Doncaster Rovers review of the year 2018: How the enjoyment factor returned to the Keepmoat Stadium
Without fail he would appear in the gangway in front of the press box moments before the final whistle, a picture of pure and unadulterated rage.Â
Every time Doncaster Rovers either lost or let one or three points slip from their grasp, this one particular supporter was waiting in the wings to direct his frustration, in no uncertain terms, at Darren Ferguson and his players. Mainly Ferguson.
For reasons only known to thisÂ fan, he would turn round to the media and start screaming at them, fingers pointing, expletives flying, blood boiling.
His mind was made up. He wanted Ferguson out.Â
He would get his wishÂ when, following discussions aboutÂ next season's budget,Â the Scot surprisingly walked out on a club he had slowly but steadily rebuilt since the catastrophic relegation he failed to avert two years previously.
Therein lay a problem for Ferguson. A ticking time bomb kind of problem. AÂ section of Rovers supporters simply refused to forgive him for relegation toÂ League Two.
Ferguson went about the rebuilding job in pragmatic fashion. He deserved creditÂ for an immediate promotion and the way he transformedÂ an ageing, underperformingÂ squad into one full of youth andÂ potential. Consolidation was the name of the game back in the third tier.
But, for some, that was not enough. Fail to start the newÂ season wellÂ and they'd be baying for blood.
Ferguson had become acutely aware thatÂ plenty of punters were ready to turn on him - including the one he denied telling to f*** off during a 1-0 home defeat to Oxford United in late April.
But that was not why he departed before the time bomb went off.
Protecting his own reputation might have played a part in his decision. So too might have his father's illness.
But he said he 'had no alternative'Â toÂ quit because he did not receive the levelÂ of financial backing he thought was needed to meet the club's next objective '“Â a push forÂ theÂ play-offs.
One man with no such qualms was Grant McCann.
In swept a young, diligent manager who had done his research and was more than willing to work within the board's financial parameters.
Ferguson had wanted to add moreÂ experiencedÂ (more expensive) campaigners to his squad but McCann had to be more creative with his loan and free transferÂ signings. He wasn't complaining, he wasÂ simply delightedÂ to be back in management.
Expectations were grounded among fans.Â Sky Sports published a podcast tipping Rovers for relegation.
But McCann was adamant he could not only get Rovers playing an entertaining brand of football, he could also get them in the play-off shake-up '“Â and so far he has been good to his word.
The loan signingÂ of Herbie Kane, in particular,Â proved to be inspired. Mallik Wilks added some missing pace and power.
The fear that Rovers seemed to playÂ with under Ferguson, an old-school disciplinarian,Â was replaced with freedom under McCann, a modern day manager willing to take more risks and determined to use round pegs in round holes.
The likes of Ben Whiteman, Niall Mason and Joe Wright have all come of age.
Based on Gavin Baldwin's assertion that RoversÂ have the '˜sixth or seventh highest budget in League One', they will startÂ 2019 in parÂ position.
McCann's men have already scored 42 league goals. Last season's total was 52. They haveÂ accumulated nineÂ more points than they did at this stage last season and appear well on course to improve on last term's 15thÂ place finish.Â
To finish in the top six will need further improvement and a bit of luck on the injury front.
But, however this season plays out, Rovers fans have had value for money.Â I've spoken to plenty and the recurring theme is that peopleÂ are looking forward to match days again. The enjoyment factor is back.Â
McCann's Rovers have got people smiling again. Although I'm still waiting to see one particular fan crack a smile...