Over the weekend it dawned on me that the nature of this site has changed somewhat since its inception five years ago. Back then we rushed to bring you the latest Rovers news, and attempted to beat the official site to the punch – a challenge that at times admittedly meant just writing about a story the same day it happened. The tone of Viva has evolved and I see now we are much more cynical and less urgent than those heady days on Rivals. Indeed amongst the made-up transfer rumours, obscure tangents about football comics, and laments about ‘football news’ not leaving us be it appears we haven’t actually brought you much in the way of actual Rovers news of late. And so to address this hole, we bring you our first news round-up.
Today central defender Richard Naylor finally put pen to paper and joined the club around two weeks after initially being trumpeted as Rovers’ newest addition. Naylor joins Rovers on a short-term deal, going someway to fill the void left by the departing Wayne Thomas and Byron Webster. Naylor began his career with Ipswich, making over 300 appearances for Town before joining Leeds two years-ago. As captain of the West Yorkshire side he led them back into the Championship and remained a part of the side during their play-off push last season.
Naylor is Rovers’ fourth signing of the close season, following Kyle Bennett, James Baxendale and comic-book hero Tommy Spurr through the gates of Cantley Park. Twenty-year old Bennett, a quick attacking midfielder, joins Rovers off the back of an impressive season with Bury, in which he played a key-part in the Shakers’ promotion. Left-back Spurr was signed for £200,000 from neighbours Sheffield Wednesday, with whom he made approaching 200 appearances, whilst teenage midfielder James Baxendale arrives at DN4 having been released upon graduation from the Leeds United youth team.
The four new signings are not the only unfamiliar faces to pitch up for Rovers’ first week of pre-season training with the club welcoming a whole host of trialists to keep the speculation flowing on the forums. We’ve stayed out of the guessing game after our infamous Mohammed Sa proclamation of two years ago, but luckily those with better vision than us have spotted some familiar faces. Best known of those training with the club is former Luton and QPR attacking midfielder Rowan Vine.
Of the other trialists those successfully picked out include ex-Barnsley midfielder Martin Devaney and Aston Villa youth team product Ellis Deeney. Named by the Doncaster Free Press’s intrepid reporters were Cypriot ex-Middlesbrough forward Marinos Andreou and Rachid Bouhenna, an Algerian centre back, released by French Ligue 2 side Sedan. Making up the numbers were former Preston defender Neal Trotman and Alex Dyer a Montserrat international who spent last season with Northampton Town.
The majority of those named above featured in Rovers’ first pre-season friendly as they continued their recent trend of playing local league sides by playing Northern Counties East League side Armthorpe Welfare on Thursday evening. As expected Rovers fielded a different side in each half at Church Street, and also came up against some familiar faces with both Leo Fortune-West and Ben Muirhead starting for the Welfare, indeed the big LFW thought he’d opened the scoring in the first three minutes, but his header was disallowed.
As it was the game remained goalless until the final five minutes when Martin Devaney hit a speculative thirty-yard strike that squeezed through the Armthorpe keeper’s hands and into the net. The match ended even though as Armthorpe equalised in the final minute; Lee Pearson turning the ball home from close range off a Neil Sullivan save. The game also featured a further trialist yet to be named with Rovers’ official site naming him only as ‘Oscar’, hopefully because he was a bit grouchy.