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A Response to ‘A Letter’

There’s nowt as queer as folk. A week ago as we revelled ina Rovers performance that had Queens Park Rangers chasing shadows (and kicking ankles) I was full of enthusiasm for Doncaster and the current manager. Alas it seems despite playing attractive football at the highest level the club has been in my lifetime Sean O’Driscoll can’t please everyone. Over on the messageboard of the Viking Supporters’ Co-operative website in the wake of Saturday’s result one member posted a thread entitled ‘A Letter’ which I feel needs a response. Firstly, here is the messageboard post in it’s entirety;

Dear S’OD is GOD Brigade,

Open our eyes! I think its time Mr O’Driscoll packed his bags. Controversial I know, but I’ve had enough to be quite honest. I’ve been to Forest, Watford, Newcastle, West Brom, Middlesboro, Sheffield United and Plymouth away and that was the worst performance! We still haven’t won on the road.

I’m not a ‘boo boy’ as such but today the lads didn’t deserve even a round of applause as far as I am concerned. We hit the target twice, one was obviously the goal the other was a blocked shot from Coppinger. Crosses that flash past the six yard box are NOT chances. We never made the ‘keeper work at all. At the end of a 4-1 defeat someone has to take responsibility.

I think its acceptable for a player, or even two, to have an off day but are you telling me its OK for the majority of these primadonnas to stroll around playing fancy passes when we’re 3-0 down away from home? (Copps this is aimed at you sunshine, show some commitment to the cause please. I’ve paid to watch my team which unfortunately has you in it, the least you could do is look interested, even if it is just for 90 minutes per week).

If its not the players fault it must be the manager then. He picks the side, changes a winning team and got the tactics wrong. I’ve got to admit its a pity when the best two available players at the club aren’t ours (Shack and Billy) and the best natural finisher we’ve had is out on loan at Oldham.

JR banged the ‘destination championship’ drum. We subscribed and merrily joined in, lets make a fist of staying here. People will say “look what happened this time last season when we were bottom at Christmas” That is a fair comment however, just what are the chances of repeating that set of results? We don’t have Mills, Wellens and Stock at the moment to save us.

Lets start by getting rid of O’Driscoll letting him take the likes of McDaid, Brooker, Elliott, Smith, Gillet, etc with him. Give a new manager a chance to keep us in the division, try to hold on to Sharp, Shackell and Stock as long as possible because I’m afraid we’re going down at this rate.

Anything from Selhurst Park next week will be a bonus, but what are the chances? Roll on next Tuesday against Wednesday, the losers are in some serious trouble.

Lots of love,

DMnumber4

I have never been able to comprehend the mindset of the average Rovers’ fan and this letter just enforces that point. As stated at the top of the piece, the club is in a higher league position than it has been in half a century and it is a position the club have maintained by playing pure attractive football. We’ve not relied on spoiling tactics, on a direct or ugly approach, we have retained a place in the second tier by out-footballing teams and that fills me with immense pride.

Yet whilst other clubs’ supporters would surely rally round the man at the helm who had delivered this circumstance there seems to be an element of Rovers supporters who just simply wait with knife poised in hand and fingers hovering over the keyboard, keen to be the first to rattle off the ‘I told you so’ messages on the forum. Were we always this reactionary? Whatever happened to patience and nurture? When did football become a matter of convenience and immediacy to so much of our support? It seems there is no middle ground any more as Rovers are either brilliant or awful. For far too many the glass is either empty or full and never passes halfway.

Yes Rovers have not won on the road this season, and yes they were bloody awful on Saturday but what on earth is sacking the manager going to achieve?  Instead of ‘giving a new manager a chance to keep us in this division’ why not afford the present manager a decent opportunity first. At the end of the season I would be happy with finishing anywhere from 21st position upwards. At the moment, despite a frustrating amount of injuries and suspensions to key players we are 18th. That fits my target, and whilst I was disappointed and frustrated by the game at Nottingham I am still able to see the long term picture and believe we are on course.

There is no other manager out there available (or unavailable for that matter), who would have achieved what O’Driscoll has, in keeping Rovers in the Championship, through effective flowing football. No other manager would have been brave enough to play a fluid system with a club like ours. We were always set to be in for a struggle to survive this season, but I would rather we met that struggle with effective football than hoofing it long to the big man. It might work for Bolton or Stoke, but it wouldn’t work for us.

To describe the Rovers squad as prima-donnas seems misplaced given how few ‘stars’ we really possess and how grounded our main players seem to be. O’Driscoll cannot be held accountable for the injuries to McDaid and Brooker and how can they be so readily dismissed when neither has had opportunity to play at this level? The club’s loyalty to these players through their respective injuries could well be to our benefit in the long term in view of the enthusiasm these two have shown for the club in recent interviews. And the dismissal of Gillet seems frankly bizarre as the midfielder has been solid in each of his appearances thus far, and looks a fantastic spot from the manager to bring to Rovers on loan when he was being left out a lower level.

Sean O’Driscoll can see the potential in a player, and not only that but he can see the potential of a player to fit into our system. He has been unlucky to lose Brian Stock, whom the club’s play revolved around but thanks to the clever acquisitions and deployment of Gillet, Quinton Fortune and John Oster this has not hampered us as much as it may have done. Paul Heffernan may be a great finisher, but he is only effective when he is playing regularly and he cannot be afforded games when he is not scoring and the likes of Billy Sharp and Dean Shiels are. In the past O’Driscoll had the luxury of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to get Heffernan firing again, but without that the only obvious solution was to allow him to go out on loan. Letting him link up with Dave Penney at Oldham could be a shrewd move to get him scoring again and reap the benefit in the New Year.

Maybe it is because of the success we have enjoyed in recent years that many Rovers fans seem unable to accept that we are a small fish in a big pond; we are punching above our weight and we simply cannot afford or entice the players that our opponents can. On limited means in this division O’Driscoll has found a way to make us both competitive and enjoyable to watch and I despair for people who cannot see this. Occasionally we will get turned over as we did on Saturday but one heavy defeat does not a relegation make.

The shortest way I can summarise this response is as follows; If I had to choose between relegation from the Championship or losing Sean O’Driscoll as manager I would go for relegation every time. I am not a defeatist, I do not lack ambition, but I genuinely believe that all things considered losing Sean O’Driscoll would hurt this club’s long term fortunes a damn sight more that relegation.

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