Paul Goodwin: Five priority tasks for Grant McCann at Doncaster Rovers

On his arrival at Doncaster Rovers, Grant McCann will be presented with the ideal scenario for an incoming manager.

Thursday, 28th June 2018, 10:11 am
Updated Friday, 29th June 2018, 3:17 pm
Grant McCann

No squad in crisis, no turmoil, stability and a five week stretch to get to know his new players before the season starts on August 4.

But that does not mean McCann can put his feet up in his new office at Cantley Park.

There is plenty of work to be done – and here is what we believe the priorities should be.

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Approximately 75 per cent of the first team squad were brought to the club by Darren Ferguson.

And Ferguson’s influence in persuading the likes of Tommy Rowe, John Marquis, Ian Lawlor, Alex Kiwomya and most recently Tom Anderson to move to the Keepmoat Stadium should not be underestimated.

Remember those stories about his Powerpoint presentations, vision for the club and meticulous preparation for matches?

Football is a transient industry and things move on. No one is irreplaceable.

But a number of the players who signed for Rovers primarily to play under Ferguson are bound to have been taken aback by this summer’s turn of events.

The new manager therefore has to make a very positive impression on the squad right from the word go.

First impressions will count for a lot.

But he will more than likely earn that respect on the training ground, where Ferguson had a reputation for being a strong, technical coach.

The new man will probably look to get the core group of senior players immediately onside.


It remains to be seen - especially given the inferred reason for Ferguson’s departure - how much leeway the new boss will be given to make new signings.

But the priority is quite clearly to find a striker who can add to Rovers’ firepower and also take some of the burden off Marquis.

Ideally it needs to be someone proven at League One level, who can offer both mobility and physicality.

But proven goalscorers come at a price - and are Rovers willing to pay the going rate?

A box-to-box midfielder and another ball-winning one wouldn’t go amiss either. Nor would an out-an-out right back.

However, it all depends on the resources available.


With some decent foundations in place, Rovers’ hierarchy will be hoping the new man at the helm can oversee a smooth transition from the Ferguson era.

But much of that will depend on how the next manager wants his team to play.

Ferguson set the team up to pass it out from the back and play their way through the thirds. There was an emphasis on keeping possession, moving the opposition around and also, when the opportunity arose, trying to counter attack quickly.

He favoured a 4-4-2 diamond or 3-5-2.

Ferguson’s reputation for free-flowing attacking football never really came to fruition at Rovers, not in League One anyway.

So it will be fascinating to see if the new manager makes any tweaks to either the overall approach or shape of the team to get more out of the existing players.

Such changes might benefit Rovers in the longer term. However, in the short term they might take some getting used to for a squad that was relentlessly drilled to play a certain way by their previous manager.


Rovers scored 52 times in 46 league games last term, ranking them 18th in terms of goals scored.

Yes, in certain games they were guilty of missing good chances.

But the issue that was more prevalent was the lack of a creative spark in the final third, and this is something the new boss must address as a priority.

Rovers played sideways too much and they were sometimes too quick to look for a ball over the top. There was also an over-reliance on James Coppinger and the diamond midfield often resulted in a lack of width.

The return to fitness of Danny Andrew could really help in terms of balancing the team and improving delivery from the left.

Getting more midfield runners to join in attacks, or wide men to the byline, might be decent starting points for the new man in the hot seat.

How he accommodates Coppinger will be one of his most interesting decisions.

We might yet see Rowe in a more advanced position, while Matty Blair and Kiwomya may be used in wide, attacking areas.


One accusation that seems to follow this team around is that there are not enough vocal leaders out on the pitch. Rovers are a bit too nice.

In terms of his recruitment, this is something the new man might look at.

It seems very unlikely that the captain’s armband will be taken from Coppinger, who has become an iconic figure for the club’s younger players.

But with the 37-year-old expected to spend less time on the pitch, there are those that might argue that a change might be for the greater good.

The future of assistant boss Gavin Strachan [who has departed the club since this piece was written] is an interesting one too.

Strachan is well-respected and popular among the players – and it seems Rovers are keen for him to stay.

Rovers appear to have found a boss who has a pre-existing relationship with Strachan, as well as other coaches at the club.

Making sure this relationship works must be a priority or there really should be the opportunity for the new man to make changes he sees fit.

For the benefit of the first team, the best possible backroom team needs to be in place.

And, ultimately, that should be decided by the manager.