'˜There was a lot of craziness in the dressing room' - Paul Keegan is latest former Doncaster Rovers player to lift lid on '˜The Experiment'
It proved to be one of the most divisive periods in the Rovers' history '“ and that was just in the dressing room.
‘The Experiment’ of the 2011/12 campaign will go down in infamy in the annals of the club.
But it has only been recently that real details have been made public of just what occurred behind the scenes during the incredible season.
Following in the footsteps of former team mates Chris Brown and John Oster, ex-Rovers midfielder Paul Keegan has lifted the lid of life during The Experiment, when a string of foreign players were brought to the Keepmoat by agent Willie McKay to put them ‘in the shop window.’
Speaking to the LOI Weekly podcast, Keegan began by talking about his early days at Rovers under Sean O’Driscoll.
“Sean was in charge, he was there for a long time,” Keegan said.
“All he wanted to do was pass the ball. Basically, if you kicked the ball long then he’d take you off.
“He didn’t want that in his team. He passed the ball to death really.
“He did really well, taking them up to the Championship. But after a while they weren’t getting the wins and he went.
“Dean Saunders came in and there was a complete overhaul of the whole club.
“They started to bring in some French lads. The likes of El Hadji Diouf, Pascal Chimbonda, Habib Beye.
“There was all of sudden an influx of French players, who were all with Willie McKay, the agent.
“He had an involvement. He lived in Doncaster.
“The idea was these lads would come in and keep us up. We weren’t in a desperate situation.
“They came in and there was a lot of craziness in the dressing room.
“For example Habib Beye would fly in on the Friday, train once and play on the Saturday.
“It was hardly ideal when we were losing games. Or when these lads were at fault for goals.
“It wasn’t tolerated. There were rows in the dressing room after every game.
“But the management at the time stuck with the foreign lads. This was the project they were going to do and that was going to keep us up. They backed the lads that had come in.
“To be fair to Habib Beye, he said ‘this is what the manager wants, he says I can stay in France. Would you not stay in Ireland?’
“That is the way the club was. You had lads having arguments every week.
“You had the likes of John Oster, who had played in the Premier League, who had done it all before, and he was getting told to shut up basically.
“They just felt the likes of Diouf and Chimbonda had done it all before, they can basically do what they want.
“To be honest with you, if you got Diouf one-on-one and had a chat with him, he’d be fine.
“But in a group and in front of everyone, him and Chimbonda would be messing about and not taking things seriously.
“There was pictures of them out the night before games.
“There was a big row in the tunnel at Leeds with Darren O’Day. Punches were thrown, the police were involved.
“The harmony of the club was terrible. People just didn’t seem to care and I think it was a bad decision by the club.
“If they would have brought in one or two players into what we had already there, it might not have been so bad.
“But there was seven or eight that came in and a lot of the lads weren’t playing.
“There was a lad Plessis, who’d been at Liverpool. I don’t think he played.
“There was a few more lads and I can’t even think of their names.
“They were all turning up in their huge cars.
“It didn’t work out and we got relegated any way.
“Then I think Dean Saunders realised what he wanted to do and that wasn’t the way to go.
“We were in League One, he looked at it and thought we needed good, home grown players, English, Irish, Welsh players.
“We put a serious team together and got promoted. Saunders left in January for Wolves but for him as a manager, he learned what he needed in a team to succeed.”