Willie Wonga and The Short-Term Factory

It’s Friday. It’s mid-afternoon. Live from Doncaster, it’s time for the latest instalment of… The Willie McKay Show. Not so much the gift that keeps on giving as the elephant that keeps on shitting. Of course we knew football agent McKay was significantly involved in Rovers transfer activity of late, that had been apparent from Chris Kirkland’s interview with the official club website last Thursday, when he began, “I got a call last Friday from Willie McKay asking me if I would consider it…” However, only today, via an interview with the Daily Mail, has the full extent of his involvement in the club become painfully clear.

The crux of Rovers’ relationship with McKay is apparently this. McKay has an exclusive contract with Rovers, whereby the club pay him £100 per week and as a result McKay runs the rule over which players the club approach to bring in. This contract has been approved by the FA as it fits within their guidelines and as Neil Aston in the Mail succinctly put it; nobody can come in or out of the Keepmoat Stadium for the next two years unless McKay says so’. Manager Dean Saunders does still hold some say, but as McKay himself puts it “Dean has a right of veto, but is he seriously going to turn down Mahamadou Diarra, a guy who’s got 150 games on his CV for Lyon and 120 for Real Madrid?”

McKay’s plan in a nutshell is this. Rovers will approach fringe players, free-agents, and those currently out of favour and offer them a platform on which to showcase their talent s in a short-term spell with a view to a move on to a bigger club. McKay of course has already sorted such a deal for his own client Pascal Chimbonda and intends to look to the French League for more players to add to his production line, telling the Mail; “We are going to work with Lyon, Auxerre, Bordeaux, Saint-Etienne, Nice and Lorient by taking their unhappy players. In every squad there are two or three good players who aren’t getting a game for whatever reason. We will take them to Doncaster, put them in the shop window and sell them on with sell-on fees.”

According to the Daily Mail, McKay submitted his plans for Rovers to oust Ward Brothers Furniture stores as purveyors of the largest shop window in the borough to the FA on 27th September. Just four days after his principle client Saunders had been unveiled as Rovers boss. And given that McKay spent that first day looming in the back of shot, glued to his phone, at various Rovers press conferences, he either works very fast or this has been in the pipeline for some time.

This template has already adopted with the signing of Herita Ilunga as McKay explained to Ashton; “Take Herita Ilunga as an example. He’s on £26,000 a week at West Ham, not getting a game and they can’t get him a move. I called the joint-chairman David Sullivan and offered £1,000 a week to take Ilunga on loan. David laughed and said, “Make me a sensible offer”, so I said, “OK, £500”. Anyway, eventually we agree the deal on £2,000 a week and West Ham make up the rest of his wages. We take him at Doncaster, who are no threat to West Ham, and give him a shop window to perform by playing every week.

You could, as a club, argue that this is not much different to the deal that took Craig Bellamy to Cardiff City last season, or at least you could, had you not at the time vehemently stated how unhappy you were about that deal. Mckay continues; “ If he plays well and I get him a move, say to Turkey for £5m, then I’ll reach an agreement with David Sullivan about the fee West Ham will receive, plus my commission, less his full £26,000-a-week salary for the period he was at Doncaster.

"OK, so that's two full-backs, a midfielder and a centre-forward, and a side order of chips please"... Willie McKay brokes another deal.

Therein lies one of many concerns for Rovers fans. Whilst McKay is acting for the club, his ultimate end, is to make money, and notably to do so for himself. Rather than having to negotiate between two parties as he has in the past, this arrangement with Rovers means he now has to negotiate with just one, he having become the other. And he gets the benefits. Why have we allowed him to do this? Are we that desperate to remain in the second tier that we’ll gamble so significantly on a man who, as has been highlighted before on this site, has so much to gain personally, and little responsibility to the club at large.

“These guys approached me. They have a wage bill of £8m a year and want it reduced to £4m,” said McKay to Ashton of the Rovers board. “My valuation of Donny was nothing. They have no fanbase and everyone in Doncaster supports Leeds, Sheffield United or Sheffield Wednesday, who can all get 30,000 in their stadiums.” Describing the club as ‘nothing’ and disregarding the support as non-existent is more than a subtle suggestion t that McKay has no time for making friends. Still, “Willie McKay loves this club and he wants to help us out,” John Ryan told the Doncaster Free Press a fortnight ago. McKay offered a slightly different interpretation; ‘I’m doing this to prove it can be done and I’ve been honest enough to admit I’m only here for the money. I don’t need the £100 and I probably won’t even invoice for it.’ It is painfully clear that it is not the club he loves, simply the opportunity it affords?

In 1998 fans of our club repeatedly protested on the Belle Vue turf. At the forefront of those protests were people I know well; one of my best friends strolled on from the Pop Side, through the middle of Rovers’ match with Hull, positioned himself on the centre-spot and refused to move. Meanwhile another good friend, a teacher at the time, was chaining himself to the goalposts at the Town End having sought permission from his headmaster the day before. They performed these acts, and countless others, at significant risk, to bring attention to the plight of our club, to try and wrestle it out of the hands of an unscrupulous man, and back into the hands of people who cared about it. They did not put their own personal and professional reputations selflessly on the line so that in thirteen years time that club would effectively be sanctioned as the play-thing of a football agent with a past best described as ‘contentious’.

I have raised concerns about McKay on this website already, as have others, and when we did there were Rovers supporters quick to bracket us as mere hecklers. One of the reasons cited in the defence of McKay’s intentions was the presence of his son (or sons) in the club’s youth set-up. That factor only serves to further highlight the short-term nature of McKay’s theorem. A business-model based on bringing in surplus talents from elsewhere has no room for the progression of those already in the ranks, be they in the squad or more specifically in the youth team. McKay is not here for the club, nor his family connections to it, he is here for the money.

“In every squad there are two or three good players who aren’t getting a game for whatever reason,” says McKay. So what will become of the Rovers players, where that reason is the personal pursuit of one money-centred individual? Where will the talents nurtured and developed by Sean O’Driscoll go? Mustapha Dumbuya, brought from non-league, greatly impressed Cardiff City fans earlier this season, would he have ever been signed if the current model had been adopted? Doncaster-born Sam Hird, disregarded at Leeds and at one point our fourth choice centre-half a division below, started and impressed against Blackpool on Tuesday, how long would he have lasted in McKay’s masterplan? You could argue, there would be no need for them with Lyon’s spare parts coming in, but players like Dumbuya and Hird owe a lot to Rovers for giving them a chance, and will remain loyal for a long time as a result. How determined to stay would say El Hadji Djouf be if East European money came fluttering by?

Since arriving at Doncaster, McKay’s principal client Dean Saunders has been hailed for lifting the mood. On Friday, S*y Sp**ts even prefixed the Rovers v Leeds match with a Saunders montage backed with ‘Bring Me Sunshine’; his old mate Peter Beagrie, just about stopping short of hailing the new Saunders era as a Doncastrian glasnost, juxtaposed against this increasingly orchestrated image of O’Driscoll trudging about with a grey cloud over his head, like a character in a Charles M Schulz comic strip. For many it seems, it is not what you say, but how you say it. O’Driscoll was candid and honest, but dismissed as quiet and boring. Saunders trots out sound-bites, and his hailed as refreshing and open. If you think I’m being harsh on the new guy then how hollow does his “The youngsters here will get their chance” statement appear when you consider it was made in full knowledge of McKay’s plans for the club? Its Nick Clegg posing with the students pre-election is what it is.

What is most disappointing, for me, and for other supporters is the way in which many of our fellow fans are embracing this move. “Am I the only one a little bit excited about this?” tweeted Jon Sutton this morning; my response was, sadly, probably not. Big name players and promises of kicking on toward the top flight, its football just like the computer games and S*y Sp**ts told us it would be. That’ll probably appeal to many, but for me in terms of excitement it serves as the point on a roller-coaster where you pause at the top, and somewhere down below a voice yells; “has this bit of track always been this wobbly?”

At the start of the season Rovers were operating on a long term strategy, our Championship status may not have been secure, but the future of the club was. Now, we have changed tact dramatically and whacked it all on red. This plan may work, it may prove a successful model and a means to an end in the world of modern football. But, it may not, and if it doesn’t where does the club go? Will the unhappy players of Lorient want to put themselves in the League One shop window, where they can be taken apart by the much happier players of L. Orient? Probably not.

I go back to the point I initially muted on Twitter, and reiterated when Rovers banished O’Driscoll to the garden shed; “Ultimately, when it comes to [Doncaster Rovers] I’d rather be relegated to League One than lose Sean O’Driscoll as manager”. Behind that tweet was the knowledge that when we lost O’Driscoll, we would lose an entire ethos. Sure enough when Rovers waved SO’D off, they also said goodbye to careful and considered planning for the future, and decided instead to keep up with the Scudamores. As Rovers fan MrW so succinctly tweeted at the end of September; “What the fuck have we done? Is this 10 years of progress pissed away?”


Though I despise the Daily Mail, credit where it’s due, Neil Ashton’s article can be viewed here.


About glen wilson

Former schoolboy, Glen Wilson writes on football and travel and has been editor of the award-winning popular STAND fanzine since before the award.


23 thoughts on “Willie Wonga and The Short-Term Factory

  1. why dont you give it a rest,get used to it your hero has gone,he,s gone to pastures new,lets hope it,s a championship team then he can go 19 games without a win with them.

    Posted by m smith | October 21, 2011, 2:38 pm
    • I’m not quite sure you’ve fully grasped the issues raised in this piece… and besides, I don’t see what Leo Fortune-West has to do with this

      Posted by glen wilson | October 21, 2011, 2:52 pm
      • I did nt grasp the issues on the last piece of rubbish you wrote involving the foreign ticket collector,Can i just say if you are a JK Rowling wannabe pick another subject your real hero has gone,it,s doing no good you keep bleating on about it.go and support sod,s next team because i think you support sod rather than Doncaster Rovers,or you could get behind our team and Dean and give the new regime a chance,I was at blackpool and may i say Chimbonda and Ilunga are class acts with more to come.

        Posted by m smith | October 21, 2011, 5:36 pm
        • OK then, to put it in terminology you may understand…
          Harry Potter and the Phliosopher’s This Isn’t Simply About Sean O’Driscoll vs Dean Saunders

          Posted by glen wilson | October 21, 2011, 5:55 pm
        • as i,ve said before give the new regime a chance before condemning it with your boring ramblings.i,ll bet you and your hero could be twin brothers.

          Posted by m smith | October 21, 2011, 8:26 pm
  2. So we’re embracing short-termism? It’s certainly a bold experiment, whether being a ‘Shop Window’ club will work is another matter. Personally I doubt it.

    I’m not happy about an agent wielding so much power over the club either. I wonder if the FA will bring in rules to limit this kind of business?

    Interesting times.

    Posted by Hirsty | October 21, 2011, 3:02 pm
  3. I’ve got news for you….. Its not just Mackay thats at Rovers for the money! Do you think the players are here for the love of the club? Like it or not professional football is driven by money. I say good luck to JR and the board and good luck to Mackay if he can make some money and keep us at this level wheres the problem?

    Posted by R Clark | October 21, 2011, 3:02 pm
  4. …I come to this as an outsider, but one who has seen a situation at our Club,Swansea City, in year’s past when the same sort of “deals” were pursued.We very nearly went out of business.Fortunately, thanks to Fans involvement of the sort the writer illustrates, and some footballing luck/skill, we were saved.If you doubt me read the history of the Swansea City Supporters Trust.
    I admired Doncaster, and the football played, under Sean O’Driscoll.I fear for you under this “deal”.It gives me no comfort to say that.

    Peter Thomas

    Posted by Peter Thomas | October 21, 2011, 4:19 pm
  5. I have never read so much rubbish in all my life. T he rovers cannot live in this league if they carry on as they are at present. There is very little “actual” support for the team considering the size of the town.
    get real and constructive.

    Posted by tony | October 21, 2011, 4:20 pm
  6. I remember when Norwich bought in loanee after loanee, players with no ties to the club, no reason to want it to do well and, in many cases, no future. At the end of that season we were relegated to League One. For McKay to be so flagrant as to use a club as a window for other clubs pisses on history and on the fans. How any fan of the club could support McKay in his grand vision for all this is beyond me. Absolutely beyond me.

    Posted by Holtamania | October 21, 2011, 5:17 pm
  7. It’s a worrying situation. What happens after two years when no player has signed a long-term deal with the club because of all the short-term replacements.

    Posted by bradders08 | October 21, 2011, 6:05 pm
  8. Great piece, Glen. The stupidity of some football fans never fails to astound me. How can the commenters above cheer as their club is turned into football’s equivalent of an Amsterdam brothel, displaying its goods in the window for the grubby raincoats outside? So Rovers can stay in the Championship by the skin of their teeth every season? Is that what football has come to?

    Posted by Stanley | October 21, 2011, 8:10 pm
  9. There are some amazingly short sighted correspondents on here. Aren’t there Mr Smith? If you can’t see what this portends then you have no right ot be a football supporter.

    I’ll give you just a couple of thkngs to ponder before you throw bile at me: just who, do you think, will pick the team under this arrangement when 5 million quid hangs on some ‘superstar’ playing, or, worse, not playing? Just who will decide the timings of the ‘moving on’ when the Rovers, Heaven forbid, have a 5th round FA Cup tie agianst some glamorous opposition in a weeks’ time? Just which player of quality is ever going to sign a long term deal with DRFC knowing he can shunted aside in the blink of an eye? And lastly, but by no means least, how is any manager going to engender a football style/ethos/method and any kind of team ethic? Just cast your mind back even 3 tiny years: remember Norwich City? And a little further back, Swansea City?

    This deal is madness. It’s certainly not football.

    No wonder SOD moved on if he knew this was in the wind.

    I am appalled.


    Posted by BobG | October 21, 2011, 8:36 pm
  10. So basically the DRFC brand has been franchised to the business interest of Willie Mackay for the next 2 years.

    Willie has executive control of all playing matters, by contract, subject to Saunders opinion, with a brief to deliver Championship standard at £4m per annum.

    Conflict of interest raises its head here. How can he ensure the best option for his clients as a agent, whilst at the same time making the right decisions in the interest of DRFC?

    No point bringing in players who cannot get exposure, so they need to play regardless of performances, team tactics etc. Saunders role as “manager” is effectively sidelined to that of assistant to the main man, who controls all the levers.

    It looks like any benefits to DRFC are incidental to the business interest of WM. They may happen, but then again, what if they don’t. Can DRFC end the deal before the 2 years, without any penalty?

    If the FA think this is OK then they need to consider what happens when this mushrooms into the normal business practice of the football industry.

    Posted by Albie | October 21, 2011, 9:38 pm
    • Its a good read, as always, Glen. You’ll struggle to better that headline during the course of this season. I can’t quite get my head around the speed of what is happening at the club rather than the actual events. It is a remarkable, almost indecent, change in philosophy/ethos but as I alluded to, in response to the article on Sean’s departure, this is the price you pay when you shake hands with the devil.

      Time will tell and I can see some benefits of this approach but in essence we’re gambling, with little long term strategy should it fail. It could well work and my nature is to embrace the concept and give it a go. I have reservations and the comments from the Swansea and Norwich fans have done little to temper them however.


      Posted by Jon Roys | October 21, 2011, 10:20 pm
  11. Great stuff Glen.

    As I put it here, I love Doncaster Rovers. I just don’t like them very much at the moment.



    Posted by Peter Rowing | October 21, 2011, 11:34 pm
  12. Another excellent read encapsulating everthing I feel about what is happening at the Rovers. Of course football is all about the money but that doesn’t make it right. SOD (and I thought Ryan) were starting to show that money wasn’t the only ingredient needed for success – vision, spirit and teamwork are equally important – be it the Rover’s Pub Team or the Crazy Gang at Wimbledon it is possible to do it a different way. In fact with a 15,000 capacity stadium and a sub 10,000 fanbase is there any other way? What I really don’t understand is why bother supporting Rovers if Premier League football is your goal – probably makes more sense to sell out like most do round here and pull on a Man U shirt – no hold on you won’t have to do that because that’s what we will become anyway a premier league reserve team…

    Posted by ian henderson | October 22, 2011, 1:45 pm
  13. I’m guessing that M Smith is Wellred, isn’t he?

    Posted by Bez | October 22, 2011, 3:25 pm
  14. I suppose it all boils down to what supporting Doncaster Rovers is all about and that will ultimately be a personal thing for every supporter. If the club can progress under this scheme, stay in the Championship, pull in more supporters, make more money etc then I suppose it will have worked. If it all goes pear shaped then expect the worst. Mr Ryan has taken an almighty gamble with the club he loves; i just hope it works.
    I can’t help feeling though that a little bit of Doncaster Rovers has died since the whole SOD debacle. We were building something worthwhile and sometimes that means taking a step backwards Ie relegation. Crewe under Dario Gradi springs to mind but then again look where they are now.

    Posted by Gray Taylor | October 24, 2011, 6:01 pm
  15. Absolute madness.
    I can foresee a Marvin Bryan situation here ie Sammy Chung ”Hello son, who are you?”. ”I’m Marvin Bryan.Mr Richardson signed me from QPR.I’m playing on Saturday and every other Saturday whilst I’m on loan, whether I’m shite or not”.

    We had a club with ethics, a plan, and above all, we played damn good football. The plan may not have been perfect,but at least it was OUR plan,made by a chairman who loves the club and a plan implemented by people with integrity. And it achieved success.Success on a scale not seen by any supporter of this club under the age of 60.

    Now it seems that the New Plan involves handing over the reins of the club to a man who stands to gain massively whether the club gets promoted, stands still or gets relegated. Now that’s a gamble I’d like to be offered.And remember,this is OUR CLUB, not his, for when this all goes tits up,he’ll be off to Monte Carlo (or Montrose) to escape the flak, and we’ll still be trudging down there watching whatever is served up, because it’s what we do.

    If we got relegated this season through our own efforts,I could accept that. I wouldn’t be happy about it but I could accept it.I support Doncaster Rovers.I have done for 42 years. I am used to getting beaten. It wouldn’t affect the love I have for my team, if we were masters of out own destiny.

    But if we get relegated with this system in place, who do we blame? The players? The manager? The Chairman? Or the Agent who hasn’t managed to secure us the services of E.H Diouf etc etc etc, but has managed to shift a few of his overpaid duds along,thus feathering his already comfy nest?

    Madness. Anyone who can’t see the holes in this scheme must be blind or have absolutely no sense.

    I still love Doncaster Rovers but I’m seeing a VERY slippery slope ahead of us. I hope I’m proved wrong.

    Posted by Dave Sharman | October 26, 2011, 6:05 pm
  16. I’m a Blackpool fan and when we disrighteously mugged you the other week, I turned to my fellow fans (we’ve sat together for over 20 years) and said “that’s what used to happen to us, out-play a team then walk away with nothing.” – I suspect as the McKay factor bites, then so may the desire of the Mannequins in the “McKays Cash Emporium Shop Window”

    Success is a two-edged precipice. Little Blackpool” lit up the Prem last year but got mugged by officialdom (I wont bore you with the stats). This season we have little soul, heart, or passion but we’ve had success – or is it because we’ve had success at the trough of “S*y Sp*rts” ?

    I hope Donny come thru this, as one of my favourite football memories is a Milk Cup game on a Monday @ Belle Vue when we mugged you with a late Andy Watson header. The locals weren’t too happy and whilst I kind of agreed with their sentiments I left with the glow of success.

    Mugged. As real fans we are mugs, I’m not one to condone violence, so in the spirit of harmony and love, it would be fitting if McKay gets the financial equivalent of a “Glasgow Kiss” and you get your club back.

    – Written on the day you signed Spit the Dog on a “shop window for January” Contract.

    Enjoy the Season and best wishes

    Posted by A seasider who loved what football is losing | October 31, 2011, 8:04 pm


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