How Gary McSheffrey went from 'reluctant applicant' to winning candidate in race for Doncaster Rovers job

He could easily be painted as the reluctant king, but that would be doing Gary McSheffrey a disservice.

Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 9:35 am
Gary McSheffrey on the training ground at Cantley Park

He may have done his best to suggest otherwise but McSheffrey wanted to be manager of Doncaster Rovers.

He really, really wanted it.

Publicly, the 39-year-old painted a picture of a man more than a little reluctant to take on the job full time. At one stage he said was only submitting an application because the board had asked him to.

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Such comments to the media in fact led to a member of the club’s hierarchy visiting with McSheffrey prior to the shortlisting of candidates, to hear whether he did have any interest after all.

What they found was that what he was saying in public was very different to his actual ambitions.

Though this meeting was not scheduled, McSheffrey had already prepared a detailed plan of how he would tackle the key first few weeks of the job, what he would prioritise and how he would approach things.

The member of club management departed Cantley Park thoroughly impressed and, from that point onwards, there was little doubt that McSheffrey was a live candidate in the race.

Another among the decision-makers had already been impressed with what they termed a ‘calming influence’ that the former Coventry City forward had brought to the squad after taking caretaker stewardship in the aftermath of Richie Wellens’ departure.

The manner in which he nurtured the younger, inexperienced members of the group was appreciated as well as the fresh injection of confidence among the players in performances, certainly in the wake of the FA Cup exit at the hands of Mansfield Town.

It meant, in the board’s eyes at least, he was positioned alongside others with much more experience of coaching at senior level, both in top jobs and on staff right up to top flight level.

It is fair to say that the field was not as strong as others from Rovers’ recent managerial searches - nor, given their current standing midway through the season, would it reasonably be expected to be.

‘Household names’ of varying degrees were genuinely present among those who applied for the role, along with a variety of individuals that have consistently managed in the upper levels of English football.

Whenever this Rovers regime hunts for a new manager, the period from applications opening to shortlisting for interviews involves a tremendous amount of research through conversations, with the candidates themselves or their representatives, as well as taking references from others in the game.

And in that process candidates are gradually removed from the race, either by Rovers’ choosing or their own. More lofty names were no longer in contention for a variety of reasons.

Of the others who were interviewed by the board at the start of last week, no candidate had a strong recent record of senior management but instead could point to well-respected spells as coaches.

Ultimately, the board went with what they know and had first hand experience of, having watched McSheffrey’s development since he returned to the club as a coach in 2018.

There is no doubt that it is a big call by those in power, given the lack of experience of the new gaffer and the consequences should the next few months not go right.

But they kept faith with the positive feeling they had about McSheffrey’s suitability.

And McSheffrey himself had no reluctance in taking it on.


In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.