It will certainly be interesting to see how Rovers perform in the Championship this season. From a purely financial point of view, there are a lot of big clubs in the area, like Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and both Sheffield clubs, so I think it’s fair to say that Rovers cannot compete with the top teams in the league just yet.
The fans may have to accept that they may become a yo-yo club over the next few years, alternating between League One and the Championship. So it’s important that they go and enjoy this season, and try and manage the expectation levels. I think only a handful of the teams in the Championship have not had fairly recent experience of playing in the Premier League, which just shows you how tough a division it will be this term.
They’ve got a tough start, too, against Blackpool. I think Rovers will be looking to stay in this division, whereas Blackpool will be looking to get out of it and get back to the Premier League, so that makes it difficult from the start. Plus, they’re still enjoying the benefits of their season in the Premier League, financially. It’s difficult to avoid talking about money in modern day football, because that is seemingly what makes it go round these days and, until Rovers can attract a core support of 12-13,000 when things aren’t going well, they won’t be able to compete. At the minute, the support is probably 7,000 when things aren’t going great.
Having said that, of course, things went well enough last season! But you can’t look too much into the fact that Rovers won League One last year. If things had been different on that last day against Brentford, they could have finished third. It just shows you what quirks football can bring up sometimes. I have been a part of a title-winning squad at Doncaster Rovers and it is an amazing feeling, but at the end of the day they are now playing at a higher level against much better - and more experienced - teams. So what has been has gone - it is the here and now which is the most important for Paul Dickov and his men.
I haven’t worked with Paul before in my career, but I know that he has a decent track record working at clubs who operate without a big financial outlay. He had a good cup run at Oldham, but he will be judged at Doncaster Rovers on whether or not he can keep them in the Championship. Over the course of a season, the best teams always go up and the worst teams always go down, so it will be interesting to see if many of the Rovers players are capable of making the step ‘back up’, if you like, to the Championship.
It’s vital that they get a good start, get some points on the board and go from there. The players have been waiting for this moment for months - now is the time to make it count.