Doncaster Rovers: How John Marquis proved to be well worth the wait for Darren Ferguson
It was a signing that raised eyebrows as much as it did intrigue.
But Darren Ferguson knew right away that he wanted John Marquis in his squad – even if that meant playing the waiting game.
On meeting the striker face-to-face, Ferguson offered him a place in his quest to return Rovers to League One.
While keen to sign up, Marquis had something else on his plate.
“John had to go on holiday for a fortnight so we couldn’t actually sign him,” Ferguson told the Free Press.
“I was actually p****d off about it for want of a better word.
“To be be fair to him, he gave his word that he would sign for us and he did.
“That just shows what he’s all about. I didn’t really know him that well at that point.
“It’s just normally it would be done a lot quicker than two weeks. You’d meet and it’d be agreed.
“The fact he went on holiday, it meant it was another two weeks where other clubs could come in for him.
“But he stuck to his word.”
At this point, it looks like the 24-year-old was worth waiting for.
The acquisition of Marquis could prove to be one of the most important in recent years for Rovers.
In terms of name recognition or even playing stats, it is not too harsh to say Marquis’ arrival last summer was hardly a marquee signing.
Twenty goals later and with 11 games still to play, Marquis’ free signing looks to be a brilliant piece of business.
Ferguson and his staff undoubtedly uncovered a gem. So where did they know to look?
“He was on the radar but there were a few,” Ferguson said.
“There was a certain list we’d put together. We were at a stage late last season where we didn’t know what league we were going to be in.
“When we got relegated, I thought some of them on the list we’d struggle to get.
“Three or four I thought we’d struggle with I managed to get in.
“John was one of those.”
By the end of last season, Marquis had helped Northampton Town over the finishing line in the promotion race in League Two, with six goals in 15 appearances.
But his career with boyhood club Millwall was over, the Lions deciding to release him.
Ferguson moved quickly to snap up the striker, convinced he had the qualities Rovers had been lacking as they fell out of League One.
He said: “You could see he had a great worth ethic, a fantastic work ethic.
“He’s very good at holding the ball up and I identified that was an area we had to improve from last season.
“He was also very good at running the line.
“His goalscoring record wasn’t fantastic and that was something I felt we would have to improve in him.
“All those things I knew I was going to get, and then the improvement would be the goals.
“I felt if he had a run of games, he would score goals. And also if he got a consistency in what he was doing after so many loan moves.
“There was a lot of things that kept me coming back to him, that he was the one.
“And certainly meeting him made it an absolute 100 per center.”
Ferguson prides himself on adding the right type of character to his squads.
And a big part of finding such personalities is meeting potential targets face-to-face.
“As soon as I met him, and this is why I try to meet them before I sign them, I got a great impression of John,” Ferguson said.
“He’s an intelligent lad. He understood exactly where we want to go.
“There were two or three others we had been looking at, but after I met him he was definitely the one I wanted to sign.
“On top of what I knew he could do, I go back to the mentality. He grew up at Millwall and you need to be tough to play there.
“He’d played there for a while, he was very well liked at the club.
“It was about getting the right mentality and after last season, it was important we did that.”
Asking anyone which Rovers player would net 20 goals this season, most would have answered with Andy Williams.
There was little to suggest in his previous record that Marquis would be the man to do it.
Ferguson says he expected the forward to be as influential in his performances as he has been so far.
But he admits the number of goals Marquis has scored has been a bonus.
“He’s delivered on what I expected in so many ways but the goals have been a massive bonus,” the Rovers boss said.
“When I’ve had successful seasons in the past, I’ve always had strikers that get 20-plus goals.
“It doesn’t matter who it us. And you always hope it’ll happen.
“He was getting frustrated early in the season, even before the Cambridge home game and we’d only played three games at that point.
“I had a word with him and said the goals will come.
“He missed a penalty that night but then scored.
“And since then he’s been pretty consistent all the way through.”
With 21 goals on the board and more likely to follow, Marquis was definitely worth waiting for.