Doncaster Rovers 'open-minded' in search for new manager - or head coach

The Doncaster Rovers board may opt to appoint a head coach rather than a manager as they seek to strengthen the football operation in the wake of the departure of Richie Wellens.

Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 6:00 pm
Rovers chairman David Blunt and chief executive Gavin Baldwin

Wellens was dismissed last week after eight months in charge, having won just three league matches during his tenure.

And, as they step up their recruitment drive, Rovers are considering all options available to them, including his replacement potentially working under a director of football.

Chief executive Gavin Baldwin told the Free Press he has been delighted with the calibre of the applicant so far and expects the appointment of a head coach or manager to be completed in time to give the new manager best chance of operating in the January transfer window.

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But it will be the characteristics of the strongest candidate that determine the job title and responsibilities, as well as the nature of other appointments to support him in his role.

“We will get the best football manager we can or the best head coach we can and build the structure around that person and it will be done in partnership with them,” Baldwin said.

“It may not be a director of football or a head of football operations. It may be something more imaginative.

“It will be an open process but we’re open minded about what it looks like in the end.

“But we are adamant that we need to provide support to that person so they can concentrate on giving us the best chance to stay in the league.”

Rovers had received 89 serious applications by Tuesday evening and Baldwin said the profile of the candidates has been broad.

The field includes some that have applied for the Rovers manager job previously and been interviewed for the role.

But there have also been some more surprising applicants throwing their hats into the ring for the first time.

He said: “We’ve had serious candidates from literally across the world.

“We’ve got high profile candidates that predominantly come from the management world. There are some household names.

“But we’ve also got head coaches that have worked at significant clubs and want to come along and be head coach at Doncaster Rovers.

“It’s interesting that they are talking to us.

“They’ve told us that we have a reputation of being really well run. They see that as a constant so if they manage the football side of it well, they will get the promotion to the Championship.

“It’s interesting that football people say that.

“That doesn’t mean they are the best candidates at this stage though.

“There are head coaches that maybe work at Championship or Premier League clubs that are maybe below the radar and that’s where we’re trying to maintain an open mind while taking significant references.

“It’s where James Coppinger is brilliant to have at the club because he can pick up the phone to anyone and get an honest appraisal of the candidates.”

Baldwin said the open-minded approach extends to the remit of the successful candidate - whether they be tasked only with keeping Rovers in League One over the next five months or seen as a long term appointment beyond that initial challenge.

“When we see who has applied we can determine which way we will go,” he said.

“Are we appointing someone to keep us in the league and then to look again in the summer? Or is it someone that can do it for the rest of the season and stay on as a mentor and we appoint a longer term manager.

“Normally it’s hard not to have a pre-set idea of what you want but we’re actively trying not to this time.

“We’re encouraging applicants and we’re being honest with them that it could be a head coach or manager.

“What we want to do is get the best possible expertise in, whatever that may be, that we can afford.

“We believe with the money available, we can get a really good head coach or we can get a really good manager but they would probably have areas where they would need support.

“A really good manager who is a really good coach would probably be unaffordable for the level.

“We’re open minded because we want the right person.”

Rovers’ recruitment of managers in more recent times has been characterised by a thorough and lengthy process.

While intending to keep the level of detail that goes into the search, Baldwin says the goal is to accelerate the process.

He said: “The closing date is 9am on Friday and I’m meeting the chairman at quarter past nine.

“We’re not going to sit on our hands.

“We don’t want to get it wrong, we don’t want to rush it through.

“We’ll agree the process for shortlisting on Friday morning which I’d expect to be done quickly.

“And the interview process should start next week. Myself and David will conduct the interviews to take us down to potentially three candidates and then Terry will join at the second stage.

“I doubt that we’d make an appointment next week.

“If the obvious candidate comes through, who knows. But I’d expect to interview next week and take it from there.

“It’s exactly the same process but streamlined.

“We’ve made the decision on Richie because we want to give ourselves the best chance in January so we can’t be announcing a manager on January 15.”

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In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.