Doncaster Rovers commentator Tom Biltcliffe delivers verdict on club's decline

Tom Biltcliffe, the voice of Doncaster Rovers on local radio, says the club neglected the ‘here and now’ and that relegation was the culmination of three years of poor planning.

By Paul Goodwin
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 12:59 pm

Tom, an ardent Rovers fan, again clocked up the miles this season, covering the majority of Doncaster’s games for BBC Radio Sheffield.

It turned out to be one of the worst seasons in the club’s history – testing the patience and resolve of supporters and pundits alike.

We caught up with Tom to get his views on the 2021/22 season and what has gone wrong at Rovers...

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Adam Clayton will be a key man for Rovers next season, says BBC Radio Sheffield’s Tom Biltcliffe.

How do you reflect on last season and, as a Rovers fan, what was it like covering it for BBC Radio Sheffield?

There were six unbelievably poor teams at the foot of League One and Rovers were one of them.

It was incredible that they weren’t mathematically relegated until the final day of the season.

As early as August, I came away from the 0-0 home draw with Portsmouth severely underwhelmed by the performance and had serious doubts even then.

Tom Biltcliffe

There was a notable lack of quality and it never got better.

By the time October came around and it was one league win from nine games, everyone expected defeat and were proved correct far too often.

By New Year, relegation seemed a formality so trying to keep listeners engaged was tough.

No one likes listening to the losses, whoever you support.

Do you think relegation is down to multiple factors or is there a standout reason in your view?

Last season was the culmination of three years of poor planning and Rovers were cruelly exposed and, in a word, uncompetitive.

It’s not been the same club since Grant McCann walked away.

Darren Moore was never in it for the long haul and his (over) reliance on loanees as stop gaps reflected that.

It was on his watch that John Marquis and Ben Whiteman departed – both for good money – and even now they’ve still not been adequately replaced.

Richie Wellens tried to build for the 2022/23 season but hugely neglected the here and now.

That’s when things just spiralled out of control.

Poor signings coupled with a squad which were never fully fit and firing was a recipe for disaster.

What's your take on what's gone wrong at the club over the last 15 months?

The club not spending their money wisely when competing with similar or even smaller sized clubs.

Huge credit to Accrington for being the antithesis of this.

They could teach just about every other professional club something about cutting their cloth accordingly and overachieving.

There’s a definite feeling of apathy around the Eco Power Stadium.

Those expected defeats became accepted.

It needs someone to inject some enthusiasm and drag the club forward.

It’s sad but nobody at Doncaster Rovers seems to have fire in the belly and hunger in their heart.

How do you assess Gary McSheffrey's spell in charge?

Rightly or wrongly, Rovers like to put a lot of faith in the man in charge.

With no prior managerial experience, McSheffrey was allowed carte blanche in the January transfer window to bring in eight new players to the club.

I think the fact that his signings were underwhelming serves as the perfect metaphor for his tenure.

Josh Martin showed flashes but will return to Norwich while Adam Clayton could be pivotal next season.

On the pitch, seven wins from 28 games is nowhere near good enough.

What do you make of James Coppinger's appointment as head of football operations?

He knows the club of that there is no doubt. Whether that is a good thing, I’m not so sure.

He knows the problems but anyone can see what is wrong.

It was a perfect opportunity to put in place a fresh pair of eyes and a new voice to help fix the shortcomings.

He’s got an awful lot of responsibility now and people inside and outside the club will look to him for direction and leadership.

What is the vision and when will we see the fruits of his labour would be my questions.

How confident are you that Rovers will bounce back next season by winning promotion at the first attempt?

It really is impossible to say when I think at least half the side will – or should – change.

Based on the last 18 months and the rut that the club is in, I am not very confident of promotion.

It would be a pleasant shock should it materialise.