The Inquest: Saunders - a man shackled by past and present

FREE TO RULE: Dean Saunders now has the chance to prove his worth without outside influences.
FREE TO RULE: Dean Saunders now has the chance to prove his worth without outside influences.

IN purely black and white terms, Dean Saunders failed his primary objective.

Rovers suffered relegation, the very situation Saunders was tasked with attempting to avoid when he made his whirlwind arrival last September.

But there has yet to be any major backlash against him for the part he has played in this campaign.

The consensus from the majority of supporters who have corresponded with the Free Press suggests there is a willingness to give Saunders the chance to make amends.

Saunders is a likeable man, one who has demonstrated a healthy degree of honesty during his time with the club.

He knows what to say and when to say it and that helped to stoke the belief Rovers could survive.

Following in Sean O’Driscoll’s footsteps was never going to be an easy job for anyone.

O’Driscoll may have only achieved one point in seven games in his time with Rovers during the 2011/12 season, but what he did in his five years beforehand made him difficult to replace.

O’Driscoll verged on being a cult leader, his followers being the players who produced his vision out on the pitch.

Those who were successful in the red and white bought wholesale into it.

It meant there would likely be a hangover when O’Driscoll was no longer there, particularly should his departure come abruptly.

Add to this the introduction of a host of new faces, all with personalities hardly conducive with the ‘Rovers Way.’

The extent to which Saunders was complicit in the McKay experiment is unlikely to ever be revealed.

But Saunders’ words at times have suggested he may have not have been quite as full a willing partner as many have speculated.

He has spoken of not having his own team and he has given the impression he would love the chance for a clean slate.

However, the uncommited manner in which he dealt with the allegations surrounding El Hadji Diouf and a Bournemouth nightclub did little to disuade the fears the ‘McKay players’ in his squad were untouchable.

Relegation has meant Saunders will be rid of the experiment monkey on his back while the financial situation suggests he will likely get a clean slate with several of the few players still in contract likely to be moved on.

Saunders began to look to the future as soon as all hope was lost.

He ditched almost all the McKay signings and handed opportunities to those there was a realistic chance of keeping hold of and those who resemble the type of players he will be recruiting.

His teams may not have the crystal clear style of those of his predecessor but there have been positive signs on the tactical front.

A new formation was deployed with Sam Hird sat in front of the defence which gave Rovers a much more solid base to build upon.

He has given a chance to James Husband, backing up his assertions that he wants a clear route for youngsters into the first team and it would not be a surprise to see the teenage left back as a regular starter next term.

And at times this season, Rovers have been thrilling on the counter-attack, troubling the likes of West Ham where the lack of a ruthless front man was the main reason why wins did not come.

He could do little about the forward line but he did fail to sort out the defensive issues which left Rovers woefully exposed at set-pieces.

The job is not going to get a lot easier for Saunders, particularly with the financial straight-jacket he is now in

But he is, for the first time since taking the job, his own man.

And he must now prove he is the right man.