On Sunday evening my Norwich supporting friend sent me a text message to see how bad Jamie Coppinger’s injury was and to check he was definitely out of the team to travel to Carrow Road, given how much of a problem he’d posed the Canaries earlier in the season. Nowt like kicking a man when he’s down. I believe after texting me he then went on to get in touch with Hosni Mubarak to ask him how the Egyptian presidency was working out before sending a tweet to David Cameron to check on the progress of The Big Society.
Rovers, as we are all too painfully aware, currently and quite literally knackered. Even the loanees and short-term signings brought in to cover the injuries are now injured leaving Sean O’Driscoll with a squad of 14 or 15 fit first team players, a number which would be much poorer were it not for the loan signings of Jason Euell and Franck Moussa who joined the club on Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning respectively. Four days into his spell in South Yorkshire Euell is guaranteed a start, by means of being the only forward the club currently has. O’Driscoll will tonight try to mould an effective team out of two goalkeepers, five centre backs, two left backs, two holding midfielders, three central midfielders and a forward. Its footballing Ready Steady Cook in the episode when some joker turns up with a bottle of beer, a Mars bar and a bag of McCain Oven Chips.
Quite frankly, even for a man of Sean O’Driscoll’s talents, the tools currently at his disposal are just not competitive. If the squad was not engaged in its current ‘largest number of people in a medical room’ World Record attempt then its safe to say only two of those who began the match at Swansea on Saturday would be in O’Driscoll’s first XI; goalkeeper Neil Sullivan and the increasingly isolated John Oster, who knowing our luck will probably contract Hepatitis B from one of his many tattoos in the coming days. The effects such a depletion of resources has on a relatively compact Championship squad have been made clear with Saturday’s shot-shy defeat at Swansea continuing Rovers’ slide down the table, into 17th spot.
As initially reported on BBC Radio Sheffield last night, Chairman John Ryan had been enquiring to the Football League as to the possibility of the match being postponed given the unprecedented injury predicament Rovers find themselves in. When a clear ‘no chance’ should have been the response of the Football League, the governing body were gloriously vague and insisted they would leave the decision to the club. Unfortunately JR’s ‘enquiry’ has subsequently been reported as an ‘appeal’ by many in the press causing some ungracious replies from folk in Norfolk. Posting online in response to the Yorkshire Post’s take on this story one Norwich fan urged Rovers to “think about the Canary fans who have purchased their hospitality packages”. A sadly all too often neglected minority, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Of course the game should and will go ahead tonight. If it were to be postponed then it would open up a window for less scrupulous managers than our own to exploit and invent injuries and knocks in order to avoid defeat. Instead, I urge Rovers fans to look to the positives. Now is the time to try new tactics; as suggested by user Barmby Rover on the VSC Forum, perhaps the club could look to sign up the kid who used to do football juggling tricks at half-time get him to run the length of the field with the ball on his head whilst the other nine outfield players surround him. Can you hold the ball in the corner for 90 minutes to secure a 0-0 draw? Has anyone ever played a 7-2-1 formation?
And with vacancies on the bench it also opens up opportunities for us fans. With a Chairman who’s played up front for his club a la Millionaire Villa we cannot ignore the comic book hero potential of this situation. Picture the scene tonight. The ball flies into the Jarold Stand and with perfect timing and without dropping your Pukka Pie you connect with a textbook right foot volley to deliver it straight back into the hands of George Friend. Over in the Directors Box on the far side John Ryan leans forward, turns to Dave Morris and says “Bring me that right foot!”. Before you know it you’re coming on in the 80th minute for Sam Hird and being berated by Geoff in the away end for “fannying about wi’ it”. This isn’t a crisis, it’s the stuff dreams are made of.
Have a pair of boots? Have four working limbs? Congratulations you’re in Sean O’Driscoll’s starting team. Expect O’Driscoll to name an unchanged side as he has little choice and draft in members of the youth team to populate his subs bench. All this is necessary due to the following injury list; James O’Connor, Mustapha Dumbya, James Chambers, Adam Lockwood, Shelton Martis, Brian Stock, Simon Gillett, Martin Woods, Jamie Coppinger, Ryan Burge, Ryan Mason, James Hayter, Steve Brooker and Billy Sharp. And not forgetting the unrecallable loan of Waide Fairhurst taking it to a round 15.
Amusingly on the BBC preview of this game there’s a sound clip captioned “Lambert stunned by triple injury blow”. Forgive us if we currently don’t feel sympathy right now will you Paul. A hamstring injury has ruled Leon Barnett out for the rest of the season, and a similar injury is also expected to ensure the absence of Chris Martin. On the plus side Blackpool defender Rob Edwards is available having joined the Canaries on loan, and he’ll be marking his team-mate too in the form of Rovers’ own Tangerine loanee Jason Euell.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-4-1-1) Neil Sullivan; George Friend, Sam Hird, Wayne Thomas, Joseph Mills; Paul Keegan, Mark Wilson, John Oster, Franck Moussa; Dean Shiels; Jason Euell
subs: Gary Woods, Matt Kilgallon, Dennis Souza, Byron Webster
Travelling to the Game
For those of you making your own way to Norwich you’ll need the A47 Southern bypass, from which you want to take the A146 into the city. At the traffic lights turn right onto the outer ring road (A1054), then left at the roundabout and right at the next lights (A147). Follow this to your right over the river and the ground will come into view on your right hand side.
If you’re travelling by train then you’ll be glad to hear Carrow Road is within ten minutes walk of Norwich station. As you exit the station turn left and then either head down Koblenz Avenue following it round to the right or take the pedestrianized Wherry Road through the Waterside area and you can’t miss the ground. If you’re feeling peckish before or after the game try Chiquito’s on Wherry Road and hope that the lovely Mikaela serves you. She prefers Doncaster to Norwich. She told me herself.
Away supporters are housed in the Jarold Stand where according to the excellent Football Ground Guide website “If you are located at the very back of [the visitors’] stand then you can enjoy some fine views across the city, including Norwich Cathedral.” Worth remembering should you need to find something else to look at during the second half tonight.
Norwich is sadly a destination too far in midweek and so again Viva Rovers much heralded in-game twitter feed will be operating in a second-hand capacity. To join us in exile follow @vivarovers if you’re a Twitter user and look out for the #drfc hashtag, or if you choose not to Tweet visit twitter.com/vivarovers and keep refreshing the page.
Live commentary of the game is as ever available (for a fee) through the official club website’s Rovers Player service with commentary from Chris Mortley, the hardest working press officer in show-business. BBC Local Radio coverage will be available if you’re in or near Norfolk, and updates will come via Radio Sheffield for those back in blighty.
Online the BBC Live Text service is probably your best bet for regular updated in-game details if not coverage, whilst you should be able to access their midweek vidiprinter via the red button on tv. And rejoice, as Garth Crooks doesn’t work Tuesdays.