Liam Hoden: Even thinking about getting rid of Darren Ferguson at Doncaster Rovers is frankly ludicrous

There is a boring predictability in the reaction a defeat for Rovers will stoke from certain sections of the supporter base.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 23rd February 2018, 9:00 am
Liam Hoden
Liam Hoden

And that is true even though defeats have been few and far between over the last couple of months.

A glance at online forums or social media will uncover a raft of ‘Fergie out’ posts.

Darren Ferguson

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And with each new wave I am increasingly baffled by the negativity towards Darren Ferguson.

I understand, for some, Ferguson will still have a black mark against his name due to Rovers’ relegation two years ago.

And failing to win the League Two title last year did not do him any favours with certain fans either.

But we’re deep into a fresh campaign where Rovers are well on course to secure their place in League One with plenty to spare.

Darren Ferguson

I wonder just where expectations sit when it comes to Rovers. But then I also think some may need a dose of reality as to where the club is right now.

It is perhaps time to accept that the days of Rovers flip-flopping between the Championship and League One are over, certainly in the immediate future. The last two seasons really should have told you that at least.

Plenty has changed since the Sean O’Driscoll era. And League One has a vastly different landscape from Rovers’ title-winning campaign in 2013.

You will have no doubt heard mention of a five-year plan to return and establish Rovers in the Championship.

Such a plan has never been officially made public but does exist, or certainly did so last year.

The telling part of it is the ‘five year’ element. There is an acceptance from the club hierarchy that Rovers cannot simply walk back into the second tier. The League One promotion race only seems to increase in difficulty each year as the expanding wealth of the Championship impacts upon the division below.

That is where Ferguson comes in – a man who has a proven track record as one of the best managers in the lower leagues.

He has commenced a project of rebuilding Rovers both on and off the pitch. And rebuilding for the long haul.

He has put in a tremendous amount of work in restructuring the playing arm of the club, from the youngest age groups up to the senior squad.

And on the pitch, Ferguson has assembled a young and promising squad of players only at the beginning of their careers together.

The ups and downs of this season are a reflection of development which remains to be had in this team.

But he has managed to assemble a squad with excellent quality within the budget he has been handed and in competition with ever-increasing resources within this division.

I challenge anyone to suggest there is not a strong philosophy behind what Ferguson does.

Attacking, possession football with a high tempo and strong work rate is something which he has promoted since first walking through the door.

At times, particularly last season, Rovers have been a joy to watch when the ideas have clicked together.

Within the ideals, he has installed variations so there is a plan B and C at least with systems and approaches – no matter how subtle the changes between them may be.

And he is also capable of easing his demands when necessary. Having his defenders simply ‘head it and kick it’ was just what was needed against Fleetwood on Saturday and it steadied the ship.

There have been questions about mentality and strength of character among the players he has assembled.

But the players buy into his philosophy wholeheartedly, particularly the hard work element. If they don’t, they are shipped out at the earliest opportunity.

He has improved players during his time at the club – none more so than Andy Butler whom he has transformed from a defender on the wane to arguably a more rounded and better player than he has ever been.

And he has harnessed natural, raw talent in young players snapped up from all over the place, as Alfie Beestin’s current form demonstrates.

Helping improve individuals is something players regularly mention when asked about Ferguson, whether they are new signings or have been around as long as James Coppinger.

Ferguson is a private man but I’m yet to deal with a manager so open and honest about his team.

He does not try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes after a game, regardless of the result.

Players will often repeat exactly what Ferguson has told the media moments earlier after games. He is saying the same things to his players as he is to the public.

Even looking at the cold, hard facts of the now, what reason could anyone come up with for showing Ferguson the door?

Rovers have lost only twice in 13 league matches, scoring in each of them.

Certainly there have far too many draws the season – something Ferguson himself admits.

But performances have, in the main, been decent and the difference in games has come down to fine margins.

In short, Rovers aren’t a million miles away from being a strong side in this division.

And I find that more exciting in the long run rather than concerning in the now.

Ultimately, I cannot accept that Ferguson is not the right man for Rovers – either for now or for the future.