Doncaster Rovers: Grant McCann will not take ‘flamboyancy’ out of Mallik Wilks

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There was one name on the lips of both sets of supporters following Doncaster Rovers’ win at Southend United on Saturday.

Mallik Wilks.

In his first competitive outing for Rovers, the 19-year-old striker showcased the gamut of his characteristics – to the delight of one set of fans and ire of the other.

He netted a goal of real quality, skill, ambition and confidence to bring the Rovers support at Roots Hall to its feet.

His fans were also left delighted by his showboating and turn as a wind-up merchant.

That he left the field at the end to a chorus of boos from the home support showed he succeeded in what he set out to do.

And it did not bother him one little bit as he cupped his ears to only increase the rage being sent his way.

It was therefore unsurprising that Wilks’ was the name most often brought up by the gathered media speaking to Grant McCann in the aftermath.

The tone from the manager was no so much celebratory but rather more cautious.

And rightly so.

As much as Wilks had delighted with his brilliant goal, he had frustrated also.

His desire to go it alone at times was harmful for Rovers.

In the first half, when under tremendous pressure from Southend, Wilks had opportunities to make the ball stick deep in the hosts’ territory to alleviate that but lost possession attempting to take on defenders.

And in the second half, with Rovers attempting to hold onto their lead, he gave the ball back to the opposition on numerous occasions simply down to poor decision-making.

So it was the learning Wilks needs to do that McCann opted to speak about, rather than his undoubted raw talent.

“We had a chance to kill it at the end but it was a bit of naivety from Mallik,” McCann said.

“He’s gone through and could have squared it to John Marquis.

“Or before that, he tried to chop it back and lost it when he could have just run into the corner.

“He’s 19 years of age. He’s going to make mistakes.

“We all are. We’re all learning.

“Mallik was disappointed in the dressing room because he could have let the team down.

“It’s a bit of naivety that we need to get out of him.”

As well as his goal, another piece of pure audacity drew the eye to the Leeds United loanee.

Receiving the ball inside the box and at a tight angle, he faced up his marker and bent over as if he was about to pick up the ball.

It drew cheers of encouragement from Rovers fans behind the goal.

But his attempt to quickly flick the ball past the defender saw him mis-hit it behind for a goal kick, which drew cheers of a different kind from Southend supporters.

McCann is keen to not diminish the creative spark in the youngster but is hoping to influence him to use it wisely on the pitch.

“See, if he does that and puts it across and John scores, I don’t mind,” MacCann said.

“I think he did frustrate when he passed it behind the goal.

“I said to him after the game that if he’s going to do that then make sure there is an end product to it.

“I’m not going to take flamboyancy away from any of my players. I’ve dealt with that as a manager with some of the players at Peterborough.

“It gives you that little edge over people.

“If someone is winding you up or going past you all the time, it’s hard.”

Many maverick players in the past have proven difficult to rein in.

But McCann believes he will have no such problems with Wilks during his time at the Keepmoat.

“Of course it will go in,” McCann said.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job right if it didn’t

“He needs to be managed, that’s why he’s here.

“I said this when he first signed,

“He needs to be managed on and off the pitch. He needs to be spoken to.

“He needs to see what he’s doing and improving.

“I think we’re fortunate to have got him here.”