Doncaster Rovers v Harrogate Town: Grant McCann hopes for fast start in promotion push

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Grant McCann hopes Doncaster Rovers can get off to a fast start in their promotion push.

Rovers begin the new campaign with high expectations after a transformative summer, which has changed the entire mood around the club.

A home match against Harrogate Town on Saturday in front of what’s hoped will be a bumper crowd is a great opportunity for McCann’s new-look side to create a good first impression.

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Ten new players have arrived at the Eco-Power Stadium, meaning Saturday’s starting XI is likely to feature several debutants.

Doncaster Rovers manager Grant McCann.Doncaster Rovers manager Grant McCann.
Doncaster Rovers manager Grant McCann.

While various potential partnerships have been trialled throughout pre-season, McCann admits the team is still very much a work in progress having worked with the players for just five weeks.

Asked if he was confident of a fast start, he said: "I hope so, what’s good is we are at home.

"Harrogate are a dangerous team, as we know. They’ve got probably one of the best strikers in the division in (Luke) Armstong.

"It’s going to be a tough game.”

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The two teams are already somewhat familiar to each other, McCann revealed.

“When we were in Scotland they were in the same hotel as us.

"It was quite strange really.”

Much has been made of the strength of League Two this season, with the likes of Wrexham, Stockport, Notts County and Gillingham all spending big in search of promotion.

Doncaster may not have matched their levels of spending but have spent enough to be up there. Owner Terry Bramall’s investment into the playing budget is said to be worth seven figures.

What does McCann make of the competition?

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"It’s really strong. I think League Two is probably the strongest it’s been for many years.

"But that only makes it exciting. We will go into it with our eyes wide open and play the way we want to play, regardless of who we play against, and see where it takes us.”

Rovers have the strongest recent history of any side in the division, having spent 17 of the last 20 seasons in either League One or the Championship.

That alone should give them confidence – and deliver a reminder that not only do they have nothing to fear, but others may fear them.

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McCann also hopes to create something money can’t buy in his squad.

He used the example of his former Cheltenham teammate Michael Duff, who led the Robins to the League Two title in the 2020/21 season on a £1.2 million budget, a shoestring compared to some of their rivals.

Duff also took a youthful Barnsley side all the way to the League One play-off final last season after overseeing a summer of change at Oakwell following his appointment.

His secret ingredient?

"Just a unity,” said McCann.

"At Barnsley they started quite slowly, but once they understood his beliefs and ways of playing they flew through the league.

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"If they’d have started like that it could have ended in automatic promotion.

"Things take a bit of time, people buying into your ideas, but we keep putting gentle reminders into the group."

The example of Duff serves as another reminder: nothing will be won or lost on the opening day, or in the opening weeks or months even.

Serial winner McCann will be desperate to get moving sooner, rather than later, however.