Doncaster Rovers: Sports writers Liam Hoden, Paul Goodwin and Peter Catt assess main talking points ahead of new season

Tommy Rowe is Liam Hoden's key man.
Tommy Rowe is Liam Hoden's key man.

What would represent a good season for Rovers?

LH: Play-off push. I believe there is plenty of momentum to be carried from last season - despite what happened over the last few games.

That team proved it was several notches above standard in League Two and looked more the capable of being competitive in League One. There is no reason to think that has changed. The additions have been positive, adding some real quality to the squad and, providing everyone stays fit, they should have a good go.

PG: Top ten. Anything more than that would be a bonus.

This team has the potential to do well if and when they find their feet but no one should be expecting Rovers to go into a higher division and just start rolling teams over.

PC: Play-offs at least.

I think it’s very important to maintain the momentum after last year.

Rovers have a better squad now than when they won League One four years ago.

Anything less, even a top ten finish, would be a disappointment and I bet the manager and players will be thinking the same.

How do you see this season going?

LH: It’ll obviously be tougher than last season with Rovers no longer being the big fish in the small pond but I’m confident they will compete with the big boys of the division.

I’d imagine there would be a few sticky patches along the way, and probably some very good runs of form. But I do see Rovers doing well and building on the brilliance of last season.

PG: Darren Ferguson has form for back-to-back promotions and, with momentum from last season behind them, you cannot rule out the possibility of more success.

However, the squad currently appears to lack the required depth for a concerted top six push.

Everything at the moment points to a mid-table finish but that could change with a few more shrewd additions.

PC: I don’t think successive promotions are out of the question.

Top two will be very difficult but if they can make the play-offs then anything can happen.

Injuries can always scupper the best laid plans but they coped magnificently last season with every misfortune that came their way.

How do you rate the club’s summer transfer activity?

LH: In terms of the ones who have come in, I’ve been impressed.

Danny Andrew has added a quality left foot that the side has been lacking for several years, Ben Whiteman is a quality footballer very much in the ‘Darren Ferguson player’ mould and Alex Kiwomya has raw pace and bags of potential. There’s more to be done. If we’re all honest, I think we’d feel a bit more comfortable if there had been a defensive addition but if there is no one affordable out there who would meet the needs of Rovers, there’s not a great deal that can be done. Admittedly, it would have been good to see the transfer-listed players moved on to free up more of the budget.

PG: Unable to permanently move on any of the players transfer listed at the end of last season, Rovers appear to have been more pragmatic in their business rather than really pushing the boat out.

Danny Andrew looks like the best signing so far, shoring up what had become a problem position.

However, the failure to add more experience and size to the squad could be detrimental. Everyone who watched Steven Taylor against Derby could see how much the addition of an imposing, intelligent centre back could be of benefit.

PC: It’s not gone as smoothly as last year and the failure to acquire another specialist centre back, preferably with pace, is a major disappointment.

Danny Andrew looks an excellent signing and Ben Whiteman could do very well once he settles in but the injury to exciting recruit Alex Kiwomya before he has even kicked a ball is a big blow.

At the time of writing Rovers need more strength in depth.

You have one wish for the forthcoming season, what is it? (aside from promotion!)

LH: No big injuries. Obviously we’re starting the season with three major players on the sidelines, but once they’re back, no more!

The squad doesn’t have the greatest depth so injuries could prove to be a big stumbling block for success. Long term injuries to the likes of John Marquis, Andy Butler, James Coppinger and Tommy Rowe would be unthinkable.

PG: For Jordan Houghton to make a successful recovery from injury and return to Rovers.

The Chelsea midfielder made this team tick last season - linking the play from back to front superbly - and his return would greatly enhance Doncaster’s prospects.

PC: One is not enough! I’d love to see more fans at the Keepmoat with the team producing the quality football the diehards deserve and John Marquis scoring even more goals than last season.

I’d also like to see old wounds heal to enable John Ryan to return, even if it’s only as chief cheerleader.

What’s your biggest concern?

LH: How Rovers deal with not winning every week. That is the major question mark surrounding this team for me.

Their quality carried them through games last season where they did not play particularly well. That will be less likely to happen this term and they are going to lose games so it remains to be seen how they cope with that. The horrendous run the last time they were in League One remains all too fresh in the memory, a time when they simply could not wrestle their way out of a losing streak. They can’t afford any wallowing this time around.

PG: I’m still having flashbacks to the Hartlepool game and how Rovers completely went into their shells - just like they did the season before last.

Are this squad really mentally stronger and better prepared to deal with adversity? We’ll soon find out.

PC: Injuries to key players when the squad is already thin.

Prediction

LH: 8th

PG: 10th

PC: Top six

Key man

LH: Tommy Rowe - James Coppinger’s evergreen brilliance last season saw Rowe pushed wider than he’d probably like - but he didn’t do a bad job.

With Coppinger getting no younger, Rowe is the natural successor and can be the main creative force Rovers will need this season.

PG: John Marquis - Rovers cannot afford to be over-reliant on their prized asset but keeping him fully fit and in the goals will be vital to their prospects.

PC: Liam Mandeville - if he can add a bit more pace and strength to his game he could become exceptional. He has all the attributes: natural ability, great vision and awareness, passing skills and an eye for goal.

If he really believes in himself this could be his season.

Champions

LH: Wigan Athletic

PG: Blackburn

PC: Blackburn

Dark horse

LH: Peterborough United

PG: Plymouth

PC: Bury

Going down

LH: Shrewsbury

PG: Shrewsbury

PC: Shrewsbury