I’ve touched on this before, but one of the common traits of modern football supporting, or indeed modern life in general, is that there is no longer a middle ground. Things are either good or bad, brilliant or shit, and any view which occupies a considered central position is labelled as fence-sitting. Similarly when it comes to offering your take on your football team your views are pigeon-holed as either positive or negative; even considered realism will be crowbarred into one of these categories as I discovered earlier this week.
As the editor of one of the longest-serving unofficial Rovers sites on the web, in the summer months I am often asked to contribute to the season previews of other publications. Two of the four requests I accepted went online this week; first up was the mammoth Football League preview put together by the guys behind blog sites The Seventy Two and The Two Unfortunates, and the second was a small piece for The Guardian (the others; When Saturday Comes and World Soccer are out in print but not online). In response to the first of those I received a tweet from Rovers’ fan @sodrokrtid which read; “I was looking forward to the season before I read your article. Talk about glass half empty.”
Similarly on fans forums and on Twitter there have been outraged reactions from Rovers fans at what they perceive as ‘lazy journalism’ from “the so called experts” who have tipped Doncaster to struggle this season. The Guardian/Observer, The Independent, The Telegraph, and Four Four Two have all tipped Rovers to finish in the bottom four, whilst Doncaster are also second favourites for the drop amongst When Saturday Comes’ Championship contributors. Am I the only person who views this as being completely understandable?
Last season Rovers finished 21st having won just four games since November, and indeed all that saved us in the end was the fact that the three sides below were so undeniably and entertainingly hopeless. Preston, Sheffield United and Scunthorpe have now been replaced by Southampton, Brighton and Peterborough and whilst there will be doubts about the last of that trio the Saints and Albion are certainly set to be better prospects than those they passed heading the opposite direction. Thankfully there are other sides around our level; Barnsley, Watford and Palace are the three that spring to mind, Millwall could struggle without Steve Morrison and if Coventry’s side is as buggered as their finances appear to be then they look set for a terrible season.
I don’t think its being pessimistic to put Rovers in the same bracket as those other six relegation candidates highlighted above. Budget wise, we’re in the same ball-park as them, and if you’re looking in from the outside surely its inevitable you’re going to catch sight of the woeful calendar year form and etch a small ‘R’ next to our name. I don’t think the nation’s press are being lazy this time round, a year ago, off the back of two mid-table finishes perhaps, but not off the back of last season.
Of course since my own prediction pieces and those penned by the press the squad has been bolstered, with Ryan Mason joining on a season long lone, additional defensive cover in the form of Oscar Radford and the prospect of a couple more recruits before the season opener. And as we know we’re highly unlikely to see a repeat of last season’s injury crisis, and that’s why I don’t expect Rovers to get relegated. However, with money kicking about the top end of this division, and the increased quality of the sides coming up from the third tier you would have to possess all manner of rose-tinted head-gear to be adamant of a Rovers finish any higher than 14th. Of course I really hope that last sentence comes back to haunt me, but this is not negativity, my glass isn’t half-empty… it’s just a glass in which I perceive there to be some liquid.