Its OK, its safe to come out now. He hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s still here. It was all a horrible media fuelled nightmare, and we were all very foolish for believing the hype. Public Enemy were onto something it seems. Yep, Sean O’Driscoll could have been leading his team out at Old Trafford this weekend, but what fun would that have been? Instead he remains here, with us, and about to finally pitch his Doncaster Rovers side against someone other than themselves in training ground five-a-side snowball fights.
Maybe if there had been more actual football in recent weeks, the press and the fans would not have been so drawn into the will he, won’t he, has he, did he, actually no someone else has, saga of midweek. The sad truth is of course that thanks to postponements against Leicester, Preston and Brentford twice Rovers have now not taken the field since Boxing Day’s disappointing defeat at Coventry’s frankly soulless Ricoh Arena. A chance to get back on track has been long overdue.
Alas finally the chance is here, as Watford amble north for a return of the opening fixture of the season. In the current weather the glorious sunshine of Vicarage Road seems as far removed from normality as James Hayter’s equalising header on that first afternoon of the season. The forward’s impossible looping eighteen-yard nod goalwards earned Rovers a deserved share of the points in a game that gave little indication has to how the next nine months would pan out. The only contentious point of the day was why any team would turn their back on a solid nickname like the Hornets in favour of ‘The Golden Boys’ which makes them sound like an all-male cabaret act.
Last season of course Rovers also drew 1-1 at Vicarage Road thanks to a goal from Steve Booker… Brooks? …Brooker? Something like that anyway, only to be taught a footballing lesson by Tamas Priskin in the Keepmoat Stadium return. Of course by that point Doncaster had effectively guaranteed Championship stability, and so it was a subdued support who noted the Hungarian’s ability to make the Rovers defence look like those yapping toy dogs that just bobble around on the spot ineffectively. It shouldn’t happen like that again. Surely.
Do I even need to bother telling you who is unavailable for this game any more? I think the words ‘Steve Brooker remains sidelined’ have been screenburned onto my laptop monitor now I’ve written them so often. Unsurprisingly he remains unavailable. Adam Lockwood is also still in the medical room with his foot injury, as we assume is Quinton Fortune though its hard to tell as even the media seem to have forgotten he plays for us and he no longer features on their ‘unavailable’ lists.
Martin Woods is back in full training though, however it would be hard to envisage him moving to anything other than a place on the bench if he is to be involved. One man who is likely to be taking the field on a return form injury is Brian Stock. The Rovers captain was last seen in Rovers colours when he limped off at The Hawthorns in September and after being named as a substitute at Coventry on Boxing Day we expect him to come into the side in place of Simon Gillet.
The big news for Watford is that their squad will include striker Heidur Helguson, now in a second loan spell at the club from Queens Park Rangers. The Icelandic striker has recovered from a recent injury and will be expected to start at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Predicted Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, James O’Connor, Jason Shackell, Gareth Roberts; Mark Wilson, John Oster, Brian Stock; Jamie Coppinger, Dean Shiels; Billy Sharp
subs: Ben Smith, Sam Hird, Byron Webster, John Spicer, James Hayter, Lewis Guy, Paul Heffernan
Travelling to the Game
Watford fans setting north for the Keepmoat Stadium this weekend will not have found much helpful information on the official Rovers website, but thankfully there is plenty on Viva Rovers. We even include directions from the train station for those taking their chances with the East Coast Mainline. All this and information on away friendly pubs and where to pick up tickets at the ground can be found by clicking on the ‘Keepmoat Stadium’ tab at the top of the page.
Sadly, Viva Rovers frankly under appreciated pioneering live match twitter feed will only be operating on a second hand basis for this fixture. But, if delayed coverage is your bag then by all means follow @vivarovers on Twitter or keep an eye on the Twitter Updates box on the right hand side of this screen. If you want live commentary then your only option really is to subscribe to the club’s official Rovers Player service, though to soften the blow of shelling out for this it does now come with Paul Mayfield’s enjoyable and usually innuendo based views from the press box. Online you can of course keep an eye on the BBC Live Text service, whilst goal flashes and updates can be seen on BBC’s televised Score Interactive programme. However, be warned this programme does scenes of Garth Crooks which people of sound mind may find intolerable.