Doncaster Rovers journalist Peter Catt's thoughts on relegation, Richie Wellens, Gary McSheffrey and James Coppinger

Legendary journalist Peter Catt has seen it all at Doncaster Rovers but the club’s current plight has left him feeling “dismayed and disheartened”.

By Paul Goodwin
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 10:30 am

Catt has covered Rovers since 1966 and it’s fair to say there have been more downs than ups in that time.

But the former Free Press sports editor, who can nowadays often be heard co-commentating on iFollow Rovers, has been taken aback somewhat by the scale and speed of the latest decline.

We caught up with him this week to get his views on Rovers’ relegation to League Two and some of the key talking points surrounding the club...

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Peter Catt is still a regular in the Eco-Power Stadium press box and can often be heard on iFollow Rovers.

PG: I can remember you feeling fairly optimistic before the start of last season. How do you feel about the relegation and what you have witnessed at Rovers over the course of the last 15 months?

PC: Disappointed, dismayed, depressed and disheartened...that just about sums it up, and I should imagine most fans feel the same.

When I first started reporting on the club Rovers were in the old Division Four. More than fifty years and a change of name later and we are back there again!

My reason for optimism was based on the pre-season friendly against Newcastle when I thought you could see how Richie Wellens wanted to play the game.

It was possession based, expansive, attacking and entertaining with Tommy Rowe pushing forward from left back to support the front line at every opportunity.

But, with the odd exception, it all seemed to go downhill from there culminating in some absolutely abysmal performances.

Rovers were in the League One play-offs three years ago and they were sitting third in the table in early February 2021. Why do you think things have gone so badly wrong so quickly?

We've had five managers and loads of different players during that time and that clearly has something to do with it.

You can't chop and change with that regularity and expect to be successful unless you are very lucky.

How do you reflect on the appointments and subsequent performance of both Richie Wellens and Gary McSheffrey?

You never really know who else has applied but, if I'm honest, neither would have been my first choice.

Richie won me over with his enthusiasm and the way he wanted to play the game but was unbelievably unlucky with the cards he was dealt.

His squad was devastated by one of the worst injury crises I can remember in my time covering the club and it just went from bad to worse.

In the end he was unable to get a tune out of the players who were available.

Whether he would have been able to lift them with the aid of the January transfer window we will never know.

Gary took over in incredibly difficult circumstances when most thought it would need a more experienced hand at the helm.

Highlights were few and far between, especially at home, and he was unable to bring about the required improvement which, as it turned out, only needed to be minimal.

Most disappointing was the failure to pick up more points in key matches against fellow strugglers.

If you could ask one person at Rovers one question, what would it be?

The question would be 'what are the short and long term ambitions for the club now we find ourselves back in League Two?' and I would address it to whoever is best placed to answer.

What did you make of the appointment of James Coppinger as head of football operations?

Again I was expecting someone more experienced in the role but if that was not the case then they couldn't have chosen anyone better.

I've had a few chats with him recently and I know how determined he is to lift the club out of the doldrums.

I believe he's been on a technical director course and has visited higher status clubs to understand the role better and what works for them.

If he is given full responsibility and authority over all aspects of the football operations then I believe he could make a big difference.

What do you think is key from this point on if Rovers are to get back on an upward trajectory?

Player recruitment is crucial and we need men who are both physically and mentally strong.

Then Gary McSheffrey has to mould them into a confident unit intent on playing in an attractive style that also brings results.

Rovers cannot afford to slide any further.

It's not enough to be a yo-yo club having a laugh.

The overriding aspiration must be to return to League One as soon as possible and then push for the Championship again.