Gavin Baldwin interview: Doncaster Rovers chief executive reflects on Darren Ferguson’s resignation and why Grant McCann was chosen to replace him

Gavin Baldwin
Gavin Baldwin

Deputy head of sport LIAM HODEN sat down with chief executive Gavin Baldwin to discuss all things Doncaster Rovers and Club Doncaster.

In the first of an exclusive multi-part series, we asked him to explain Darren Ferguson’s departure and why Grant McCann was the choice to replace him.

Darren Ferguson

Darren Ferguson

Q: From the club’s perspective, what were the circumstances of Darren Ferguson’s resignation as manager?

GB: “The mechanics of it were that on the Monday evening, at eight o’clock, we received an email with his resignation on it.

“I was in a meeting with Terry [Bramall, owner] at the time. I came out of that meeting and the email was waiting for me.

“That’s how it happened.

Grant McCann. Photo: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Grant McCann. Photo: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“I believe as a club we went into overdrive. Sean [Lockwood], Luke [Thornhill] and myself spent that evening trying to communicate to the fans, reassure the fans.

“I spoke to the board to come up with a plan to recruit the new manager.

“I think, from that point, we dealt with it really well.

“And we’re now in a position where we’ve got Grant [McCann] in as manager who we all totally buy into.

“He’s a great guy and has passion times 1,000 to take this club to where we want it to be.

“Prior to receiving that email, Darren and myself had met with the chairman three times and the topics were communication, performance and budget.

“The budget was clarified as being the same as or more than last year.

“And the other topics were performance and we spoke about whether we were happy with 15th place. But they were good conversations.

“Were we happy about losing points after 90 minutes - those sorts of conversations.

“On budget, in my head, we were assured really early that the budget would not be less than, could be more than.

“So that was a sigh of relief straight away. That’s gone away.

“And then we focused on performance.

“The meetings we had appeared to be really, really positive.

“I can’t say genuinely why Darren resigned. That is a question for Darren.

“I can say that there were conversations on-going that appeared positive.

“But if I was to speculate why he left, it would be unfair because I would be speaking on behalf of Darren.

“I don’t know.

“But from the point of receiving that email, I’ve not received any more communications from him.”

Q: Was there any embarrassment in Darren Ferguson’s resignation?

GB: “It was unfortunate rather than embarrassing.

“I, personally, think that everyone should value the work that Darren, and Gavin [Strachan, former assistant manager] did.

“The Academy is a completely different place and Darren bought into that massively.

“The support staff, he bought into massively. The facilities improved significantly and we’d got promoted and stayed there which was essentially headlining ‘let’s stay there.’ That was the main priority.

“With Darren, you could always see through his coaching and when you were at the training ground, there was always a plan and it was a plan to improve.

“We bought into what he was seeking to achieve.

“It was more frustrating.

“The timing wasn’t brilliant. But to stress, that was not anyone’s fault.

“He’d had personal issues that he’d had to deal with.

“The timing was unfortunate but genuinely no one’s fault and I think we dealt with it very well.

“Again, genuinely I hope Darren does well.

“Gavin Strachan helped us throughout the process of recruiting the next manager. I’m meeting him for a coffee this week.

“The process with Gavin was brilliant. As soon as it happened he said ‘I’ll step up, I’ll organise training, I’ll organise pre-season, I’ll help with the recruitment.’

“He came and met with the chairman. We had open conversations about his future which he said he’d like to keep open because it’s always awkward for an assistant with a new manager coming in.

“And we discussed what the options were for him, we said we’d keep it open and let him make his mind up. The only thing we asked was that he made his mind up before we actually announced the new manager so it was a seamless process because then the new manager could bring his own guy in.

“Gavin couldn’t have been better and it was done with a really nice letter to the club.

“We’re keeping our relationship going because he’s a top coach.”

Q: Do you then reflect quite positively on Darren’s time in charge?

GB: “Yes. We didn’t want him to leave. And, I’d describe it as unfortunate rather than embarrassing.”

Q: Why was Grant McCann the choice as new manager?

GB: “Enthusiasm, passion, vision, philosophy, the bloke.

“And a track record. I know it was only a short time at Peterborough but a win percentage of 40 per cent is really reassuring.

“We took references from players, from Peterborough and they could not have been better.

“And the emotional side of it, his interview was unbelievable.

“He left that room and I felt like I could play for England.

“You can imagine the dressing room and the players warming to him. It was incredible.

“And he wanted this job. It was so obvious that he wanted it.

“But it was also with all this passion comes a real thoughtful consideration.

“He’d taken the time to watch every game from last season on the WyScout system.

“It was there that he came up with the analysis such as that when we win the ball back, only eight per cent of those result in a shot.

“That is the lowest in the league whereas at Peterborough they had the highest in the league.

“He came with some deep thinking and a philosophy of ‘this is the formation I play, I want a right back at right back, a left back at left back and they’re going to play 4-3-3.’

“We bought into it because we want exciting football for the fans and it will be exciting.

“You can see in the training, the intensity of the training, the standards he demands.

“The fact he wanted Cliff Byrne [assistant] as his number two. And he wanted Cliff as his number two. There was no other option - it was ‘go and get him, I need him.’

“There was a clear direction of travel. He knows how he wants to play. He’s got a discipline that instills confidence. He’s got a track record.

“Everyone we spoke to said what a guy but what a coach.

“And then the passion he displayed in wanting to manage Doncaster Rovers was quite humbling.

“Essentially, he was the full package and it’s a really good fit in my opinion.

“I’m hoping the fans we’ve met so far, maybe they don’t agree with everything he’s saying but they have great confidence in him and are totally understanding what he’s saying.

“Therefore they’re buying into the vision he’s bringing with him.

“He was a stand-out candidate.”

Q: Since Grant McCann’s arrival both Gavin Strachan and Russ Wilcox have left. What happened with the suggestion the new manager would have to work with existing backroom staff?

GB: “To be fair to Grant, we were keen to keep backroom staff and we have kept the majority of them.

“Grant would have willingly worked with Gavin. He knew him from his Peterborough days.

“But Gavin made the decision to leave and when he did there was only one person Grant wanted and that was Cliff Byrne.

“As regards to the scouting, what Grant, with the position that we’re in of having to recruit late in pre-season, he wanted someone there that knows the type of player he wants there immediately.

“And he wants someone who watches a game with his eyes.

“Therefore, those are the only two changes that have been made.

“The rest of the backroom staff, all the Academy staff, the fitness staff, the analyst, the physio - is absolutely the same which is what we strived for.

“Gavin made the decision about the assistant job and Grant did want a scout that had his eyes straight away to hit the ground running and we supported him with that.

“Again, our philosophy was to keep the backroom staff and we would say largely that has been achieved.

“That is something we will continue because just because a manager leaves, it doesn’t mean a physio is no good or the analyst is no good.

“Therefore we want continuity. Grant has worked with us on that continuity.”