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NEW ARTICLE: Knowing Me, Knowing You.....Doncaster Rovers

If you thought Charlton have had some up and downs, then Doncaster Rovers can match us stride for stride. I caught up with Glen Wilson, editor of the long-running fanzine popular STAND, to talk all things Donny.

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Four promotions and a relegation is a fair old journey in the last eleven years for Donny. Did you realistically expect to bounce back at the first attempt ? What did the club get right?

Yeah, it’s not been a quiet decade has it? No, I didn’t expect us to be back in the Championship within a year at all. It can be argued that whether the 'McKay Experiment' had been taken on or not we would’ve still come down, but what McKay’s ‘shop window’ approach did do was split the support and decimate team spirit (ed. Agent Willie McKay had a deal to exclusively handle transfers for the club).

Close to twenty players left the club last summer, a level of turnover that certainly didn’t point towards imminent success. However, credit to Dean Saunders, he dutifully assembled a solid League One XV that was capable of competing and began to bring in results. And when Saunders left and injuries set in in late season Brian Flynn recruited very well to plug the gaps with excellent signings in Dean Furman and John Lundstram. Off the field the Supporters Trust had a much needed shuffle back to what it had been set up for, a voice for the fans rather than a cheerleader for the board, and that helped bring the support back together too. By January we had our club back, and thankfully things kicked on from there; a victory for collectiveness over chasing the pound signs.

Bryan Flynn steered the team to the title, then promptly got shoved upstairs. How comes ?

Brian Flynn was appointed on a short term contract after Dean Saunders departure that took him to the end of the season. Though he initially said he was interested in the post full-time at the end of the season, he subsequently – we’re told – requested that he be allowed to concentrate on scouting and player development. It is a shame as I, and many others, would’ve liked to have seen him in control this season, but he knows the game inside out so I’m equally grateful that he is still involved in our set-up and casting his eye for a player on our behalf.

Paul Dickov really split supporters as a player; some hated him and others absolutely despised him. How have the Donny fans taken to him? Is he one of the bright young things 'on the up'?

I’m sure any manager that doesn’t have grey hair is described as a ‘bright young thing’ at some point, I can remember Sean O’Driscoll being described as one of the “bright new managers” at the age of 54! Anyway, I think it’s safe to say that the reaction to Dickov’s initial appointment was one of indifference, after all, aside from that FA Cup run he’d failed to really make any noticeable impact in two seasons at Oldham. Credit to him though, since his appointment he’s made the right noises in the press, he’s made some astute signings and encouraged a very entertaining style of play. Thus far I’m delighted with what he’s done, and I think you’d struggle to find a Rovers fan who doesn’t share that view.

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I thought Charlton's tales through the 80s made a great book, but Donny's 90s adventures were more like a series of Dream Team!

The mid to late 90s were Doncaster’s nadir as club ‘benefactor’, as he liked to call himself, Ken Richardson sought to run the club into the ground. Uncle Ken had already tried to sell the ground in 1992 (a bold move considering it wasn’t actually owned by Rovers), and then hired a bungling SAS man to set fire to it in 1996, before it all came to a head in the 1997-98 season (ed. Richardson was later sentenced to four years) . By the end of that campaign Rovers would be relegated with the worst record in the League and a team of teenagers managed by Stockport County’s old lottery manager.

It’s hard to do the ridiculousness of it all justice in one answer, but you can reader a fuller account in this piece I wrote for The Two Unfortunates’ Hopeless Teams series.

From the outside, John Ryan seems to have done an amazing job stewarding the club. Can you believe how well the Club has not just recovered, but flourished since that period?

Frankly no I can’t. Back in 1998 all that we wanted was what had been taken away from us; our place back in the League. I never envisaged seeing Rovers rise the way they have, and never expected to see Rovers in the second tier in my lifetime.

As I mentioned in my first answer, it has been a phenomenal decade in which to follow the club. John Ryan of course deserves huge credit and thanks for what he has done in helping to turn the club’s fortunes around. He is rightly feted for his efforts, but the downside to that is that many supporters subsequently view him as being infallible so when JR does make mistakes those who criticise them are seen as ungrateful. It makes for blurred and debased debate that can split the support, as we saw during the McKay Experiment, but yes on the whole John Ryan is a man we would all like to shake by the hand.


cont..

Comments

  • edited August 2013
    Do you think fans of the big clubs miss out by not getting to appreciate the highs as much because they don't truly experience the lows?

    There are bigger clubs?

    I think supporters of most Premier League teams miss out on a great deal – actually going to games and experiencing live football being the main one. The problem is that football is warped so drastically by the way the Premier League is covered – 4th is seen as a reason to crack out the Champagne, regularly finishing in the top five but not winning a trophy is a failure – and too many fans promptly lap it up as reality. I suppose if you’ve never seen your club on the brink of ceasing to exist, or seen fans chaining themselves to a goal-post in a desperate bid to make the governing body notice their plight then you’re not going to see just finishing in the top division an achievement.

    The other issue is the confusion between spending and ambition – for a club like Rovers, surviving in the second tier is a worthy ambition, we’ve not managed it for any length of time in the last half a century, yet should the board not wildly chuck money that they don’t really have on players we can’t afford then there will always be fans who’ve watched too much Sky Sports who accuse them of 'a lack of ambition'. The problem is that most fans only think about their own team, and so the wider issues often pass them by and they’ll see Portsmouth’s recent plight as someone else’s issue, rather than an ominous warning.

    I understand that on promotion to The Championship, the club changed its name this Summer....

    Yep. When Rovers get promoted to the second tier the club ceases to be known as Doncaster Rovers and is instead instantly bestowed a new prefix. In this division we are The Likes Of Doncaster. You know the story; no-one expects to be beaten by The Likes Of Doncaster, if Premier League teams aren’t careful they could end up playing The Likes Of Doncaster and so forth. In all honesty we’ve come to embrace it rather than be riled by it, we’re just an unfashionable northern pub team upsetting the odds. (ed. funny article here)

    There's no disguising the ridiculous spread of budgets throughout this league. Have Donny enough about their squad to survive? What would you like to see arrive before the end of the window ?

    There seems to be an assumption that the more you spend, the greater the rewards, despite the amount of clubs falling through this division which show that isn’t the case.

    That said, as we clearly don’t have the budget of those parachuted in from the Premier League the key for Rovers is building a squad with a solid team spirit over chucking in a few big names – something I think we’ve learned from our last season at this level. If everyone stays fit, and in the case of Richie Wellens, stays with us then yes, we do look good enough to survive. The concerns air when injuries and suspensions set in, but if Dickov proves as shrewd as he has done in the transfer market thus far then we could well be ok.

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    Theo Robinson has had a cracking start with two goals in two games since signing. Who else should we hope twists an ankle in the warm up?

    Robinson has made a great impact offering us something different up front from what Chris Brown and Billy Paynter bring. David Cotterill will always pose a threat, even when he’s having a quiet game, as shown by the twenty assists and ten goals he produced last season. Richie Wellens can control a game from the middle whilst young James Husband has impressed greatly so far this season. In fact, the more I write in response to this question the more I’m confident of us avoiding the drop; we’re not a bad side when fully fit.

    And finally, I understand it's your first visit to The Valley on Saturday. How do you see it going ?

    Yes, my first experience of The Valley, and I’m looking forward to it, not least as I currently live near Maze Hill so its my nearest game all season. At this stage of the season it’s hard to give any meaningful prediction as I’ve seen nowt of Charlton, and Rovers’ side are still coming together. That said, if we play with the confidence we’ve shown thus far then we could well come away with something.


    Our thanks to Glen for his time. Never seems to be quiet there, does it ??
  • edited August 2013
    I'm not a fan of these type of previews but that was excellent.

    Different questions so different, and better, answers.
  • Very interesting, and quite frankly a bit frightening for anyone hoping to see the addicks earn three points on Saturday.
  • great stuff, good read thanks
  • Nice one Dan (and Glen) - good read that.
  • edited August 2013
    It shows what slow yet steady progress and a well heeled (though not mega rich) and committed owner can achieve. Also, good managers. Sean O'Driscoll worked wonders until paradoxically it went tits up for him. He had them playing super yet tough football. Dean Saunders going to Wolves was a blessing in disguise. I like Dick O'FF .. he is of the Moyes/Ferguson/Souness school .. get your retaliation in first and take nae f***ing prisoners

    EDIT: I forget to mention, Cotterill who gets a mention at the end, his middle names are George and Best. We know where his mummy and daddy were coming from !!
  • Yep, always like O'Driscoll.

    Will be interesting to see how they go this season, apparently there is potentially some money behind then.
  • edited August 2013

    Yep, always like O'Driscoll.

    Will be interesting to see how they go this season, apparently there is potentially some money behind then.

    They'll do well despite being amongst the bookies favs for relegation. .. a good settled side, tough manager, a few quid ... and ...... Wellens is back !!! ..As I'm sure you know AFKA, John Ryan the owner runs a plastic/cosmetic surgery business .. tits (and noses) I presume .. An ever expanding market .. boom boom !!

    EDIT: There have been stories about Irish money coming in .. remember that Donny is a big horse racing centre

    EDIT EDIT: I forgot to say, a brilliant interview/article .. it's nice to get a view of other clubs and not to get too insular.
  • The likes of Doncaster... i like that.

    Good article.
  • Curb_It said:

    The likes of Doncaster... i like that.

    It's like our prefix in our premier days "No disrespect to..."

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  • Really good read.

  • Interesting stuff.

    Looking forward to Saturday even less now.
  • Ha, that's the spirit Grumps. You're gonna need to step up if @Golfaddick is gonna go all happy on us !
  • Interesting article and a reminder how far Donny have come since the late 90's.

    I last Visited Belle Vue in October 97 for a home game against Hartlepool, the ground was in a terrible state and the Fans made their feelings know to the board, I was on the terrace opposite the main stand and to look at the picture of the new ground now is an amazing achievement.

    I Bought a fanzine on the day called Raise the roof and the fans certainly did by shouting abuse at Ken Richardson all through the game. I left knowing that Donny would get relegated.

    Think I might get myself up to the new ground.
  • Very interesting article - excellent feature this.

    It's always best to steer clear of these newly promoted teams early in the season - they're too used to winning; better to play them once the Championship has started to grind them down a bit and test the strength of the squad.

    I expect Donny will come and have a go on Saturday, which may not be such a bad thing provided we are at least 50% better than we have been so far. We shall see.
  • Nice article chaps
  • Yes, interesting read and more enlightening than a lot of these are. Sadly it's made me all the more gloomy about the likely result tomorrow
  • edited August 2013
    Great article, nice to read something about Doncaster without any mention of that chap from One Direction!
  • Enjoyable read.
  • Love these previews, as a Charlton supporter I sometimes think we are the only team that have gone through crazy times - clearly not!
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  • These previews are really good it gives a great insight.
  • These previews are really good it gives a great insight.

    When I get these packaged as DVD's with my local DVD packaging seller, I'm gonna get this quoted across the back :-)

  • Love these previews, as a Charlton supporter I sometimes think we are the only team that have gone through crazy times - clearly not!

    Agreed, I get embarrassed when our fans claim we're more special as supporters than others , as if we're the only club in the world that has trials and tribulations
  • Off the field the Supporters Trust had a much needed shuffle back to what it had been set up for, a voice for the fans rather than a cheerleader for the board, and that helped bring the support back together too.

    Interesting comment. Would like to learn more about that. Any chance of a follow up with him somehow?

    Good stuff all round. Would like to see them do well, after today of course.
  • That article is so good that I plan to click on those links when I get a spare moment.
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Roland Out!