‘He was trying to unite the town’ – journalist talks the impact of new Doncaster Rovers boss Richie Wellens at Swindon Town
Richie Wellens will look to have an impact on the community in Doncaster after becoming Rovers boss.
That is the verdict of Swindon Town writer Jonathan Leighfield who said the 41-year-old made a big impression beyond the confines of the County Ground during his time there.
Wellens guided Swindon to the League Two title last season, transforming the fortunes of a club that was struggling on his arrival midway through the previous campaign.
“The effect he had down here wasn’t only as a manager,” Leighfield said.
“He went out into the community and tried to engage the town.
“That is something that people really appreciated down here.
“It’s all well and good turning the club’s fortunes around and trying to win football matches, but he went out to schools, was doing sessions with young kids.
“It was one thing people really remembered about him, aside from having a successful team.
“He was trying to unite the town, which was nice to see.”
Leighfield believes Rovers supporters can expect an attacking style of football from Wellens, who prioritised goalscoring over defensive resilience during his time at the County Ground.
Swindon scored the second most goals in League Two last season before competition was curtailed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s strange to describe what his side was like on the pitch,” Leighfield said.
“He never seemed to get the hang of the defensive side of things but I do think he’s quite green and he’s learning how to balance the two sides of the game.
“He was always very much about scoring goals, being attacking.
“He always used to say that he set the team up in a certain way that was about passing but not for passing’s sake and trying to get the ball into the final third.
“I think he felt his job was to get the ball to the right players in the final third and let them do what they do best.
“It works pretty well, nine times out of ten.”
Wellens departed Swindon last November to take over at ambitious League Two side Salford City but was sacked after only 30 games in charge.
Leighfield said, while understandable, his departure left a sour taste in the mouth of some supporters.
“When he did leave, it was a weird time because people felt the Salford job made sense to him because it was near to his family and it was a club with a lot of money and ambition,” he said.
“But then he said it wasn’t about spending time with his family and it felt a little bit like a kick in the teeth.
“It split opinion the way that he left but I don’t think people could fault him for leaving.
“And then it seemed ridiculous Salford didn’t give him the time to make it work, because he had shown here what he could do.”
Swindon - relegated back to League Two this term - are currently searching for a new manager following the departure of John Sheridan.
And Leighfield said plenty of supporters had hoped for a return of Wellens to the hotseat.
“There are a lot of problems at Swindon now but if he was still here you wouldn’t have to worry about him because he’s a good young manager,” he said.
“Doncaster have got him and I feel like they will do well next year.
“It depends on the recruitment I suppose but I’d be surprised if they didn’t get in the play-offs at least.”