Forum for the Future: A new beginning for the Rovers - Free Press verdict

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IT is something of a rarity for Doncaster Rovers to call official press conferences at the Keepmoat Stadium - particularly slap bang in the middle of an English summer.

Even the arrival of first new signing David Syers was not deemed worthy of a gathering of Doncaster’s sports hacks last week.

So there was a certain air of mystery surrounding Rovers’ much-publicised Forum for the Future - but things would quickly become a lot clearer.

After meeting a refreshed John Ryan, radiant Dick Watson, straight-talking Terry Bramall and impressive new chief executive Gavin Baldwin, fellow Rovers writer Liam Hoden and myself were left in no doubt about the club’s new direction and new lease of life.

This press conference had no new signings or exclusive announcements.

Instead it was a defiant show of unity from a backroom team that has been dragged through the proverbial hedge backwards since January 2011, when results nosedived.

This was Doncaster Rovers’ own way of showing the footballing world they have have dusted themselves down from the bitter disappointment of relegation.

What the event lacked in headline-grabbing news, it made up for in its sheer enthusiasm, passion, and most importantly, strategy.

It felt like a new start for Rovers.

It felt like a new beginning at a place that Doncaster Rovers can now call home - their very own Keepmoat Stadium.

And the message from the men tasked with turning around the club’s fortunes off the pitch, is that they want the people of Doncaster to make their club special again - right down to choosing which sausage rolls and pies fill the Keepmoat’s kiosks.

Relegation dents your pride, batters your ego.

In the case of Doncaster Rovers it has also given them the perfect opportunity to rebuild the club from the top down.

The way Doncaster were relegated, and the way they were vilified in certain quarters for the failed Willie McKay experiment, did very few favours for the club in terms of PR.

Monday’s sell-out event, however, and particularly the knowledge, drive and slickness of Baldwin, went a long way to rebuilding any burned bridges.

Rovers now have the stadium, the training ground and the infra-structure to be a very big fish in a small pond in League One.

And in Baldwin, they have someone they can rely on to run a very tight ship.

The former rugby professional, who has previously managed the Keepmoat Stadium and The Dome, stole the show.

He talked eloquently to us and later supporters about his belief in both Dean Saunders, his two-year business plan that will give Rovers’ boss access to a playing budget “at the high end” of League One, and his task of embedding Rovers firmly within the local community.

Doncaster’s income will drop from £10million to £4million this season, while last term’s £8m wage bill has been halved.

Given those figures, Baldwin’s plan might not be a passport back to the Championship, but it will ensure that Rovers are a club ran stringently and sensibly.

That business acumen is the chief reason why Terry Bramall has agreed to continue supporting the club financially.

Bramall, making a very rare public appearance, had become disillusioned at the way the club was being run and was honest enough to admit that was the reason for tendering his resignation from the board in January.

He was even up front enough to admit that football is not something he is particularly knowledgable about.

But Bramall the businessman also spoke passionately about his connection with Doncaster - both the town and the football club - and his desire to try and make a difference.

That desire had perhaps deserted him earlier this year, but now it is back with a vengeance.

Likewise Watson was at ease with Baldwin’s plan.

More importantly, he looked a picture of health after a troublesome time will illness.

A massive Rovers fan, Watson’s enthusiasm shone through just as much as his impressive sun tan.

While Ryan, the father figure of Doncaster Rovers’ happy family, was typically bullish and determined to look forward rather than back.

The “last man standing” appeared eternally grateful to be reunited with the Keepmoat Two.

This was a family about to celebrate a new arrival too.

From July 1 the Keepmoat Stadium will officially be their baby - but there is a lot more to Rovers’ short-term plan than purely bricks and mortar.

After a forgettable and rocky last 18 months, during which the bond between the club and its fans had became waned, Monday’s event was no ordinary press conference.

It was effectively the re-birth of Doncaster Rovers - albeit on a much smaller scale to the one in 1998.

This is a club that wants to be representative of its working class roots and one that is now willing to listen and interact with its supporters.

The Doncaster Free Press appreciated the invite - here’s to a happy future.