Opinion: Why Doncaster Rovers face a tough task repeating last season's play-off exploits

Darren Moore has a tough act to follow at Doncaster Rovers.

By Paul Goodwin
Tuesday, 30 July, 2019, 11:59
Darren Moore

He is a fantastic appointment, a great man, and someone who will proudly embody the club’s community ethos.

But he is not a magician.

And what he really needs is some patience and perspective from anyone expecting a repeat of last season’s rollercoaster ride to the play-offs.

Moore has stopped short of making any outlandish predictions or, unlike his predecessor, setting any lofty targets.

He is someone who keeps his cards close to his chest. He doesn’t give much away. He’s unlikely to make sweeping statements.

But the reality is that Rovers, following another summer of change, are in the process of rebuilding.

At the time of writing, they haven’t got the firm footing, the numbers or the experience they had this time last year.

And the uncertainty surrounding star man John Marquis has certainly not made their preparations any easier.

Unsurprising then that Moore has attempted to somewhat downplay expectations.

The target may be the top six but it is hard to argue with anyone who suggests that Rovers appear to have regressed this summer, while the likes of Peterborough, Fleetwood and Coventry look stronger on paper.

James Coppinger’s comments before Moore was appointed were quite telling. “I don't think [the next manager] will be someone who will come in and try to get success really quickly,” he said. "It might happen but I feel like it will almost be a question of if we can build it over a period of time with the players that we've got.”

Whatever your opinion of Grant McCann, his positive brand of football, confident mindset and clever recruitment notably raised the bar at Rovers.

But Moore has got his work cut out repeating last season’s dice with the play-offs.

When McCann arrived at the Keepmoat Stadium there were solid foundations in place.

Darren Ferguson had left behind a squad with a nice blend of youth and experience. The likes of Ben Whiteman and Joe Wright had clearly benefited from a season of consolidation. And, crucially, there was strong team bond. Team spirit carried Rovers a long way.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Expectations - at least among supporters - were still relatively low.

Now it’s almost the opposite which is true.

The foundations are not as strong.

How this squad copes without some key members of what became an influential senior core – most notably Andy Butler and Tommy Rowe – will be interesting to see.

But the expectation of a large section of supporters will be that Rovers build on what they did last season and, at the minimum, challenge for a top six spot.

Whether that marries up with the bigger picture at the club – and is indeed possible with such a small senior squad – remains to be seen.

At the time of writing Rovers are yet to make a signing which really screams out at you as a marker of a club intent on Championship football.

Brad Halliday and Reece James both look like solid additions, Madger Gomes could be a surprise package, Seny Dieng made a good first impression against Hull City and Ben Sheaf is a very tidy player.

But the wow-factor provided by Herbie Kane and Mallik Wilks is missing and the competition for places in some key areas is lacking. Take away Marquis's goals and a top six finish looks very optimistic indeed.

Remember McCann talking earlier this summer about wage parity and not being held to ransom? That may be positive spin on Rovers struggling to compete financially for top-end League One performers – the likes of Paul Downing, Paul Coutts, Ellis Harrison, Jack Payne and Tariq Fosu-Henry all joining possible promotion rivals this summer.

Rovers appear to be keen on loan signings again and they are arguably over-relying on their youth players for back-up.

The board deserve huge credit for landing Moore this summer and the club feels united heading into the new campaign. Hope springs eternal.

But to repeat last season’s lofty finish the manager will need further backing.

Unfancied by several EFL pundits, Rovers will also once again need to prove their doubters wrong.