Dons: The lads are in for a tough winter - Cooke

New Dons player coach Paul Cooke. Picture: Malcolm Billingham
New Dons player coach Paul Cooke. Picture: Malcolm Billingham

New Dons head coach Paul Cooke hopes to avoid having to give any of his squad a pre-Bonfire Night rocket.

Cooke, also skills coach at Doncaster Knights, is hoping that his players have all buckled down and carried out their personal training programme.

“The players, myself included, have been given a programme in recent weeks and we’ll be testing them when they report back on Monday,” said Cooke.

“I don’t expect any problems but we’ll know if they have put in the necessary work or not and how much extra work they’ve got to do in the next couple of months.

“The players are going to get it tough and that has been made clear to them at a recent meeting.”

Cooke, who will take on the notoriously difficult dual role of player-coach, knows that he has a tough act to follow in his first season in charge of the Keepmoat Stadium club.

Predecessor Tony Miller was named 2013 Championship Coach of the Year after steering a Doncaster side, which included the influential Cooke, to sixth place after being promoted 12 months earlier as Championship One champions.

Cooke has kept the majority of last season’s squad, while adding a few astute signings.

“We’ve tried to keep as much continuity as we can after losing the head coach, which is difficult enough because a lot of the people here have only played under Tony during their time at the club,” he said.

“We’ll mainly be based at Lindholme again, as we have been for the last few years.

“But there may be a few sessions where we swap and change and they’ll be a couple of hill sessions thrown in.

Cooke confirmed that despite veteran conditioner Pete Bell deciding to step down at the end of last season, he will still be a member of the backroom team advising on things such as nutrition.

“Pete’s put his heart and soul into the club,” said Cooke. “It was massively important he remained involved because people of his experience are few and far between.”