A concerning stat ahead of this weekend’s clash with Palace is that if they do not succeed in beating The Eagles then Rovers will equal a club record of twenty consecutive matches without a League win. That this record was set at the start of our 1997-98 annus horriblus will give as clear an indication as to how poor this current run of form is. However, no matter how far away that Tuesday 1st March night at Pride Park seems, it should also be noted, that it is just that, a poor run of form, and not as it was fourteen years ago; a crisis. So into the gloom we cast three beams of light, and give you reasons to be cheerful.
1. Stick the Kettle on, O’Driscoll is Staying
The calls for Sean O’Driscoll to get the sack have been notably increasing in recent weeks, a sadly inevitable byproduct of such a poor run of form. Yet there was encouragement to be taken from a straw poll conducted on the Viking Supporters Co-operative’s messageboard this week, asking for a straight yes or no answer as to whether O’Driscoll should stay, the result was a resounding (at the last count) 73 to 9 in favour of SO’D remaining, which suggests the calls for him depart were growing simply in volume rather than momentum.
That backing from the fans was, and perhaps more crucially, echoed by the board via Chairman John Ryan’s column in today’s Doncaster Free Press. In June Ryan had told the publication; “We are loyal to our managers and I think we are a club of principle. Continuity and perseverance rather than looking at the short-term is the key to success in my opinion and we’ve proved that with Sean”. And today he reiterated those points to give his full support to the Rovers manager in a refreshing departure from the football norm.
“For the people shouting for the manager’s head, I ask you the questions who would you replace him with? Who is better? I can’t think of any manager that is better equipped for the job, and those clubs who sack managers willy nilly end up relegated. The board and I are not going down that path. You only have to look at our neighbours Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday – need I say more?”
As I myself tweeted earlier in the week, in the long-term Sean O’Driscoll is the man for the job at Doncaster Rovers, and to reap the benefits from him and his methods we need to be able to take the rough with the smooth. In comparison to the last time Rovers went on such a run, these, it has to be said, are the good times, and its refreshing to hear a Chairman put his faith in the man in the dugout after such a barren spell. The man best equipped to steer Rovers out of the mire is the one scribbling notes in the technical area, and that has to be a reason to be cheerful.
2. A Bolstered Squad
For a few weeks now Rovers fans have been demanding a more significant presence up front, and in professional football they don’t come any more significant than Jon Parkin. The Cardiff City forward, formerly with most clubs in the North of England is a target man in every sense and should provide some welcome ballast to the Rovers’ attack, for our diminutive midfield to feed off. If nothing else, it gives us a different option up front to James Hayter, who despite his tireless efforts to fill the boots of Billy Sharp and Chris Brown, is much more effective as a supporting forward.
Parkin’s signing on a one month loan came off the back of some equally positive transfer news, that of the retention of Milan Lalkovic. The Slovakian forward had been set to return to his parent club Chelsea, but has now secured a month’s extension on his time in Doncaster. A tricky and clearly talented player it will be great to see more of him in the coming month, especially with some key games ahead for Rovers.
3. The Wounded are Walking
One of the most frustrating aspects of Rovers start to the season has been the knowledge that much of the squad’s talent was holed up in the medical room. But steadily, the absentees have begun to return; James O’Connor is back and its hard to envisage how we quite managed without him. Brian Stock, the centre-point of Sean O’Driscoll’s Rovers side since day one, after cameos against Leeds and Reading should return fully to the fold on Saturday.
Ryan Mason, a player who I strongly to believe about the most talented in the Rovers squad is now back in full training and though Saturday may come too soon for him, he’s likely to feature against Hull on Tuesday. Martin Woods too (remember him?) is nearing a return to full training according to his twitter feed, and then there is of course Billy Sharp. After six weeks with his feet up Rovers top scorer returned to full training today. The future is only looking brighter.