Well, of all the players likely to move on from the club for more money and not necessarily brighter things I think its safe to say Gareth Roberts was way down my prediction list. But then again I never envisaged my thoughts on Doncaster Rovers post season movements being most aptly summed up by the lyrics of early 90s Bedfordshire Dance act The Adventures of Stevie V. Its no longer just about the football “It’s like a bad dream, money’s the theme”.
After four years with Doncaster Rovers Gareth Roberts is set to do a ‘Paul Green’, and turn down a new contract to leave the club to receive much more money from another team at the same level. In fact Roberts has gone all out and done ‘the full Paul Green’ which is all of the above en route to Derby County. The thirty-two year old former Welsh international left back has this week agreed a deal to move to Pride Park on July 1st.
Of course I’ve nowt against the players themselves. Like Green, Roberts has been nothing but committed since joining Rovers under Dave Penney in 2006. The Welshman has not only held his position, but kicked on his form as well to become a solid second tier footballer and also club captain. From a player of who many Rovers fans had their doubts coming up to the Championship Roberts was one of the first names on the team sheet come the end of last season. As Sean O’Driscoll himself told the official club website today; “I’ve got nothing but praise for Gareth. Since we walked through the door he has been a first class professional and got better.”
O’Driscoll was noticeably downbeat when talking about Roberts departure, which suggests he at least is carrying on as normal. Obvious jokes about our manager’s demeanour aside, the frustration amongst the supporters is obviously matched by the coaching staff. Quoted on the official club website O’Driscoll said “We have done what we can to keep him, but we are still far away from what he has been offered.” Rovers may be competing on the field, and indeed have beaten Derby County in all four league meetings since the return to the second tier, but what on paper and grass is a move down the division, on a wage slip it’s worth twice as much.
The confirmation of Roberts’ departure came within hours of the news that Jason Shackell had joined Barnsley. Two South Yorkshire football clubs of similar size and stature, but alas the Tykes finances trumped Rovers flowing football. Despite a seemingly positive loan spell for Shackell at the Keepmoat Stadium last season Rovers have been gazumped by the neighbours in terms of wages and alas the centre half will move from Wolverhampton to the wrong end of the county.
“It would be churlish to say that I wasn’t disappointed,” said Sean O’Driscoll speaking to the official club website. “We were a long way off what he had been offered elsewhere although credit to the Chairman we did the best that we could to the extent that in some senses he would have broken the budget really. It just wasn’t possible and we have got a responsibility for the overall well being of the club and I don’t think that you can go beyond the limits that you set… I think that Jason’s heart would have to rule his head for him to stay here.” No disrespect to those mentioned in this piece, but if as a club Rovers are having to put faith in professional footballer’s moral compass then we’re in for a long hard summer.
Having missed out on both the retention of Roberts and the acquisition of Shackell in the course of a week Rovers fans have obviously been restless, a factor not lost on John Ryan, with the chairman himself moving to make a statement on the official club website. He’s a canny man is John Ryan and so was quick to raise morale by focussing on the positives; “The board have given Sean and his team the largest budget that has ever been given to a Rovers manager by a significant amount.”
On the forums this has been met with some scepticism, but then our fan base is predominantly Yorkshire folk so I guess that’s not suprising. Still though it concerns us here at Viva Towers that despite the all too recent woes of Doncaster Rovers some fans are still mistaking realism and sensible management for a lack of ambition. In his interview with the official club website JR went on to say “We will not pay wages which we feel are out of tune with the real world and put the club into financial difficulties.” Call me unromantic, but personally that’s music to my ears.
Maybe I’m not driven or determined enough, but I don’t see why ambition has to equate to going upwards unnecessarily quickly. Next time someone you know whinces at Rovers related transfer news, simply tell them to take a look at the plight of Portsmouth or Palace, or Sheffield Wednesday or Bradford. In their 131 year history Rovers have spent just sixteen seasons at this level of football, and only once before has the club managed to remain here for more than two seasons. A fair and reasoned target is surely to hold onto our Championship status and financial stability for as long as possible. Its time other supporters realised that in the historical context of this club that is a lofty enough ambition. And when you add in the fact that players can double their income by moving down the division, its one which won’t be achieved easily.