Doncaster Rovers: Young old heads will be vital this season - Liam Hoden

With the profile of the players that have departed Doncaster Rovers this summer, the questions were inevitable.

Saturday, 3rd August 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 3rd August 2019, 7:00 am
Ben Whiteman
Ben Whiteman

How will Rovers cope without the experienced leaders that have been so prominent within the squad for the last few years?

The likes of Andy Butler and Tommy Rowe in particular. The calm, older, been-there-and-done-it professionals that can always be relied upon.

Since relegation to League Two, and initially with the guiding hand of Darren Ferguson, the primary focus of developing the senior squad has taken it down a more youthful, potential-packed route.

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But the presence of James Coppinger, Matty Blair and the now departed Butler and Rowe has been vital in helping those less experienced find their feet as young professionals playing week in, week out.

There is, of course, work still to be done on the Rovers on squad over the next few weeks.

And it is clear from the profile of those trialists which Darren Moore allowed himself greater consideration over - both Alex Baptiste and Jamie Ward are approaching 500 career appearances - that he is certainly looking at injecting some experience into the young group.

It is, if Rovers are to build upon last term, needed.

But rather than simply focusing on an external search for experience, Rovers should also be looking within.

Kieran Sadlier last weekend brushed off any concerns over the departure of locker room leaders, saying instead that it was time for others to step up and fill the gaps.

Players tipped for very, very bright futures must continue to show why they have garnered such positive attention and make even greater strides than they have done in recent years.

The likes of Ben Whiteman and Joe Wright in particular will face greater expectations - and a considerable amount of that will be down to the leadership roles it is hoped both will take.

Last season could easily have been a write-off for centre half Joe, given injury issues robbed him of a good two thirds of the campaign.

But his incredibly promising start to the season when he demonstrated unflappability and looked an assured, confident and composed defender suggests that he can be called upon to deliver in a more prominent role within the side.

As for Whiteman, he showed himself to be one of League One's best midfielders as he developed into the deeper lying role, dictating play going forward and shielding the back line with great assurance.

Both players - still under 25 - look like leaders on the pitch. And they will need to be this season, on both sides of the white line.

They are by no means the only ones. Tom Anderson, Reece James, Ian Lawlor and plenty more all have the opportunity to become more prominent voices over the next few months.

Several players - and Grant McCann himself - spoke about the dressing room managing itself last season, with any issues arising dealt with before management got involved.

The strength in unity of the squad was a vital cog in the success of last season.

With some key veterans having departed, it is time for the young old heads to become the leaders Rovers need.