The Inquest: Noisy’s silence is deafening

Sean O'Driscoll
Sean O'Driscoll

LIVING up to his reputation as one of football’s quiet men, Sean O’Driscoll has remained stony silent during Doncaster’s demotion to League One.

Since a bland statement was issued by the League Manager’s Association in January, O’Driscoll has kept a dignified lid on his shock departure seven games into a turbulent season.

There has been no ranting or raving in the press - that was never Sean’s style anyway.

But bubbling beneath the surface, O’Driscoll is hurting just as much as everyone else at Rovers’ sad exit from the Championship.

He might have ended the season as Nottingham Forest’s first team coach, playing a major role in reviving the struggling Reds.

But Doncaster Rovers, where he enjoyed almost unparalleled success, remains stuck on his conscience.

When the two sides met at the City Ground in March, the sight of O’Driscoll perched on the half-way line was one of the most bizarre images of a surreal season.

Metaphorically - and also literally - he had a foot in both camps.

That is because everywhere O’Driscoll goes, the incredible story of Doncaster Rovers follows him.

Everything O’Driscoll does, the proverbial monkey on his back just refuses to go away.

When Reading confirmed promotion to the Premier League with victory over Forest at the Madejski Stadium, Brian McDermott apparently had no interest in blowing his own trumpet over a post match glass of wine with the Forest contingent.

Instead he wanted to talk to O’Driscoll about Doncaster.

McDermott wanted to know exactly what had gone on - and what was going on - at a club whose fairy tale climb up the Football League had come to a shuddering halt.

Inside football circles there is genuine intrigue as to why a club that had become a blueprint for success underwent such a radical shift in personnel and policy.

That intrigue still lingers among Rovers fans; a clear indication of the legacy O’Driscoll left behind.

Seven months on from the September day that shook Doncaster Rovers, mystery and speculation still surrounds O’Driscoll’s sudden departure.

John Ryan had publically backed his manager in this very newspaper the day before he was fired.

Ryan, and only a handful of backroom people involved in the decision, will probably be the only ones to ever know the truth about how and why it happened.

Seven months down the line and you might expect O’Driscoll and Doncaster to have moved on. But neither have.

Every reference in the media to Rovers’ “losing mentality” - and there have been several since September - is like a dagger through O’Driscoll’s heart.

The fact is Doncaster overachieved to reach the Championship.

O’Driscoll’s almost miraculous methods, and the cultured style his team displayed on and off the pitch, boosted Doncaster’s reputation like never before during the club’s 133-year history.

His achievements should not be forgotten.

He helped deliver the impossible dream and then ultimately became a victim of his own success.

O’Driscoll is said to have admitted to Ryan that he was struggling for a solution as an ageing and injury prone squad limped from one defeat to another during his South Yorkshire swan song.

But what O’Driscoll was actually struggling to come to terms with was the club’s apparent lack of a long term plan.

Money was too tight to mention, yet the likes of Martin Woods and James Coppinger were handed contract extensions at almost the same time as a £3.25m bid from Southampton for Billy Sharp was rejected.

The Brummie wanted Doncaster to become a production line for talented youngsters who would eventually be sold for a big profit.

He wanted to stabilise the long term future of the club and recommended Rovers would have to be a selling club in order to do that.

But what the board could not accept was his inference that stability might come at a cost - relegation to League One.

O’Driscoll left his position at Forest last week, left to mull over the uncertainty of his own future and a rather acrimonious end to an otherwise memorable five-year tenure at Doncaster.

For O’Driscoll, it is time to put Rovers behind him.

Likewise Rovers must consign the last 16 months to the record books and make a fresh start.

The irony is that Rovers must also spend this summer implementing O’Driscoll’s plan.

Most ex-managers would be queuing up to say “I told you so”.

O’Driscoll, however, is more likely to remain silent.