FAN PANEL: Doncaster Rovers supporters look back on 2020 for the club
Welcome to the first edition of our new Doncaster Rovers Fan Panel.
Each week, a rotating cast of Rovers fans will be giving their views on the most recent performances or big issues.
And it is a bumper one to kick off with as our contributors look back on an eventful 2020 for the club.
It has been a strange year. A global pandemic and James Coppinger announcing his final season in a Rovers shirt are two things we never thought would happen.
In my opinion, 2020 on a whole came down to consistency.
A run of wins followed by a spell of games without a win was frustrating however things have started to click as 2020 comes to a close, while we move into 2021 I’m hopeful that the form we find ourselves currently in continues.
Despite not being everyone’s preferred direction, the calibre of loan signings we have made this year has continued into the current season.
The quality shown by Josh Sims, Matt Smith and Taylor Richards (albeit who is still a little raw) has been thoroughly enjoyable to watch.
With four wins against top seven sides shows we can compete going into 2021, however to stay competing with that top seven we need to be picking up wins against the mid table sides.
Frustrating losses to Crewe and Plymouth this year could have hindered our push for the top however the close knit spirit of this squad shows that we should have all the ability to be up there at the end of the season.
It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a year like no other.
Having enjoyed perhaps the most financially stable and successful 20 years in the club’s history, I would have thought you were quite insane if you said to me 12 months ago that the number one aim would be to get through 2020 and still have a club to support.
The end of last season was frustrating but Rovers finished in a fair position.
Going into the new season the fear for supporters of all Football League clubs must have been whether it would be possible to remain viable without matchday revenue.
On that front, it’s been pleasing to see the Rovers running several well-subscribed initiatives to bolster the club’s finances.
All that said, we’re not out of the woods yet and if we are going to tie down some of our key players on longer contracts we desperately need to see light at the end of the tunnel for the business.
And those players have been nothing short of fantastic under Darren Moore’s flexible system so far.
Rovers fighting at the top end of the league has been a much-needed positive boon in an otherwise difficult year.
Thus far, the 2020/21 season has gone very well.
Working on a low budget, coupled with the financial uncertainty of the effects of Covid-19, Darren Moore has not only got Doncaster firing on all cylinders, but also seems to have put the problems of inconsistency behind them, now regularly scoring against defensive teams and securing tough results.
Performing wildly beyond the expectations of the wider media and many Rovers fans, the team have put a smile on the faces of fans in these trying times, providing a glimmer of hope in an ever dimming world.
At the end of the day, contrasting with the earlier quarter of the season, Rovers are now getting results, even when playing poorly, and where they would've previously dominated games, yet not come away with the desired results, they are getting the results to match the performances.
For someone who was taken to their first away game in a pushchair, I hated life without football.
Me and my Dad sat watching mind-numbing Bundesliga ties, lamenting over how we missed talking about Rovers, speculating about transfers and hanging on Darren Moore’s every word on a Thursday afternoon.
This was even more gut-wrenching because we had come into great form before last season ended.
Loans work: Sims, John-Jules, Smith and Richards are all phenomenal acquisitions and their presence on the pitch renders me bewildered that they want to play for us.
Any doubt I had about the long-term benefits of a reliance on developing top-flight players was squashed when we signed Lokilo and John in the summer.
I haven’t watched many games this season where we haven’t been the better team, and more often than not the performances where we fell short of the mark we still managed to get points from.
Reminiscent of the 2012-13 season where we ground out wins from below average performances… and I don’t want to tempt fate but look at what happened then.
Butler is playing like a 25 year old, Whiteman is the best midfielder since the O’Driscoll era and the back four could get into most Championship sides.
This year has been one of mixed fortune for Doncaster Rovers.
On the pitch, Darren Moore has got his side playing scintillating football, boasting a 58% win percentage for the whole of 2020.
Off the field, the club have had to combat the devastating financial impact Covid-19 has had on them.
I believed Rovers would finish strongly in the 2019-20 league campaign. They had developed a more consistent run of positive results, something that had eluded Rovers during the latter part of 2019.
The abandonment of the 2019-20 Sky Bet League One season came as no great surprise to many fans but certainly left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Seeing Rovers miss out on the play-off positions due to the points per game ruling was a cruel reality to accept at the time.
Now, with the 2020-21 season well and truly underway and with the exciting additions that have been made, I believe Rovers have, so far, established themselves as one of the leagues stronger sides.
Rovers ability to secure emphatic wins against top opposition and goals coming from all over the squad, means I believe there could be a lot to look forward to for 2021
Moore of the same please!
It would be fair to say that 2020 presented Doncaster Rovers with a unique set of challenges but amid the chaos of the pandemic, an impressive calm has emerged thanks to Darren Moore and Jamie Smith.
Rovers went into the year with progress best described as steady to that point after the heartbreaking play-off defeat at Charlton.
However, once Moore had benefited from the January transfer window it was clear that this team - now his team - was upwardly mobile.
There may have been the best part of six months between facing Milton Keynes Dons in two different seasons but Donny picked up where they left off remarkably quickly.
Tight at the back, slick in possession and threatening on the counter with the outstanding Ben Whiteman pulling the strings.
Moore’s Doncaster have won 25 of their 51 league games after the 3-1 success at Burton, and of the 14 setbacks, 13 have been by one goal.
In short Rovers are competitive in draw and defeat and often clinical in victory.
The team is in Moore’s playing mould - one goal conceded per game on average - but easy on the eye.
It’s a combination that can yield long term success here.
The year for me can be summed up by the recent Blackpool game - “typical Rovers”.
At times, this team is unplayable, at others we lose focus and create our own problems.
Such is League One football.
With the challenges faced off the field this year, it is hard to have any real cause to moan.
Complaints about investment or contracts are hard to support when the club faced numerous redundancies in the summer.
Praise must be given for retaining captain (Marvel) Whiteman when the urge to accept incoming money must have been higher than previous seasons.
Darren Moore has added significant quality to his squad with John-Jules, Smith and the very impressive Sims, all showing their pedigree above this division.
Moore has also grown our own talent with Halliday, James and Gomes all developing significantly under his management.
There is a long way to go to finish off the start we have made in 2020, but this team has the quality to return to the Championship come May.
The COVID19 pandemic brought the country to a halt right as the Rovers were just getting going after a turbulent previous summer.
Early 2020 showed signs of what Darren Moore was looking to do and the long break came at the wrong time.
The summer was uncertain given financial implications. That said, I was impressed with the transfer window and despite what some think about the loan strategy this year it made sense and let’s face it, it works at this level.
A case of resetting then. At the start of the season the period of time not playing was evident.
This brought out about inconsistency to the early games but what was clear was Darren Moores impetus of sticking to his guns and playing out from the back.
This has been the theme running throughout 2020 and we are finally seeing some reward for that.
Do I expect us to be in the automatic spots come May? Probably not but we are right in and about it.
Given this awful year at least our team is making us smile.
Even the most optimistic Rovers fan surely couldn’t have predicted that we’d be in this position heading into 2021.
Obviously, it’s difficult to assess our year as a whole because of the premature end to last season and the long period without any football, but I honestly don’t think, as fans, we could ask for any more.
The departure of the Watson family in the summer was quite worrying, particularly during a period of uncertainty for football clubs everywhere, but I think the club has done a good job so far of handling the pressure of the pandemic.
Every year there’s concern amongst the fans about our transfer policy and our reliance on the loan market, but I don’t entirely agree.
The majority of signings Darren Moore has made since joining the club have been successful, and let’s not forget that some of our best players in recent years, including Ben Whiteman and Tom Anderson, were initially loan signings.
We seemed to be hitting our stride just as last season finished, and we’ve continued that form into the current campaign.
We’ve very rarely been outplayed, we’re never out of the games and we’re great to watch.
I’m probably one of a few people who feels the start of this season holds some disappointment to it.
I say this with a level head as I didn't expect us to be competing for the title. I was hoping for us to be in and around the play offs.
The reason for disappointment is after such a fast and frantic start to the season we seem to have fizzled out a bit.
I know we're on a good run of form and the table looks positive but we aren't killing games off. We don’t seem in a rush anymore to move forward or look/make that killer pass. There has also been games i.e. Sunderland and Hull where we don’t look up for it.
I feel January may make or break our season.
Get the right personnel in/back, be more aggressive with play. Play on the front foot.
Then based on current positions there's no reason why we can't go on and achieve something this season.
So far my thoughts of this year are positive to say we’ve had plenty of injuries in the squad.
We’ve managed to beat the majority of the top teams we have faced but struggled against the not so favoured teams.
Personally I think that if we want to challenge for promotion we need to get a good run of form going and no silly mistakes, consistent good performances.
It’s unfortunate that it’s likely that we’ve seen the last of Josh Sims. What a player he is and he has a great future ahead of him.
Secondly let’s talk about our defence. We have one of the strongest defences in the league and the CB partnership has been quality but cut short as Joe Wright has been injured, although Andy Butler has been quality since he has come in and he doesn’t look misplaced.
I think we can get promoted this season and at least play offs.