The Inquest: Doncaster Rovers media man Peter Catt on relegation from the Championship

Peter Catt, Doncaster Free Press Sports editor. Picture: Marie Caley D2546MC
Peter Catt, Doncaster Free Press Sports editor. Picture: Marie Caley D2546MC

In 1998 John Ryan rejoined the club like a modern day football equivalent of Julius Caesar.

He came, he saw, he conquered.

Rovers rose from the Conference to the Championship as the chairman dared to dream.

But, just as the Roman Empire outgrew itself, the rise and rise of Rovers was inevitably bound to end in a fall.

Rovers were punching above their weight right from the start in the Championship when they announced their arrival with a shock 1-0 win at Derby in front of over 33,000 fans.

This season Rovers’ highest home league attendance was less than 13,000 – no fewer than 18 Championship clubs had average gates above that figure!

Money talks louder than ever at this level and, with considerably lower income from gate receipts than the rest, Rovers’ progress was simply unsustainable despite the owners digging deep to cover losses.

Sean O’Driscoll was vilified last season for suggesting the same and hinting that the club may have to go down before rising again.

But he was simply stating a truth that nobody wanted to hear.

Willie McKay’s ‘experiment’ was the last throw of the dice for Rovers to remain at second tier level after results led to O’Driscoll’s departure.

It was worth a try and initially McKay’s genuine hard work and the bubbling optimism of new boss Dean Saunders looked like resuscitating Rovers’ hopes of survival.

But the departure of leading directors Terry Bramall and Dick Watson, along with top scorer Billy Sharp, in January signalled the end.

And the Ides of March, with only one win in nine games, sealed their fate.

The dream is over, for now at least.

Whether Rovers can rise again remains to be seen.

But, if the purse strings can be loosened even slightly, don’t bet against Dean Saunders and his revamped side.

*Peter Catt is the former sports editor of the Doncaster Free Press and has covered the fortunes of Doncaster Rovers for more than 35 years.