Dressing room divide ‘was like a cancer through the club’ - John Oster

John Oster
John Oster

John Oster has described the divide in the Doncaster Rovers dressing room under Dean Saunders as “a cancer through the club”.

In an extraordinary interview, the 39-year-old says the team dynamic at Rovers during the infamous ‘experiment’ was the worst he witnessed during his 21-year playing career.

Oster, who made 119 appearances for Doncaster between 2009 and 2012, also made a startling revelation about Habib Beye - one of several foreign players to join the club as part of a link-up with agent Willie McKay - claiming the Frenchman flew in on weekends just for games and did not train with the team during the week.

Speaking on the Wise Men Say podcast - a show dedicated to Sunderland, another of Oster’s former clubs - the former Wales international was asked if he had ever been part of a dressing room in which a certain core of players clearly did not care and another group of players did care.

“Yes, and it was at Doncaster,” he replied.

“Dean Saunders was the manager and we had Chimbonda, El Hadji Diouf, Habib Beye, Ilunga - actually he was all right, he was one of the good guys actually - and a few more that you’ve probably never heard of. One from Blackburn etc etc.

“So Habib Beye, I think Newcastle released him and he was still on something stupid like £40,000 a week at Newcastle.

“He was living in France at the time and he basically flew over on a Friday, stayed over Friday night, played a game on the Saturday and flew back and we never saw him again until the next Friday.

“Everyone was thinking ‘what’s going on?’

“But then after every single game there was just argument after argument, blaming this, that and the other.

“Dean Saunders would have a go at the English lads and never say anything to people like Dioufy, who is walking round like he thinks he runs the place.

“It was ten times worse than the dressing room we had at Sunderland because I don’t think within the dressing room [at Sunderland] they hate each other, whereas [at Doncaster] we had hate towards each other.

“It was mental. It was a lot worse than I’d say Sunderland’s dressing room is [now].

“It was almost like an ‘us and them’,” he added.

“But the manager sort of created it off his own back because he treated them differently to us.

“They would turn in late and Chimbonda, he’d be injured and he’d just leave the physios [who would say] ‘come and see me this afternoon’ and he’d just go and have a shower and just leave and no one would say anything,

“They just did what they wanted and we were all thinking ‘so we have to abide by all the rules and then they just walk around doing what they want?’

“Like I say it was an ‘us and them’ scenario.

“It was like a cancer through the club really.”

He continued: “After the games there was countless finger pointing. The odd one, now and again, it nearly came to fisticuffs.

“It was pretty bad.

“That was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in a dressing room.

“They [the foreign lads] weren’t exactly workaholics either.

“Dioufy obviously had ability and he’d do some great stuff but then if the chips were down you just didn’t want to be counting on them. That was the problem.”

Saunders was appointed as Sean O’Driscoll’s successor but could not prevent relegation from the Championship in 2012.

Oster retired in 2015 after a spell at Gateshead. He is the second player in a matter of weeks to lift the lid on the 2011/12 season after Chris Brown said “there was nearly fights in the changing room after every game” in his new podcast.