Andy Butler's First Week Breathes New Life into Doncaster Rovers
It has now been seven days since fans woke to the surprising news that Darren Moore had left Doncaster Rovers to become manager at Sheffield Wednesday. As sudden as the departure was, the club had a plan in place and immediately installed defender Andy Butler as manager of the first team on a deal until the end of the season, and so far that move has proved a shrewd one.
Whilst it is still very early days, Butler seems to have reignited a listing team and he could not have asked for much more from his first two games in charge. As the dust continues to settle around South Yorkshire, we look at the key moments in this whirlwind first week in the gaffer’s chair for ‘Buts’.
An Anti-New Manager Bounce?
Most clubs usually see an immediate uptick in fortunes once a new manager is installed, not least because usually that new manager is brought in because his predecessor has led the team into the doldrums. That isn’t really the case for either Rovers or Sheffield Wednesday, yet that galvanising effect has come for Rovers rather than Wednesday, with Butler overseeing two successive victories and Moore slumping to a pair of defeats that leave the Owls firmly entrenched within the Championship relegation zone.
The reality is that Dejphon Chansiri came calling for Moore at the lowest point of his 18 month tenure, with four defeats in five games and a growing malaise setting in on the field. Rovers’ promotion push had faltered in a big way and Butler stepping up has seen some much-needed changes being implemented to the playing style, quickly paying dividends with strong displays in back-to-back victories over Portsmouth and Plymouth at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Butler’s obvious passion for the club is an asset and there is a lot to be said for him having a perspective that very few others in the domestic game would ever have if tasked with guiding Doncaster Rovers to success. He is trying to put his stamp on things straight away and so far his alterations to the team and set-up look like positive, intelligent steps towards finding that success.
Faith in Youth and Experience
Chief among the changes are the elevation of two players at opposite points in their respective career. James Coppinger may be 40 years old now but he struck a defiant figure just prior to Moore’s jump to S6, stating that he still had a lot left to give to the side and wanted more playing time. Andy Butler has turned to his friend by leaning on his experience and class, and the maestro was a big part of the games this past week, notably setting up both Rovers goals in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Pilgrims.
Goalkeeper Louis Jones meanwhile is just starting out on his professional journey and has been given an immediate vote of confidence that he is ready to step up. Moore consistently stressed that Jones was planned to be the #1 choice between the sticks next season, yet without getting any league reps in this season that felt like either a platitude or wishful thinking. Butler handed Jones his League One bow against Pompey and he repaid that faith by putting in a composed display, an followed it up with an excellent shot-stopping flurry against Plymouth.
There were times where it felt as if Moore was almost using the platform given to him by Rovers to experiment with his own personal development projects, and whilst it can at times be wonderful to see Taylor Richards or Ellery Balcombe have a big impact, ultimately their development will benefit other clubs whereas Jones is someone who could be a key player at Rovers for years to come.
Desire in Abundance
Whilst nobody was really questioning the state of things under Moore’s management, there were a few nagging factors that some had noted as potential issues, and those voices appear vindicated by the noises out of the squad since last Monday. Defender Joe Wright discussed the step-up in intensity and enthusiasm at training during his pre-Plymouth press interview, and Danny Amos suggested the same morale boost on iFollow commentary during the game. It is as if Moore’s laid-back attitude bled through into the players’ approach, which may have contributed to the tough run they went through in February.
It has been a problem in games that Rovers as a collective just haven’t had the urgency or energy required to get results at times and the words of the players shine a light on the reasons why. Not just that, but captain Tom Anderson stressed how badly the team want to “see the job through” this season which shows just how much the players want to make sure the change in manager doesn’t stop Rovers from pushing for promotion from League One.
Whether or not Andy Butler ends up with the role long-term, in one week he has shaken things up, re-energised both the players and the fans and masterminded a pair of important wins that put that promotion push firmly back on track. If he can keep the momentum going, develop his ideas further amongst his squad and take Rovers either into the Play-Offs or earn automatic promotion, then surely the board will see Butler as the man to lead his hometown club for next season at the very least.
Hold onto your magic hats, this could be a momentous ride to the end of the season.