Doncaster Rovers: Reflections on a strange season - Andrew Taylor
80th minute. Off goes James Coppinger, on comes Ed Williams.
The remaining ten minutes of football were conflicting.
Just blow the whistle and get it over with, Ref.
Never blow the whistle, Ref. Tape Coppinger to the subs bench like an unwilling stag in Benidorm and keep playing. If he’s still in his kit at the Keepmoat, how can he have retired?
After a horrifying first half and an optimistic second, Coppinger’s final game for the Rovers was an upside-down version of the our Jeckyll and Hyde season.
There’s a natural tendency at this time of year for every football fan to carry out their own autopsy of the season. My mind goes into full problem-solving mode, drafting up various solutions to the problems I believe the club must solve based on the performances on the pitch. ‘We need more creativity’. ‘We need to believe in ourselves more in the final third’. ‘We need a twenty goal a season striker’.
Ideal for a radio phone-in but is there any substance in such statements?
Nonetheless each summer I will list the expectations I set upon the Rovers and judge the club on its ability to match them. If my expectations are met, I will point out the most obvious of risks. ‘Credit to the board for signing Lewandowski but if he gets injured, we’re back at square one’.
If my expectations are not met, I am all set for a season of satisfying told-you-so statements each time the Rovers fail to pick up three points.
But this season has been a strange one. A season where I have begun to look at my own mental tendencies and the expectations I place on others much more than any time before. It therefore feels apt to assess whether I should set such lofty, pass/fail demands on my club.
At the end of a season with all the promise of a sunny afternoon in the garden and all the disappointment of your neighbour’s lawnmower, am I happy as a Rovers fan?
If my happiness is linked to expectations, then can’t I use that same problem-solving part of my mind introspectively and review my expectations rather than focusing solely on the club’s actions over the summer?
If my expectations are Jonson Clarke-Harris and Charlie Wyke up front, a manager with more medals than a war veteran and benchwarmers that walk into most first elevens in the league, then at what financial danger could meeting my expectations be to the club?
We exist in a world of military lingo, where terms such as parachute payment and rescue package are commonplace and the gap between the haves and the have nots grows only wider.
In this landscape, supporting a financially stable club that plays a key role in the community and promotes its homegrown talent should surely be of at least equal importance to me than final league standings?
Clearly there is a need for competitiveness but owners who favour the longevity of the club over the boom and bust approach are not to be taken for granted. We have not had to worry about our existence since the late nineties.
Over the last month Rovers have helped raise funds for a local teenage cancer sufferer, partook in litter picking around the local area and organised a mental health awareness day for kids at the Keepmoat.
On the final day of the season a total of four homegrown players took to the field against Peterborough.
If I can re-arrange my mind to make these the sort of thing I expect from my club, surely, I am more likely to be content.
Imagine yourself talking to another Rovers fan about the decisions that lie ahead this summer. Is the conversation quite critical? Full of phrases like ‘we have to’ and ‘this must change’?
Now imagine yourself talking to a Bury fan.
In his last post-match interview Coppinger disregarded the importance of the result, stating that football is about both the ups and the downs. Whilst ever we have a stable, competitive, community focused club to experience those ups and downs with, I for one will be happy.