Our Doncaster Rovers Fan Panel share their views ahead of new League One season

It’s been another summer of major upheaval at Doncaster Rovers so how are the fans feeling ahead of the new season?

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 1:43 pm
New signings Tommy Rowe and Aidan Barlow. Picture by Steve Flynn/AHPIX.com

We got the views of our fan panel ahead of this weekend’s big kick off...

Daniel Nice

It’s natural to get carried away at this time of year - particularly with a new manager at the helm and having fans back in the stadium - but it seems right for Doncaster Rovers to be cautious heading into the campaign.

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Richie Wellens. Picture by Steve Flynn/AHPIX.com

Both chief executive Gavin Baldwin and Richie Wellens have warned that the new era may be a slow burner, and when the powers that be pour cold water at a time the logs are normally thrown on the fire, you know they’re giving an honest assessment.

In some senses, it suits both parties to play things down.

Wellens is not as green as he is cabbage looking; after three fairly short tenures at the start of his managerial career, he may well opt for a quiet revolution.

On the subject of building, if Donny had been playing League One jenga, Darren Ferguson, Grant McCann and Darren Moore all pulled out the piece that held the block together when there appeared no need to do so.

Kyle Knoyle. Picture by Steve Flynn/AHPIX.com

Rovers must be desperate to avoid a Moore 2.0, for whatever you made of his departure, the club is still reeling from the blow.

Andy Butler started well but his side went on to resemble a naïve horse at Cheltenham; struggling painfully up the hill, being passed by anyone that could muster a walking pace. Had it been the Gold Cup our horse would have been pulled up long before the finishing line.

As it was, the team limped to the bitter end and a period of transition, following the departure of no fewer than 16 players including Butler himself, now seems unavoidable.

Quality of recruitment is there and a pre-season midfield triumvirate of Ben Close, Matt Smith and Louis Reed bodes well for the style of football that Wellens wants to play.

Matt Smith. Picture by Steve Flynn/AHPIX.com

But quantity is another matter; Wellens is almost at the spending limit with only half of the outgoing numbers coming in as replacements. In short, we're short.

Rovers have yet to secure Reed’s services, look a little shaky at the back and Wellens desperately needs somebody to make the No9 spot their own.

It feels a bit cobbled together and looks like it is held by sticky tape. Maybe that’s inevitable after managerial and player departures and the effects of the pandemic.

So while there is potential, it’s going to need patience. Getting to 50 points has to be our first aim and a top half finish is surely something to be content with.

Ryan Dunphy

We can finally watch live football again! That is really all that matters.

It has been another summer of complete upheaval. Whilst history has shown us that we can never be too confident of keeping a manager for a sustained period, I am cautiously optimistic that we can have long term success under Richie Wellens.

Richie is the man I wanted when we appointed Grant McCann and Richie remained the man I wanted when we employed Darren Moore so I am delighted we have finally gone down this route.

Whilst he is clearly his own man, I genuinely believe that this is the best chance we have had of somewhat replicating what we did under Sean O Driscoll. Clearly, this takes time, patience and loyalty.

As for the squad, the summer started superbly. The signing of Ben Close for me is a stand out, not just for us but a stand out for the whole league. His ability to dictate play with a vast range of passing is imperative for how we intend to play. Further additions of Kyle Knoyle, Tommy Rowe and Ro-Shaun Williams have given me confidence that we will not only play an attractive style but we will be able to dig in and defend when required.

The past few days however, have knocked my confidence slightly, mainly due to injuries but also because we still seem a little light.

Had I written this after the Newcastle game I would have been predicting a play-off position, however, I fear we may fall just short but that is no bad thing, this project will take time.

One thing is for sure, we will be far more entertained that the slow paced dull football endured under the previous manager who will hopefully replicate that at Sheffield Wednesday!

Lizzie Robinson

Before talking football, I feel like it’s really important to acknowledge how monumental it is returning to the Keepmoat Stadium for a league game.

I wrote in March about the impact that football without fans had had on me and those around me and to finally see this huge part of my life go back to normal again makes me giddy.

Getting to see people I’ve not seen in 18 months again, all the familiar faces of practical strangers, witnessing players kick the ball in person for the first time since they signed well over a year ago and of course a chicken balti pie is bound to result in enjoyment no matter what the results this season.

There’s also seemingly a lot to be satisfied with going on at the club.

Richie Wellens has built what is looking like a very solid League One team with strong and experienced foundations.

I’ve spent transfer window after transfer window saying we ought to sign the best League Two players and for that reason I’m most excited about the acquisition of Kyle Knoyle.

Richie also keeps saying all the right things, and doesn’t mince his words which I really respect.

Of course, it’s really important to not get carried away this season.

Injuries in attacking areas, handing a second chance to players who struggled under the previous regime, and the time it takes for a team to begin to gel and the strength of the division makes this season a lot more about rebuilding and consolidation than trophies and accolades.

For me, as long as we have something to play for in the final game I’ll be happy.

Kieran O’Malley

And just like that we have another new season on the horizon and it’s one without James Coppinger.

After how the last two seasons have played out a ‘normal’ season would be welcomed. However that’s just not Doncaster Rovers’ style. Another pre-season full of change, injuries and budget restrictions makes it hard to decide what we will see this term.

Last season needs to be quickly put behind us and forgotten about and, like Richie Wellens said, everyone will be starting on a clean slate. Certain players will be wanting to come out and show what they are made of after last season’s capitulation.

Wellens’ first transfer window has been very impressive. The squad was thin on not just League One experience but professional football experience. The signings that he has made have been impressive.

Tommy Rowe and Ben Close are the standouts and if our loan record over the last few years is anything to go by Tiago Cukur and Matt Smith could also kick on.

At the time of writing we are still short of a back-up goalkeeper and another midfielder who does the nitty gritty. The names of Jacob Butterfield, Louis Reed and Dan Gardner have all been involved throughout pre-season and I’m sure by the end of the window at least one will be added.

I think we will be looking at a mid-table finish with the idea then to kick on next season and give promotion a real good go.

The injuries that have been sustained early in pre-season could mean we will be in for quite a slow start but I firmly believe that once everyone gets going we will see some great football played at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Lee Bucknell

I’d like to start by saying how well Richie Wellens has done with the signings so far.

Even on a tight budget he has managed to pull off some class signings. If I had to choose one more position to add a signing though it would be a goalkeeper. Louis Jones needs someone to compete with to bring the best out of him.

I hope we can start the season positively and that the team gels as seen in selective pre-season friendlies.

My player to watch this season is definitely Matt Smith. He covers every blade of the grass and seems to be in the right place at the right time.

I think we’ll finish around tenth place but if we can keep things consistent and avoid injuries we could reach the play-offs.