of the previous season with the team looking lost on the ball and generally failing to create any clear cut chances.

A trip to Port Vale would finally deliver the blow we were waiting for as Rovers were sunk 3-0 by an average Vale side. Despite the glimpses of quality seen in our games against Leeds and Wigan – this performance was far too similar to what had been become a typical Dickov performance. With pressure mounting Dickov did manage to rally the troops and held off high flying Ipswich to a 1-1 draw in 90 minutes in a 2nd round League Cup tie at the Moat, only to conceded 3 goals in extra time. However Dickov would be able to clinch his first victory at the Keepmoat a couple of days later as the Rovers won 2-0 against Fleetwood. Whilst you can only beat what is in front of you, the performance was less than impressive and a better side may have found us out – but Dickov got his 3 points and in true Dickov fashion he managed to pull a result out just when he needed one.

Following the victory, and despite fans crying on Social Media “Our Season Starts Now” – we were back to our old tricks when the first day of the September the Rovers and Burton Albion played out what can only be described as the most boring game in the history of football. It finished 0-0 and Dickov’s men would sneak through on penalties. Thankfully less than 3000 people turned up and within minutes of the win people were back on Social Media calling for Dickov’s head.

Personally I felt his job was safe – not that I believe these who believe there is a conspiracy in the boardroom of DRFC to see our club play at the cheapest level possible – but because of how early it was in the season. Obviously our performances were typical of the previous two seasons but given how heavily they backed Dickov in the summer, I felt they would give him more time to turn it around.

Turns out that wasn’t in the script, as days after our next loss at Gillingham (who were top of the league) Dickov was given his marching orders. The Gillingham game itself was one of typical controversy – Rovers should have had a penalty and the Gillingham goal a goal line scramble judged to have crossed the line. Those two incidents aside and it was another boring game. But perhaps it’s fitting that the result that ultimately cost Dickov his job would come at the hands of the team whose dreams he crushed in his playing days where scoring arguably the biggest goal of Manchester City’s history when equalising late on in the play-off final at the old Empire Stadium (or Wembley as you people refer to it).

Rob Jones would be selected as the new caretaker manager and it was clear from the off-set that the Rovers would not rush into appointing a new manager – Jones would be given more than enough time to turn our form around put himself in the strongest position to take on the job full time. Sadly it seems this task is beyond the Corporal as we lost 2-0 to a Wallsall side whose performance wouldn’t look out of place in League 2 (although that statement looks a bit silly now considering their form have bounced them into the top 2).

When Oldham visited the Keepmoat a week later, they too had just sacked their manager and whilst the final score was another draw (surprise) the Rovers were the better side and perhaps should have found a winner. Make no mistake – Oldham looked lost and it seemed we could take some comfort in seeing David Dunn’s task seemed a lot harder than our own.

As September drew to a close, we would have to travel to Bramall Lane to take on Sheffield United in a South Yorkshire derby where there isn’t really a rivalry, but always a bitterly contested affair. Jones’ men looked to be holding our own and despite going behind we got back on level terms when Cameron Stewart scored from his free kick (remember them?). Sadly though a second from Sheff U and a red card for MacKenzie ended any chance of a comeback and Billy Sharp’s second half goal would add insult to injury.

Swindon would be the next team to come to the Keepmoat keen to inflict a second consecutive defeat – but after a run of 3 straight three defeats it would always be an evenly contested game. After a drab first half it was Swindon who struck first and it looked to stay that way, in the last 20 minutes however the game turned on its head as Keshi Anderson scored his first for the Rovers and Williams gave us the lead from the spot – Jones first win looked in the bag before Jonathan Obika levelled late on to give Swindon something to take back down South and take away any realistic chance of Jones being named manager permanently.

Despite sitting in the relegation zone, and in the hunt for a new manager we had somehow managed to go a run of 12 games in all competitions without losing inside 90 minutes at the Keepmoat Stadium – the longest run of games since the stadium opened back in 2007. But given recent performances it looked to be under real threat of ending on game 13 when Barnsley made the short journey to the Keepmoat. Kehsi Anderson was the man of the moment again as he gave us a 1-0 lead going into half-time, but a second half performance that saw the Rovers on the back-foot looked to be heading one way and when Barnsley grabbed an equaliser the Rovers were hanging on for a point.

But given the way football is, we know more than anyone that performances don’t equal points and the Rovers showed fighting spirit to find a winner in the dying moments through Richard Chaplow – one  of Dickov’s signings who spent most of the opening games filling in for Wellens as the missing man in the Rovers midfield. But Chaplows strike showed enough class to beat the Barnsley keeper and erupt the Rovers faithful behind the goal. No matter what league you are in, no matter where you are in the table, no matter who your manager is; there is nothing sweeter than a last minute winner against your rivals. A moment of pure euphoria, grabbing anyone near you and jumping on them as you see the away end quickly emptying.

It’s the sort of result that can not only unite the fan-base and bring an end to constant debating on social media and internet forums (or what’s left of them anyway) – but they can kick start a season.

Before the Barnsley game, the club made it clear that they wish to appoint a manager before our next league game at home to Bradford. It looks as if Rob Jones short spell as Rovers Boss will end as it started, with a 2-0 defeat away from home to opposition we really should be doing better against. Whilst the JPT isn’t high on our list of priorities, losing to York City with arguably our strongest 11 sums up Jones’ tenure; same old same old.

On the whole, it’s been a disappointing opening quarter of the season and whilst the positive is that things can only improve from here – we have to question how much longer this poor stint can continue before we write off yet another season? The win against Barnsley was a great win but after the result against York it’s clear this corner we are turning could quickly become a U-turn. Personally I want a new manager who can come in and not only teach this squad to grind out results, but also make us play like a team that wants to win, I want hunger, passion and that little bit of desperation in the players mentality. I’m confident we can improve and save our season, but I’m not sure if that’s just myself living in hope…

Paul Dickov Sacked as manager

Its official!

After much speculation, disagreement, statistics and frustration and no doubt plenty of consideration by our usually dormant board they have finally decided it is the right time to show Paul Dickov the door.

Following an unarguably disappointing start to the campaign that has seen us gather just 6 points from our opening 6 matches through a series of lacklustre performances in which we seem to be fruitless in front of goal it seems most fans, bar the odd maniac, had turned on the scot.

His number seemed up when irrepressible shyster, internet gob and quality t-shirt manufacturer Robert Ghosh made his ‘Dickov Out’ campaign public at the meet the owners, and Dickov (in one of his finest moments as Rovers manager) called the young antagonist a “nob”.

Speculation has already begun about his replacement, no doubt Dave Penney, SOD, Saunders, Sammy Chung, Kevin Keegan, Brain Flynn and Fred Emery will all be suggested by respected nostalgia hunters and will undoubtedly find their way onto an odds list somewhere.

Onwards and upwards for the Rovers, here’s hoping the new appointment’s name will fit in an easy to learn, repetitive song so the Black Bank can repeat it endlessly with mild enthusiasm.

RTID.

 

Lee Croft’s Ultimate Guide to losing your job as Doncaster Rovers Manager

With many dubbing Paul Dickov’s current role at Doncaster Rovers as the ‘safest job in football’, Lee Croft looks back on what other managers have had to do before being shown their P45.

IAN SNODIN 1998-2000

When Snodin came in the off season of 1998, he was gifted what was probably an impossible task of managing Doncaster Rovers. With just 4 registered players and uncertainties over the conference granting us the right to play in the 5th tier, Snodin would have to work very hard to bring some stability to the club.

The shock reality of how far we had really fallen was epitomised on the first day of the season away at Dover. Picking players up on the motorway, running out in 2 year old kits showcasing the sponsors of the company of the man who almost broke the club, 2 fans pitch invading in outrage and a 6 hour trip back after a 1-0 loss. The theme would continue. Just 1 win in the first 10 and a double dip relegation looked to be on the horizon. Somehow Snodin turned it around and steered us into 16th position. A poor return in hindsight but given the nature of the job and the situation at hand, it was fantastic we somehow didn’t end up relegated. The fans also got their day in the sun as Snodin guided the team to winning the Endsleigh Challenge trophy after a 3-0 win (4-0 on aggregate) at Belle Vue against Farnborough.

The following season would mirror the same result in the Challenge Trophy, but in April 2000, with Rovers ‘enjoying’ mid-table mediocrity, the axe was wielded and Rovers favourite son was sent packing.

Sacking tip: Avoid relegation and achieve mid-table mediocrity.

 

STEVE WIGNALL 2000-2002

When Wignall arrived the ambition was clear, get Doncaster Rovers into the football league. However, with only one spot available for the winner of the league it was always going to be a difficult task for Wignall.

His first season was not much more impressive than that previous. Rovers finished 9th and a somewhat distant 28 points behind 1st place Rushden and Diamonds. Although, things were not all happy smiles at the club anymore. Chairman John Ryan and his side kick Peter Wetzel were entering a political war with the council over a new ground and as a result Ryan and Wetzel resigned and the funding of the club was in doubt.

That being said, Wignall still managed to improve his squad by bringing in Justin Jackson, an accomplished striker who had scored nearly 50 goals in his last 2 seasons (the last with league winners Rushden). Sadly however, it wasn’t to be and in January 2002 Wignall was relieved of his duties. The official statement gave the reason of financial constraints and the word from the club pointed to Ryan and Wetzel no longer funding the club. On the pitch Wignall had failed to deliver as well, sitting in 10th pace and 15 points behind the current leaders Boston.

Sacking tip: Failure to get an accomplished striker playing, failure to mount a promotion push.

 

DAVE PENNEY 2002-2006

Penney continued the trend of being the third manager in succession to have played for the club. For Penney however it was much more a recent player and was at first player-manager. However as he neared the end of his playing days it became a full time role.

Given the financial constraints on the club that lead to sacking Wignall and giving Penney the job in the first place, you could say that he came into a job without as much pressure. Yet Penney managed the impossible as he got the club promoted back into league after 5 years, and despite being favourites for relegation he lead the team to a second promotion as Rovers won Division Three. His Third full season in charge wasn’t as eventful as Rovers achieved a solid finish in League One.

The next season would fail to see an improvement, however reaching the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup proved to be a highlight and papered over the cracks showing in what was beginning to become a predictable and boring game from the Rovers. When Michael McIndoe left in the off season in 2006, many questions loomed over where we would go from there. John Ryan could obviously see what was happening too, and a few games into the 2006/07 season he made the choice to let Penney go.

Sacking tip: Achieve 2 consecutive mid-table finishes in a division 2 levels higher than when you arrived.

 

SEAN O’DRISCOLL 2006-2011

With many fans unhappy at Penney’s departure, and rumours of Kevin Keegan being lined up as the next manager. The words on Rovers fans mouths were “Sean O Who?” when O’Driscoll was named manager in 2006.

In his 5 year reign he would win the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy earn promotion to the Championship for the first time in 50 years via the play-offs and achieve the highest finish we had ever achieved in our modern era. John Ryan often quoted SOD’s beautiful passing game as the reason he brought him to Doncaster and SOD’s Rovers would showcase this astonishingly. For many fans this was the best we had played in a long time, dubbed the “Arsenal of the North” and an era described as “Total Football”, it was clear throughout that O’Driscoll was doing this on a shoestring budget.

The fairy tale wouldn’t last sadly, and a squad hit with many injuries and a poor run of form without a win stretching to 19 games (equalling a club record) saw the curtains drawn on Sean O’Driscoll’s time.

Sacking Tip: Equal a negative club record and occupy the relegation spot 7 games into the season.

 

BRIAN FLYNN 2012

After Saunders left for Wolves, and Rovers occupied second in League One, Brian Flynn was promoted from scout to manager till the end of the season. Flynn wasn’t a popular candidate immediately with fans, but this probably wasn’t helped with John Ryan going on record to say that we had some fantastic applicants for the role and some of them of ‘premier league calibre’.

Flynn however did steer the ship well, slightly improving the home form, and continuing the fantastic away form. After a late winner from Kyle Bennet against Shewsbury, Doncaster would take top spot and would stay there for the most of the games remaining. An incredible run of form from Bournemouth saw them finally overtake us with a game to go and earn promotion before us (as the only two teams that could overtake them – Rovers and Brentford – played each other in the final game). However Flynn would get the last laugh as Rovers won the league in the final minute of the season. Trotta would miss a ‘promotion penalty’ and 18 seconds later Paynter would roll the ball across the goalmouth for James Coppinger to slot home and earn us the league title.

Despite guiding Rovers to our first national title in Tier 3 (given it was North/South last time we won), there was still rumours around regarding whether Flynn would be given the role for our return to the Championship. Flynn would put an end to these rumours by announcing he would step aside and take up a role in player development and scouting. Whilst he wasn’t strictly sacked, for many fans it seems obvious that he stepped down to save the embarrassment of not being offered the role despite being promotion.

Sacking Tip: Achieve the promotion by winning League One for the first time in the club’s history.

 

 

It seems at Doncaster Rovers, just about anything is possible to earn you the boot. From starting a season badly, to taking the club 2 divisions higher and enjoying mid table mediocrity. Heck, even winning the league can see you given the boot (at least from the manager’s office to the scouts cupboard).

Co-incidentally, the only manager from this era not in this list is the only manager to get us relegated. Yes, Dean Saunders. Despite taking Rovers down in cruel fashion and chirping out the same excuse “I manage a team that has a losing mentality – it’s my job to turn that around” he somehow was given the all clear to keep his job and rebuild for League One before jumping ship to Wolves.

And on that note, it seems from the evidence given that the only thing you can do to not lose your job at DRFC, is get relegated. Like Saunders, Dickov oversaw the Rovers relegation from the Championship in 2014. So perhaps, Dickov does know what he is doing this season; he is just doing what he can to keep his job!

Gillingham 1-0 Rovers: Match Review

Following a brief break from writing content Rob Johnson returns for the first DRSG match review for a Rovers away game this season:

Stray Observations

  • First the officials. Cedric Evina tumbled theatrically in the Gillingham box but there is no denying he was clearly fouled. The referee was swayed by Gillingham’s home supporters time and again and it is hard not to believe the penalty would have been given had that been one of the home players going down. Footage of the Gills ‘goal’ has proven inconclusive which suggests that the linesman couldn’t be absolutely certain the whole of the ball had crossed the whole the line from his vantage point which makes his decision to award a goal both inexplicable and incredibly harsh on Rovers.
  • Despite a lack of good fortune with the officials, this was still yet another poor performance from Rovers. Gobern and Chaplow were time and again overran in the centre of the park and Chaplow in particular gave the ball away on numerous occasions. The defence, midfield and attack had no link up play and seemed to be playing as three separate units. The Gillingham goal was fortunate but inevitable.
  • Unfortunately Paul Dickov has made so many excuses over the last two seasons that he has become the boy who cried wolf. Justified or not Rovers fans are becoming tired of Dickov’s excuses and that was expressed at the final whistle. More on that later.
  • Rovers currently have a team of journeymen, youth players, crocks and stop gaps. Can anyone really see Gobern, N’Guessan, Chaplow, Mackenzie, Main, Lund or Taylor-Sinclair becoming settled first team players to build a team around in the next few years? Will Keegan, Tyson or Rob Jones overcome their constant injury problems at the ages of 31, 33 and 35 respectively? It seems unlikely. With Copps also 34, Wellens on his way out and better clubs surely to come looking at Williams and Forrester should our form not improve before January, this already looks like a squad that needs a complete overhaul only 6 games into the season.
  • Last season Rovers actually came from behind to win on 5 separate occasions. It is troubling then that since our form collapsed in March rovers look dead and buried every time they go behind. There is a feeling that a lot of players are going through the motions. There is no desire, no team spirit and no passion.
  • That said however, 6 games is early and of course Dickov may turn it round. However he has shown in the past that when Rovers stop winning he doesn’t have an answer, with only talismanic striker Billy Sharp’s surprise return to the club temporarily stopping the rot during our relegation season. Rovers have won 4 of their last 22 in the league. This is relegation form and if we do slip into the bottom four does this squad have the talent or more importantly the fight to claw their way out while ever Dickov remains in charge?
  • We will now see how much Bramall and Watson actually care about Rovers. The fans turned on Dickov en masse at the final whistle with anti Dickov chanting that started before the final whistle reaching fever pitch with a tirade of abuse as he went down the tunnel. Rovers now have a vital home game against Oldham sandwiched by tough away games at Walsall and Sheffield United. Lose all three and Dickov will face constant abuse from the stands. It is easy to see Rovers entering into a similar situation as Newcastle and Blackburn fans found themselves in recent years, as the owners watch their side get relegated whilst stubbornly refusing to sack the manager.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Winners

Cedric EvinaTough to pick any winners following that performance but Evina was bright and confident before being withdrawn on 70 minutes despite being our best outfield player. Should have won a penalty and is currently earning his place on the team sheet further forward.

Thorsten StuckmannYet another man of the match performance from Stuckmann who is currently single handedly preventing Rovers from conceding 3 or 4 every week.

Losers

Mitchell Lund – One has to feel for Lund as it is Dickov’s fault that an actual right back has still mystifyingly not been signed. The young right back is clearly out of his depth. His first touch was awful, he turned his back on the ball and passed it back to Stuckmann or sideways to Mackenzie at every opportunity. The longer he continues to start at right back the more likely it is the opposition will target him. One of the first remits of being a manager is having at least one senior player for every position. Dickov has failed in this remit this season and Lund’s confidence has paid the price.

James Coppinger & Andy Williams – Copps is still our most creative player as shown by his glorious link up with Andy Williams for Curtis Main’s latest big chance in the first half. This was a mirror image of the second goal against Fleetwood and shows the potential of Copps and Williams in the same team. Aside from this incident however Copps was on his own as an attacking threat down the right hand side with Lund rarely venturing beyond the half way line. Time and again Copps found himself in space, only for Chaplow or Gobern to lose the ball. Williams too cut a frustrated figure who found himself isolated every time he had the ball. Williams has looked quality this season and has ran himself into the ground but how long will this continue while ever he lacks support.

Curtis Main – The unfortunate thing for young Curtis is when he gets something wrong he gets it really wrong so despite showing some neat and tidy touches and constantly getting into good positions all you remember is the woeful wayward passes and the missed chances. Main had Rovers best chance in the first half but once again it went begging. Despite his talent Main is just not good enough (yet) to be leading the line for a league one team.

Paul DickovThe crowd’s reaction at the end and constant barrage of abuse on social media can no longer be ignored. In the last few months alone Furman, Wabara and Wellens have made it clear they no longer want to play for Dickov whilst others have shown this through their performances on the pitch. Dickov has held us back the last two years but now there are worrying signs that he is actually making us worse. What possible reason could there be to stick with him now?

Man of the MatchThorsten Stuckmann. This is getting embarrassing.

 

Farewell Dickov

Why Dickov has to go – by Rob Johnson


Farewell Dickov

 

As debate rumbles on as to whether four games is too early into the season to sack a manager it is time to step back and actually dissect Dickov’s time at Rovers.

Dickov’s first season at Rovers obviously ended in heartbreaking relegation on the final day. Rovers played some decent stuff in the opening games of the season but we had one only won six games before Billy Sharp arrived, leaving us inside the relegation zone having played a game more than our rivals following a run in a December where we had lost 3-0, 3-0, 3-1 and 3-0 consecutively to Bolton, Leeds, Derby and Ipswich. Following this ghastly run, Rovers played Millwall at home. A vital game against fellow strugglers. Dickov opted to play debutant Alex Peterson up front on his own whilst Bennett, Robinson and Macheda sat on the bench. Peterson was absolutely woeful and barely touched the ball in a game in which it was clear he was completely out of his depth. The game finished 0-0.

Before Billy arrived back at the Keepmoat not only were we in the relegation zone but Rovers had lost 6, drawn 2 and won just 1 of their last 9 games and relegation looked a certainty with Dickov seemingly having no answer to a horrendous run of form. Rovers then signed Sharp completely out of the blue and he temporarily turned things round. Wins against Charlton, Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield and Watford (albeit interspersed with an embarrassing 5-0 defeat at Bournemouth) put Rovers in a strong position going into the last seven games where one win would almost certainly put Rovers safe. The rest is history. Two home defeats against relegation rivals Birmingham and Bolton and a run of one draw from these final games consigned Rovers to an embarrassing and thoroughly deserved relegation.

Of course it was Dickov that signed Billy Sharp and it was Sharp who inspired us to almost survive in a league where we had perhaps one of the smallest budgets but surely no matter who the Rovers manager was, had Sharp become available at that stage of the season under those circumstances he would have been signed. He certainly didn’t choose to come back because of Rovers fortunes on the pitch. Rovers were going through a terrible run of form at the time. From this we can conclude that Dickov got lucky that Billy Sharp came home. Had that not happened we would have been relegated a lot earlier into the season and one of the pro Dickov camps main arguments ‘He almost (!!!) saved us from relegation’ would be negated.

So to recruitment. Including loan signings and before this season Dickov had signed 25 players. Of those 25 players Forrester, Tyson, Butler, Turnbull, Johnstone and to a lesser extent Furman and Wellens have been a success so that is 7 out of 25, 2 of whom are goalkeepers who have now moved on. Of the remaining outfield players Wellens was already well known to Rovers from his previous spell and Furman had played both for Rovers on loan and under Dickov at Oldham. Nathan Tyson is a big name in lower league football having played over 150 for games for Forest. Forrester was undoubtedly a great signing but he was coming off the back of a brilliant season at Brentford where he had scored 11 goals from midfield in all competitions and of course Rovers Andy Butler’s move to his hometown club was a logical and predictable one. Not once under Dickov’s reign has he plucked a player from relative obscurity with names such as Razak, De Val, Ikpeazu and Main proof of what happens when Dickov has tried to find an unpolished diamond only to discover he is once again attempting to polish a turd.

In his two full seasons in charge Dickov has lost 20 home league games at the Keepmoat stadium . 10 home losses for each season. Last season only 18th placed Colchester lost more home games than Rovers and managed to keep their league 1 status.

Under Dickov there has been no passion, no desire, no noticeable style of play. We have been awful at home, regularly beaten comprehensively away and his recruitment has been poor. In short Paul Dickov has shown absolutely nothing in his two full seasons at Rovers to suggest that he is the man to take Doncaster Rovers forward. So is it a kneejerk reaction to ask for his head following another appalling home showing against Southend and another spanking away at Port Vale? The facts speak for themselves.

The players aren’t playing for him, the fans don’t want him, time to go Dickov.

 

 

Paul Dickov – Stay or go?

 

Paul Dickov - for and

The case against – by Stuart Sidebottom

Is Paul Dickov the worst Doncaster Rovers manager since Kerry Dixon?
DRFC manager stats
The answer is clear. Yes fans may say we have a very small budget, but look at the ratio for Ian Snodin with a non-existent budget! The team are letting the manager down; but it’s the manager’s’ responsibility to motivate. I’ve never seen the team looking so de-motivated. We can sit and provide excuses all day but the facts don’t lie. Since Dickov’s reign we’ve the lowest win ratio since Dixon; only picking up a point every two and a half games. The average spell in charge is currently 108 games; personally, wouldn’t let Dickov’s spell go beyond this.
Anyone that can disagree with statistics is clearly lacking ambition for the club.

 

The case for – by Lee Croft

 

 

4 games into the season 0 wins and 1 goal,  Rovers fans are already knee-jerking and calling for Dickov’s head which comes as no great shock given how his head was called for on many occasions in the last 14 or so months.

 

I plan to put forward the case of why Dickov should be given the benefit of the doubt and the first point of defence is one of patience. We are only 4 games into the season and have only lost once. The nature of it was quite painful with 3 games where we couldn’t score for love nor money (apart from Forrester’s ‘accidental’ goal) yet managed a draw and a heavy loss at the hands of Port Vale.

 

But, yesterday’s game aside and the 3 previous games we actually showed quality, the football was much better and on a different day we would have won. The only thing stopped us taking 3 points in each of those first 3 games was poor finishing, but we were creating chances and you have to ask why Dickov should take the blame for that. He has brought in a natural finisher in Andy Williams who looks to have hit the ground running and has put in some solid performances but just hasn’t had that rub of the green to see his efforts hit the back of the net.

 

Furthermore is 4 games enough to write a season off? Of course it isn’t, promotion or relegation isn’t sealed by then and there is still 126 points left to play for. It is guaranteed that in every season you have a bad run, and it’s probably best to get it out of your system in the first few games and have your better run in during the business end of the season.

 

My next point would be to ask Rovers fans to judge Dickov on the job he has been given to do. Naturally fans want results and promotion and that is the bottom line, but it is no secret that Dickov has been asked to do this with a new philosophy of using a mixture of experienced players along with giving younger players a chance to flourish. This seems to be the right balance in our squad this season and Dickov has been very good in recruitment with experience brought in with Williams, Chaplow, Stuckmann, N’Guessan and MacKenzie to join Butler, Jones, Coppinger, Wellens and Tyson. Then you have the younger players coming through the ranks with Middleton not looking out of place so far this season, Lund and Whitehouse providing back up, Evina and McCollough also looking set to build on their careers and the addition of Aaron Taylor-Sinclair who looks to be a rising star.

 

Based on the performances alone and Dickov seems to have found the right mix and when we have played to our strengths we looked nothing short of fantastic, until we put the ball in the box. Considering we aren’t even out of August yet it would seem strange and stupid to upset this balance by bringing in a new manager who will undoubtedly look to bring in his own players. I fail to see how despite the poor start to the season, Dickov is being judged as not good enough when most of these players haven’t had much chance to play together and learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

My final and probably most convincing point would be that of timing. Considering the transfer window closes in just over a week, it leaves little time to bring a replacement in who has enough time to sign (or sell) some players. Hardly the best advert to attract potential managers. What’s more is that of the cost of sacking Dickov will mean compensation and then having to find more money to pay his replacement. Considering how we now need to be looking at the market for replacements with Tyson and Forrester already sidelined, wasting any money left on replacing a manager given how there is only 4 games gone could be more catastrophic than any scenario when Paul Dickov stays.

 

In conclusion I think Dickov still has room for improvement, and I would agree that he must simply improve. I feel this season will probably be his last season to show us what he can do, but I feel 42 games gives us more than enough time. These debates are often pointless and has little impact on what ultimately happens, however what we can do is join forces together in the stands and show our support to the club, bother players and managers. If they have enough passion to wear the badge, then they will have my support.

 

 

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