The Verdict by Paul Goodwin

New Rovers Manager Dean Saunders during a press conference.  Picture: Andrew Roe
New Rovers Manager Dean Saunders during a press conference. Picture: Andrew Roe

THE foundations of Dean Saunders’ successful start have been based on good honest graft - but now is when the hard work really starts.

Rovers’ gritty performance at Peterborough a fortnight ago epitomised that of a team with a serious work ethic at its core.

Workaholic Saunders won’t have it any other way.

And collectively the squad is working its socks off to impress the new boss - as the players go the extra mile to try catch the manager’s eye and earn a starting berth.

To put Saunders’ unbeaten start simply down to ‘new manager syndrome’ would be unfair on the work that Deano has done since his arrival.

He’s also made one or two very astute and bold substitutions - early enough in the game for the replacement to have an impact.

But when a side that had simply forgotten how to win nails seven points from a possible nine, it has to be down, at least in part, to the arrival of new ideas and a new voice in the dressing room.

There’s a new impetus at Rovers.

It’s very much a new beginning - no longer are Doncaster in the doldrums.

The hardest thing is now prolonging that honeymoon period, and Saunders could have done without an international break after the euphoria of London Road.

Fans and players alike were buzzing after Rovers’ first away win for six months and it would have been nice to keep that momentum going.

But what better way of reigniting this exciting new era than getting one over rivals Leeds United in front of the television cameras tomorrow night?

Victory in the derby would just about top off a perfect start for Saunders.

There’s a certain irony that Rovers face their West Yorkshire foes at a time when the whole country seems to have got completely the wrong impression about what’s really going on at Doncaster.

Never has there been such a buzz around this club.

Never has there been such an interest from the national media than over the last few weeks, as Rovers continue to be linked with an array of high-profile players.

But unlike Leeds, who went from boom to bust in spectacular style, Doncaster are not about to go down the road of throwing money around like there’s no tomorrow.

John Ryan is not about to do anything that puts the future of this club - of his club - at any sort of risk.

So any talk about Rovers splashing out millions is completely wide of the mark.

To date Pascal Chimbonda and Herita Ilunga are the only new arrivals - and their short-term deals are hardly breaking the bank.

Their arrivals add some much-needed competition for places in the back four - and it’s very much a case of building from the back for Saunders.

His short time at the club has seen a notable shift in the players’ mindsets.

The phrase ‘if in doubt, kick it out’ springs to mind.

It’s a no-nonsense approach, a back-to-basics ethos, which seems to have galvanised the squad and got them functioning as a unit again - and it could make for a very hard-fought derby tomorrow night.

Leeds, and a nationwide television audience, will see a very different type of Doncaster to the pretty passing team developed by Sean O’Driscoll.

Saunders’ side will be more robust than the team that lost to Leeds in the Carling Cup in August - and the visitors’ somewhat shaky rearguard can expect to be kept busy by Billy Sharp and Jon Parkin.

Rovers won’t refrain from getting the ball in the mix and getting in where it hurts, so expect a full-blooded White Rose affair.

If they can find the right balance between the short and long stuff then they have everything in their armoury to start moving up the Championship table and away from danger.

Two tough games this week - but if Rovers put the work in they’ll get their rewards.


Rovers 2 Leeds 1

Blackpool 1 Rovers 1