Gary McSheffrey on fierce demands, new signings and no sentiment with Doncaster Rovers’ U23 group

Any chat with Gary McSheffrey in his guise as boss of Doncaster Rovers’ development group will reveal a fiercely demanding individual.

By Liam Hoden
Tuesday, 10th March 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th March 2020, 12:30 pm

His young group of players may have won at a canter and played well but he will always pick out at least one area for improvement.

It is a trait that made him the ideal man to oversee the development of the development squad programme that has been initiated this term.

McSheffrey is tasked with forging a group which will include promising young players capable of stepping up to senior level whenever required.

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Gary McSheffrey

The likes of Danny Amos, Max Watters and Shane Blaney have done so this term. But there will need to be more, and certainly on a more consistent basis than in previous years, at the club if the changes are to bear fruit.

Having plenty demanded of them is something the group must get used to. And it is not only McSheffrey that is cracking the whip.

Darren Moore says the U23s should be the hardest working group at the club. And that comes from a manager who relishes the opportunity for hard work at every turn.

McSheffrey says Rovers’ positioning in the footballing pecking order means there is no margin for error for players looking to take the final step towards senior level.

Danny Amos has flourished at first team level in recent weeks.

Shape up or ship out could easily be the mantra.

He believes the penny has dropped for 20-year-old Amos in particular, explaining his ascension to first team starts over the last few weeks.

For those of Amos’ age, McSheffrey says that must be the case because time will not be afforded for the realisation to set in.

“Although we’re classed as an U23 group, if you’re not affecting the first team you’re not going to get to 21 or 22-years-old here,” he told the Free Press.

“We’re not a Cat 1 club with 20 players at each age group.

“This group is about giving that player an extra year or two to affect the first team.

“I think some of the boys now know it’s make or break. They’re getting to 20, 21-years-old and you have to be affecting it.”

While the club is keen to develop homegrown talent, McSheffrey says there can be no room for sentiment over such players.

The 37-year-old is preparing to help in the process of a series of tough decisions over the futures of several players that have come through the system at the club that are reaching the end of their deals.

And only those with a genuine chance of making it into Moore’s plans in the near future will have the opportunity to remain at the club beyond the summer.

“We’re very much into giving our locals and homegrowns an opportunity but at the end of the day they have to be good enough to step up to the plate,” he said.

“If not, you don’t just keep people on sentiment. Not in football, not after what I’ve learned over the last few years.

“You have to be ruthless and professional about your decisions and how you go about it.

“The gaffer gives us all freedom of speech with opinions on players.

“How much am I involved in it? With certain players probably quite a bit.

“But with the age bracket of expecting that you affect the gaffer’s squad, he has to have a serious look at some of the boys that are 19 and 20 and is he going to be in my squad.

“It’s down to him really.”

There will be a new wave of players graduating through the Rovers U18s set up into McSheffrey’s squad over the coming weeks.

But that is not the only competition the current crop of U23s will likely face in their bid for senior football.

McSheffrey believes Rovers must recruit players for the development squad if the group is to consistently provide a range options for first team consideration.

The end goal for the changes to the U23s programme is to ensure Moore has players to call upon when required. Amos is the perfect example of this following the injury to Reece James.

McSheffrey believes it is unrealistic to think a club of Rovers’ stature will have a full team of young players progressing through the age groups together after being recruited as minors.

And for that reason, he insists Rovers will need to sign players with potential that can be developed in the U23s system.

“I think it has to be because realistically, we’re not a club where you’re going to get a group where you think ‘these need three years to be a good team,’” he said.

“You want them to be able to step up and train with the first team regularly and be reliable.

“I don’t think you’re going to get eight or nine that come through together.

“You try to recruit well, you try to bring through the locals that you think are good enough, and then out of that sprinkle of ten you get two or three that you can say ‘there you go gaffer.’

“There’s probably four or five areas where we can recruit for the summer.

“I think if we get our heads together and recruit clever, then hopefully we can give the gaffer one or two serious players to think about for next year.

“It only takes one good one to make the club a good bit of money and then it’s a conveyor belt after that with the structure in place and the players coming through.”