Doncaster Rovers: Gavin Baldwin on the future of club’s Academy, appointing new boss and recruiting best talent in town

Kieran Scarff
Kieran Scarff

Gavin Baldwin insists Doncaster Rovers have treated the hunt for a new Academy manager as if they were appointing a new first team manager.

The club’s Academy set up has been the subject of a renewed focus withing the last few years, leading to a glowing report following a recent audit which ranked it among the best Category 3 rated systems in the country.

Much of the improvement has been overseen by Academy manager Kieran Scarff who is leaving Rovers to take a up a similar position with Northampton Town.

Keen to maintain the work Scarff has implemented, Rovers are determined to find the right man to replace him – as is boss Grant McCann who wants to ensure the recent flow of graduates only continues.

“Kieran has got us until a brilliant position whereby the Academy is genuinely well run, has clear objectives of bringing players through for the future,” chief executive Baldwin told the Free Press.

“We’ve done a really thorough recruitment process. We’ve done it as though we're recruiting a first team manager.

“Grant has been heavily involved with the recruitment of the new Academy manager for obvious reasons.

“He is very clear of what he wants from the Academy and the sort of players he wants to be producing.

“And he wants to be brave in giving those players an opportunity.

“You've seen AJ Greaves getting his pro deal and other players sitting on the bench. That is what Grant wants.

“Therefore Grant's part in the process is making sure we’ve got an Academy manager who understands what he wants a player to look like and to bring them through.

“Because the Academy is the future, corny but true, we’ve taken the recruitment really seriously.

“It's been as rigorous as recruiting Grant in the first place.”

With the club’s Academy highly-rated in terms of coaching, facilities and player pathways, Baldwin says the top item for improvement is how young players are recruited.

There is a determination to ensure Rovers are the primary destination for promising young footballers in Doncaster – and ultimately beyond the borough too.

“Kieran has done a great job and moved us to a situation whereby everything is in place,” Baldwin said.

“The big thing we want to improve is how we recruit and where we recruit from and that will be one of the challenges of the new Academy manager.

“We believe that we’ve got a plan for Doncaster and we’ve got some really good Doncaster lads in the Academy.

“We want that to be better and we need to know if we are covering Doncaster well enough and when we are, we need to start looking outside Doncaster to bring players through.

“A unique selling point is the opportunities Grant will give them in the first team. That is a selling point that we need to get across to every youngster that has the potential to come into our Academy.

It will be the job of the next Academy manager to guide the club’s hierarchy on the decision over the future direction of the set-up, namely whether to pursue Category 2 status.

That would require investment in excess of £2m and the construction of an indoor training facility.

Baldwin said: “The dilemma is, do we look to be the best Cat 3 Academy or do we look to become a Cat 2?

“For the expense of becoming Cat 2, could that money be used better elsewhere and still produce the same players.

“Cat 3, in theory, restricts the teams you can play against in the league. However you can have friendlies against whoever you want.

“The solution for Doncaster Rovers could be being the best Cat 3 Academy in the country or it could be Cat 2.

“What we will do is understand the expense of Cat 2 and the benefits, and make a decision on that.

“We will primarily be led by the new Academy manager.”