Analysis: The final word on Doncaster Rovers’ 2015/16 season - the big issues

Darren Ferguson shows his anguish as Rovers slide out of League One.
Darren Ferguson shows his anguish as Rovers slide out of League One.
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This week we take one last look back on a season that saw Doncaster Rovers spiral into League Two.

Sine their fate was sealed Rovers deserve credit for acting decisively in the transfer market.

It is swift action that was desperately required to at least try and get their fans back onside. And it is also swift action which hints at a change of mindset within the club.

Sports writer PAUL GOODWIN has reviewed some of the main problems associated with last term and looks at how Rovers can learn from them as they set about climbing the Football League ladder once again.

Instability

Three managers in one season unquestionably contributed to Doncaster’s downfall.

Sacking Sean O’Driscoll after seven games did not work in 2011, nor did getting rid of Paul Dickov after six league games this time around. Rovers cannot make this same mistake again.

It’s easy in hindsight but if Dickov was walking a tightrope he should have gone last summer. It would have given a new manager the opportunity to bring in his own players - and also avoided that unfortunate episode at Colchester where Darren Ferguson blew his top and said “these are not my players”.

The club’s process of appointing managers also needs speeding up. The 38 days it took to hire Ferguson, during which time Rovers showed no signs of improvement under caretaker boss Rob Jones, was far too long.

“Lax” culture

When Ferguson first came in standards were initially raised on the pitch and things seemed to be heading in the right direction. But the fact everything then completely fell apart at the seams points at more deep-rooted problems.

The manager himself has spoken about a “lax”, “stale” feeling within the playing arm of the club.

It’s therefore not surprising in the slightest that Ferguson is reviewing his network of coaching staff and looking at bringing in his own people.

What might prove trickier, after three relegations in five seasons, is exorcising the dressing room of a losing mentality.

Making several new signings well ahead of pre-season is a good start and will provide a freshness when the players report back for training.

It also indicates that the culture of the club may indeed be changing. Rovers made their first signing last summer on June 10. At the time of going to press yesterday they had already made five.

Complacency

Closely linked to the above, Rovers must immediately stamp out the complacency that seemed to run through the club last term.

When, in March, Andy Williams thought people were being “dramatic” by saying Rovers were in a dogfight it rather epitomised the fact that the whole club seemed to be completely oblivious to the threat of relegation despite the evidence on the pitch suggesting otherwise.

That sort of attitude has to stop right here.

If anyone thinks Rovers are just going to waltz their way to promotion next season, they quickly need to think again.

Recruitment

You could argue that Rovers’ recruitment and transfer policy has been more reactive than proactive for a while.

Players coming in during the season, mainly on loan, have tended to arrive as a consequence of injuries, rather than being brought in to provide greater competition.

Rovers have also relied far too heavily on loan players, lads who predominantly do not have the club’s long term interests at heart - which can result in a lack of accountability.

Last season threw up several other issues. The gamble not to sign a senior right back last summer backfired as the lack of cover and experience in that position continually led to problems on the pitch. Leaving yourself short of bodies is only asking for trouble.

The decision not to strengthen the defence in January is also something that still, quite rightly, baffles supporters.

And letting Rob Jones, Richie Wellens and Harry Forrester all leave was understandable given that none of them were in the team, but not replacing them properly until it was too late was unforgivable.

January is never a great time to do business because the players you really want, more often than not, will not be available. But January, when the play-offs were still in sight, and not mid-March, when Rovers were on the back foot, was quite clearly the time to strengthen properly.

Ferguson’s recruitment has generally been good; Tommy Rowe, Conor Grant, Felipe Mattioni, Craig Alcock and Gary McSheffrey were excellent additions. And Rovers have done brilliantly so far this summer to get the majority of their business done early.

But even more significant could be the notable switch to recruiting younger, arguably hungrier, players who are genuinely honoured to play for Doncaster; lads who want to climb the Football League ladder and not those on their way down.

The now infamous ‘experiment’ seemed to be the starting point for far too many players to simply rock up at Rovers and see the club only as a launch pad to bigger and better things. This now has to end.