MIDFIELDER Brian Stock may have lost the captaincy to George Friend as a result of his long injury lay-off, but he remains a key figure in the Doncaster Rovers side.
The 29-year-old Wales international is gradually starting to recapture his best form following his return to the Doncaster side after a second ankle reconstruction operation.
Stock has got better in every one of the three games he has started since his return to the side against Crystal Palace and scored the equaliser in the 2-1 win at Peterborough last time out with a cracking 30 yarder.
It is not the first time during his career that Stock has found the back of the net from such a distance and the Leeds United players will have been briefed on the danger that he poses from outside the box ahead of tonight’s Yorkshire derby at the Keepmoat Stadium tonight.
The hope of every Doncaster supporter is that the influential midfielder, whose time at the club has been dogged by injuries - though that has rarely been reflected in the number of games he has has missed over the years - can now enjoy a couple of injury-free seasons.
There was never any doubting the high esteem in which Stock was held by former manager Sean O’Driscoll.
O’Driscoll knew all about Stock’s footballing talents as a result of working with him at Bournemouth prior to his move to Championship outfit Preston North End.
For some reason - a change of manager not helping - Stock’s move to Deepdale didn’t work out as hoped and he was on the sidelines and out of favour when O’Driscoll left the Cherries and took over from Dave Penney at the South Yorkshire club.
Aware of both Stock’s situation at the Lancashire club, and knowing what he would add to the Rovers’ midfield, O’Driscoll made him his first signing, initially on a three-month loan deal, after taking charge.
Few would argue that Stock represents one of O’Driscoll’s best ever value-for-money signing during his time in charge.
As is the case with the rest of his team-mates, Stock knows that he now has to win over new boss Dean Saunders.
One advantage that Stock has over the rest of the players is that Saunders, who was No 2 to John Toshack during his time in charge of the Wales team, knew of his abilities as a play-maker before taking charge at Doncaster.
But Stock knows that reputations will count for nothing if he fails to deliver the goods.
“The manager has already shown that he is prepared to bring new players in and there is going to be a lot of competition for places throughout the team,” he said.
Although he will be forever grateful to O’Driscoll and Richard O’Kelly for their influence on his career, Stock says he has been impressed by former Premier League striker Saunders.
“He’s lifted the spirits since he’s been here,” he said. “Obviously going 19 games without a win you get into a rut, but he came in the first day and made the lads smile during his first training session.
“He wants us to play at a high tempo and score goals and the lads have responded well and we’ve picked up seven points from his three games in charge and climbed out of the relegation zone.
“It would have been nice to have kept on playing games having built up some momentum but the international break has given the manager a bit more time to work on one or two things with the lads ahead of the Leeds United game.”
Tonight’s game will be Leeds’ second visit to the Keepmoat Stadium - they came from behind to beat Rovers 2-1 in their Carling Cup second round tie.
Stock made a surprise appearance off the bench late in the second half for injury-hit Rovers that night, but looks set to play a more significant role tonight.
“It will be a tough game; they are a great side,” he said.
“But we can take a lot of confidence from our last three games - particularly the win over Peterborough. I thought that they were excellent and one of the best teams we played this year.”