Doncaster Rovers: 'It feels like home from home' - Darren Moore on his Rovers return and the challenge ahead in League One
If you think you saw Darren Moore behind the wheel of his car and looking a little lost in Doncaster town centre a couple of weeks ago, your eyes were not deceiving you.
A few days into his tenure as Rovers boss and aiming to get to grips with life back in town, Moore took himself on a quick tour but – like plenty of us recently – found driving through the centre much more complicated than it was 20-odd years ago.
Negotiating the likes of East Laith Gate may not have delivered the blasts from the past Moore was expecting, but he has had plenty in the days that have followed.
“The people I stayed with when I first came here, I’m still very much in touch with them,” he told the Free Press.
“We’ve got friends in the area that we’ve been in touch with.
“All of those people can’t believe I’m back but here I am.
“I’m a bit older and greyer than I was but I’m back and it’s great to see all the faces from the past.
“It’s great to be back in the area. Memories are flooding back.
“It feels like home from home in terms of coming back here.”
If it has not been obvious so far, Moore’s return to Rovers as manager – 22 years after departing as a player – has been met with equal enthusiasm on both sides of the relationship.
He arrived with an incredible approval rating from supporters with great affection for the former centre half matched by admiration for the job done so far in his short time in management.
But Moore clearly shares the excitement at the opportunity to make a major impression at a club he loves for a second time.
“I’ve enjoyed it very much,” he said of being back.
“Every single day has been a joy. I thank everyone for welcoming me at the football club.
“I’ve been around the area and people have been so warm. The staff and the players have been working really hard.
“I'm really pleased to be back in the area, in the football club and another cog in the machine that’s been going well in recent years.
“I just want to come in and do my bit along with everyone else to try to keep the club moving forward.”
The current focus of Rovers is about progression. When Moore was previously in town, it was much more about keeping heads above water with the turbulent Ken Richardson era yet to reach its devastating pinnacle.
And it is clear that being part of such testing times in the past still resonates with the 45-year-old more than two decades on.
"I remember at the time here, I stayed when a lot of my team mates were going,” he said.
"I stayed put and my job at the time, especially in the second year when we were struggling, my aim was to make sure Rovers kept their league status.
"I was passionate about it and pleased we could do that. I'm pleased to see how the club has evolved from it over the years.
"I have got an attachment with supporters and the area. It really does feel like coming back.
"I'm really pleased with the response that I've had from the supporters in general. It's been excellent.
"Hopefully they recognise the love and respect I've had for them and the love and respect they've given me coming back.
"I gave my sweat and blood for the club and left the tears to them. That's the way I looked at it.
"My desire and commitment is the same. The appetite is the same. That's why when the job came up I had no hesitation."”
The nostalgia trip was about looking back and it inevitably took him past Belle Vue, where his previous Rovers adventure was based.
Like so many things, he found a much changed view with a new housing development having replaced Rovers’s grand old home.
"I couldn't believe it when I drove past,” he said with a big smile on his face.
"I get some flashbacks. I've just had one now.
"I've still got videos of my time there, some of the goals I scored. I look back and think it's incredible.
"It's fantastic where the club is now and it's important for it.
"We've all played a part in that, somewhere along."
If he has afforded himself some time to reminisce and reconnect over the last three weeks or so, Moore is now firmly looking forward and addressing the challenge ahead.
Moore has made no bold claims so far about what Rovers could achieve this season. In fact, he has not gone as far as even suggesting a push for promotion is on the agenda.
Instead, his time has been about assessing the landscape at the club. And he gives the impression that he will do the same with League One as a whole as both he and a much-changed Rovers squad make their first steps into the competition.
Not many managers take the route through the divisions that Moore has – starting at the top and working his way down.
This will be his first taste of League One management and is relishing the test ahead.
"It's a good challenge,” he said. “A great challenge.
"We want to put together a team that can compete and challenge and hold our own in League One."The league is different. Barnsley, Luton and Charlton have gone up. Bolton, Rotherham and Ipswich have come down.
"It's different, plus the teams that have come up from League Two.
"The league only gets stronger because of the fall out from the top division.
"It'll be a good league again, some good players, some big players.
"I look forward to the challenge and we should always look forward to the challenge here and meet the challenge head on and together.
“I’m looking forward to Saturday.
“The last couple of weeks have been very good. It’s been great to rub shoulders with the players and staff at the club.
“We look forward to the start of the season.”