Doncaster Rovers: This is a club that do things right says Stephen Bywater

Stephen Bywater
Stephen Bywater

To say that Stephen Bywater is not a conventional footballer may be somewhat of an understatement.

His high-profile foray into provocative art and dumping a platter of sandwiches over the head of the BBC’s marmite presenter Mark Clemmit in celebrating Sheffield Wednesday’s promotion are just two examples of why the goalkeeper became known as one of the game’s character.

But to dimiss Bywater as merely a figure of fun is to overlook an incredibly passionate, focused and dedicated professional - albeit one who does not do things by the book.

This is a man who arrives at the Keepmoat at 6.30am each morning to begin his personal training routine which includes two hours of yoga. All before regular training begins mid-morning.

That his passion for fitness was embraced by his new club immediately endeared Rovers to him.

“The groundsman opens the stadium up for me at half past six in the morning so I can have a hot bath and do the yoga,” Bywater told the Star. “That is brilliant. That is doing things properly.

“This is a club that does things the right way.

“And clubs that do things the right way are the clubs that have success.

“I’ve been really impressed since I came here. It’s been a great couple of weeks, I love it here and I feel really honoured to be playing for what is a big club.”

Such words could easily come across as an early attempt to win over supporters of the player’s new club. But listening to Bywater speak, you cannot ever imagine him saying something he does not mean.

Though he denies feeling any frustration at having only played 27 games in the two and a half seasons prior to his arrival at the Keepmoat, it is clear to see his switch to Rovers has provided him with a boost.

At 33, he does not have the end of his career in his sights. In fact he is targeting another seven years of football at, least, and feels his passion for yoga can help him achieve that.

He said: “I’d like to play until I’m 45, or at least 40.

“I’ll stick around while ever I’m some use to someone.

“The moment I’m just getting in the way is when I’ll pack it in and go and do something else.

“The yoga started when an instructor came in while I was at Derby under Billy Davies. She gave us all an individual plan and I loved it from the off.

“Doing it properly and with good strength conditioning as well, it makes you have stretchy and strong muscles which is brilliant for a goalkeeper.

“I feel great from it and I’m happy I got into it early. I think it’ll keep me going.

“Lots of the young lads do it now but still not many at my age.”

When Paul Dickov announced Bywater had signed a deal until the end of the season following his release by Millwall, he sent out a warning to Rovers’ defenders.

The new keeper would not hold his tongue during games and ears would be ringing by the final whistle, claimed Dickov - who played alongside Bywater briefly at Derby.

When asked about his vocal nature, the former Rochdale trainee discusses it in predictably straight-forward fashion.

He said: “It’s my office. Whatever goes on in my office is my responsibility.

“Every goalkeeper plays a part in every goal that is scored.

“So I’m going to do whatever is in my power to stop us from conceding a goal. Whether that’s using my big mouth to block the shot or to shout at the defenders, that’s what I’ll do.

“It’s all about helping each other really though.

“They’ve really helped me in my two games so far because I’ve hardly had anything to do.

“So whatever I can do for them, I’ll do.”

As a veteran of 13 clubs and a promotion winner from League One with the Owls in 2012, Bywater has seen enough to be a decent judge of a squad’s merits.

After a fortnight and two games with Rovers - both of which brought clean sheets - he is confident they can mount a promotion push.

But he has warned without consistency, they could easily get lost in the mix of what is an incredibly tight division this season.

He said: “It’s going to be difficult because there’s about 23 teams in the division who are all within a shout of getting into the top six.

“It’s so tight and it’ll be about who can put some consistency together.

“But we’ve got some really good footballers here with a lot of ability.

“The new lad Abdul Razak looks very technically good and very fit but he’s not the only one in the squad.

“There is some real quality at this club and I think we can do well this season.”

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