Doncaster Rovers: Talisman Tommy Rowe is striving for more
It is no exaggeration to say that Tommy Rowe was one of the signings of the summer in League Two.
Doncaster Rovers did not fancy their chances of taking Rowe on a permanent basis even if they remained in League One so relegation looked to have scuppered their plans.
To the surprise of almost everyone, the classy midfielder did indeed opt to make his loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers into a permanent switch to the Keepmoat.
In a summer of the unknown, Rowe’s signing was a beacon of hope and helped quickly wash away the negativity of a horrendous slump to relegation.
Rovers would now have one of the most gifted players at League Two level, one whose quality would see him dominate games.
Perhaps due to expectations being set so high, Rowe has not quite lived up to that status so far this season.
His positioning on the pitch has played a significant role in that.
James Coppinger made the advanced midfield role his own over the first dozen games leaving Rowe on the left of a diamond, away from the position in which he operates most effectively.
The 28-year-old has got on with the task in hand but openly admits there is plenty more to come from him this season.
“I’ve had to adapt this season,” he told the Free Press.
“The league is different. You can’t take that for granted and you can’t play the way you’d like to play if it doesn’t suit the team or the league.
“You do get a lot of indiscipline from other teams. They will take chances, they will push higher because they’re confident they can score goals.
“The gaffer spoke about my ability to work back as well as work forward. He was keen for me to make sure I did that first.
“I’ve showed recently that I can still score from those areas.
“I’d like to score more goals. I think I’ve got a lot more to show.
“But I’m growing game by game and just learning different sides of it.
“This level is difficult because you’ve got to be more aware of where the players are.
“But we’re enjoying the way we play and that’s the main thing.”
It could be taken as harsh to demand more from a player who has scored five goals and made six assists in 14 league matches so far this season.
But Rowe set such high standards with his performances after joining Rovers on loan for the final two months of the League One campaign.
And there are also the lofty standards he sets for himself.
Rowe insists he has no regrets about not pursuing interest from Championship and League One clubs and opting to join Rovers.
“It was a big decision for about two weeks but after I made the decision I’ve not thought about it,” he said. “It was what it was.
“Every decision you make is judged in football. It can be a good one or a bad one. One minute it’s good, the next it’s bad.
“I was confident with the manager, the club and the players that we could produce, not just this year, but over a good few years.
“It’s going well for us. I’m growing as a player, I’ve got so much more to show.
“That’s not through lack of effort it’s just how the league goes sometimes.
“I’m quite confident with time and improvement, I can show the real me.”
With leading scorer Andy Williams ruled out until mid-December with ankle ligament damage, Rowe is among a select group of players who will be expected to make up the shortfall.
He was fielded as part of a three man attack – alongside James Coppinger and John Marquis – at Blackpool last weekend and scored from the penalty spot, though he did miss another.
Though he has made close to 350 career appearances, Rowe insists he is still learning.
And this season some of his biggest lessons have come with decision making over attacking runs.
He said: “The big thing we’ve worked on is being disciplined and going at the right times.
“We don’t want to be drawn out of position too early.
“The Carlisle game was a good example of that. My goal came from a well-timed run as opposed to waiting in there.
“A lot of teams know that if we make them forward runs, they can counterattack and they’re on for goals.
“We’ll be cautious of that.
“We all want to score goals because Willo is not there to.
“But we’re conscious that Liam Mandeville can score goals, John Marquis can score goals.
“We’ll look to improve. It comes from the manager, it comes from ourselves.
“We’re very keen to improve. We feel like we’ve got a few more gears to go through from recent performances.
“The fans know that and we know that as well.”
While five goals in 14 matches may sound like a decent return for a midfielder, Rowe is keen to up his strike rate.
But as long as Rovers continue to win games and occupy an automatic promotion place, he is not too concerned about individual targets.
“I’d probably like to get a few more,” he said.
“I’ve been delighted with my assists. I think I’ve got six now.
“That has been brilliant for me. It was something I wanted to work on in the off season. They’ll come more.
“But it’s my overall game I wanted to make sure of.
“Winning games is the most important thing.
“Not what I do, or anyone else.
“If we can keep winning, we want to improve and we will improve.”