ROVERS clinched a signing coup last night when Sunderland’s £2million defender Matt Kilgallon agreed to join the club on loan until the end of the season.
The former England Under 21 centre back was being pursued by a posse of top Championship clubs but was keen to link up again with ex-Sheffield United team-mate Billy Sharp at the Keepmoat.
Kilgallon came through a medical yesterday after club owners John Ryan, Dick Watson and Terry Bramall provided a further cash injection to fund the Premier League player’s wages to the end of the campaign.
The commanding 27-year-old now looks set to go straight into the squad for Rovers’ tough home clash against Reading on Saturday (3pm).
Club chairman Ryan described negotiations for the services of the top defender, who was the Player of the Year in his final full season at Bramall Lane, as among the most complicated in which he had been involved.
Kilgallon had been on loan at Middlesbrough since August. Championship leaders Queens Park Rangers were among the clubs believed to be keen to sign him, along with Burnley, Derby County, Coventry and his old club Sheffield United.
Ryan had hinted last month that the club would make a major signing in the New Year to back manager Sean O’Driscoll when there was speculation surrounding the vacant managerial post at Bramall Lane.
And he was cockahoop yesterday after the deal had gone through.
He said: “We’ve entered a new era because we have never been in a position to sign loan players like this before in competition with other leading clubs.
“It’s a demonstration of the belief the club’s owners and directors have in the manager, and to thank him for his loyalty when he has had opportunities to go elsewhere.
“Players like this don’t come cheap but we are trying to back the manager as much as we can despite not getting the crowds we had hoped for this season.”
He added: “We are putting our money where our mouths are and I just hope the people of the town respond by coming to watch a team that is playing marvellous football as we continue to aim for the dream of Premier League football.”
York born Kilgallon joined the Blades from Leeds United for £1.75million in January 2007 before moving to Sunderland in a deal worth over £2 million a year ago.
Kilgallon has been unable to force his way into the first eleven at Sunderland, who are sixth in the Premiership, but was regarded as one of the top defenders in the Championship before his move.
He earned the nickname ‘Killa’ while at Elland Road and gained five Under 21 caps while also having a spell on loan at West Ham.
Rovers are currently five points behind sixth placed Watford in the Championship table but have played a game less - and have no fewer than three matches in hand of Swansea and Leeds, who are fourth and fifth.
Strikers Billy Sharp and James Hayter have been on fire for Rovers recently scoring 17 goals between them in their last eleven appearances for the club - but Rovers have been unable to stem the flood of goals at the other end.
Before the Kilgallon signing manager Sean O’Driscoll said: “We’ve struggled at the back all season with injuries and suspensions and it’s been a case of mix and match.
“It would be ideal to find a settled centre back partnership in the same way Reading have with Matt Mills and Alex Pearce because we know we can create chances and put them away.”
Sharp and Hayter were both on target in the 2-2 FA Cup draw against Wolves and O’Driscoll said they would be going to Molineux for next Tuesday night’s replay in a determined mood with the incentive of a home tie against Stoke or Cardiff in the fourth round.
n Admission prices have been reduced for Saturday’s clash against Reading to £15 for adults, £10 concessions and £5 for Under 11s.
n Midfielder Robbie Clarke has been released. He made one first team appearance in the Carling Cup earlier in the season.