Paul Goodwin: There could be a few more bumps in the road before Doncaster Rovers get back on track

Things can only get better, right?
Keepmoat Stadium. Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty ImagesKeepmoat Stadium. Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Keepmoat Stadium. Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

After the shambolic end to last season you’d certainly like to think so.

But, after a hugely encouraging start to the summer rebuild, Doncaster Rovers head into the new season this weekend on the back of a difficult pre-season.

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Covid in the camp. Tick. Injuries to key players. Tick. A revolving door of trialists. Tick. Down to the bare bones. Tick.

Things can only get better, you say?

For all of the bullishness on display in Richie Wellens’ unmissable, brilliant interviews, you get the sense he is already up against it before a ball has even been kicked.

The slate might have been wiped clean and a new manager and new team offer new hope and a fresh start. I’m excited about watching Wellensball and I particularly like the additions of Ben Close, Tommy Rowe and Matt Smith.

But, personally speaking, I would be lying if I said I was feeling particularly optimistic about the season ahead – and that’s down to more than the obvious issue of squad depth.

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I’m still haunted by the ill-fated Andy Butler era. It’s knocked the stuffing out of me.

And going slightly further back, I’m still perplexed as to why a solid team of seasoned League One operators was allowed to be completely dismantled after Grant McCann came within a whisker of guiding them to the play-off final two years ago.

Rovers have since slipped down the pecking order in League One – a division which now looks more competitive than ever.

There have been mitigating factors, of course, not least a global pandemic and yet another manager since McCann who used the club merely as a springboard.

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But, after Rovers appeared to naively let slip what could be their best chance of winning promotion for a long, long time last season, I’ll need some major convincing that they really do have genuine designs on becoming a sustainable Championship outfit.

This summer’s overdue re-think on transfer policy at least suggests that the penny has dropped about building a squad with a stronger contracted core, a stronger Doncaster identity if you like.

But that rebuild is far from complete and it could take Wellens at least two or three transfer windows to mould a squad which is entirely his own.

It’s a patient approach and one that will require patience from fans because there could be a few more bumps in the road yet before Rovers get themselves back on track.

Things can only get better? Let’s hope so.

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