Honest Richie Wellens addresses his last spell at Doncaster Rovers and why he was so determined to return
His last departure from Doncaster Rovers was not particularly smooth but Richie Wellens insists there was no apprehension as he mounted his bid to return to the club.
Wellens saw his second spell as a Rovers player end in January 2016 when he moved to Shrewsbury Town on a free transfer, bringing to an end a frustrating period personally.
The 41-year-old admits he was struggling to cope with time catching up with him as a player, particularly after then-Rovers boss Darren Ferguson made it clear he wanted Wellens to move on.
It was a period he addressed with brutal honesty when he met with chairman David Blunt and chief executive Gavin Baldwin for his first interview in his quest to become Rovers’ new boss.
And he spoke openly with the Free Press when meeting for the first time after landing the job.
“When I left the club the first time it was my decision because obviously the financial rewards of going to Leicester, I couldn’t really turn down,” Wellens said.
“The second time was not really me leaving the club. Darren Ferguson pulled myself and James Coppinger aside and explained that he couldn’t have us both in the team.
“We sat down in Darren’s office, which strangely enough is now my office - revisiting that was a strange experience.
“He was very honest with us. He said “Rich, James, I can’t have both of you in the club. I want an energetic, front foot team that plays aggressive football and one of you is 36 and the other is 37.’
“Straight away I said ‘Darren, I want to thank you for your honesty. But I have to admit that James is fitter than me, he’ll play for longer than me.’
“I was starting to get to the stage where I was getting frustrated because my body was packing in. I couldn’t perform to a level consistently, day in, day out, to what Doncaster Rovers fans expected of me.
“I said to Darren to keep James and I’d be the one that leaves.
“That for me was pretty embarrassing because I was admitting that I wasn’t good enough to play for the club any more.”
The public story at the time was that Wellens had a desire to move to a club closer to his Greater Manchester home, raising a few eyebrows when he joined Shrewsbury which was a more difficult journey for him each day.
“I wasn’t going to come out of the office and say to the media that I’m not good enough any more,” he said.
“So I said it’s an opportunity for me to get home, closer to the family.
“But I ended up going to Shrewsbury which was further away!
“It was a difficult situation I was put in but I do think for the long term benefit of the club it was better that I moved away.
“I was slowing the team down because I wanted to play my style of football. When full backs were bombing on I wanted them to slow down and come out to me because I couldn’t cover the ground any more.
“I wasn’t as dynamic and couldn’t cover the ground that I once did.
“You imagine how frustrated and embarrassed I was at the time. I apologise for that. It wasn’t that I wanted to get closer to my family, it was because I wasn’t good enough to play.”
As he sat down with Baldwin and Blunt, and latterly owner Terry Bramall, Wellens is said to have spoken with passion about his desire to manage the club.
Board members have told the Free Press he gave the impression he would crawl from Manchester, and over hot coals too, to get the job.
Having started managerial life in varying degrees of trying circumstances, Wellens said the attraction of Rovers as his next challenge was the solid foundations the club have which will give him the chance to build it up in his own image.
“It was the stability of the club,” he said.
“You hear loads of stories coming out of clubs. You only have to look at Derby or Sheffield Wednesday and the troubles they have found themselves in. All the other clubs where no one is pulling in the same direction or on the same page.
“There are never any stories like that that come out of Doncaster Rovers.
“I’ve been a manager for three or four years and I’ve managed clubs that have been in disarray when I’ve arrived. I’ve managed during a foreign takeover.
“But I’ve only ever had one pre-season at a club as manager and one opportunity to build and that went really well.
“I think the opportunity to build something here was the biggest stand-out for me.
“In the first interview I met David and Gavin and I came out of it feeling really good. They made me feel really comfortable and I just knew that I wanted the job.
“When I know people are pulling in the same direction and I have the freedom to express myself, I think I can be a very good manager.
“What I haven’t dealt with well in the past is when owners, chairman are telling me who to play and things like that.
“I won’t have to deal with that here and the people here have given me every confidence that I can build something.
“I honestly can’t wait to get started.”