Musings from the South Stand #10: Whirlwind of a Week
It has been an incredibly eventful week in the world of Doncaster Rovers. This week’s editorial was originally going to be focused on Tuesday evening’s announcement that the Watson family were stepping down from their role as Directors of the club, but this potentially landscape-changing news was simply the start of a succession of developments coming out regarding the near future.
Wednesday saw the bittersweet news that James Coppinger has signed the final contract of his playing career, committing to one more season as a Doncaster Rovers player to take him past his 40th birthday and bring an end to arguably the finest tenure in the club’s 140-plus year history. This came on the same day that it was announced that the transfer window would open for EFL clubs on 27th July as the domestic game works towards beginning the 2020/21 season in September.
As if that wasn’t enough to digest, new deals for young duo Danny Amos and Louis Jones were confirmed on Thursday bringing more clarity to the playing squad Darren Moore has at his disposal ahead of stepping up recruitment efforts, and it was all topped off on Friday lunchtime with the reveal of next season’s home kit – brilliantly done with the help of NHS Key Workers in the Rovers community – showing off the latest red-and-white hooped shirt our boys will don when they return to the Keepmoat pitch.
We will tackle the potential implications of the Watson family’s decision to step down in a separate article next week, as well as looking ahead to the transfer window along with implications surrounding the proposed league Salary Cap, so for now let’s take a breath and get into the developments concerning the playing squad.
One Last Year
The most eye-catching news out of the club this week is undoubtedly the confirmation that James Coppinger has signed a new contract, and the fanfare surrounding the club’s announcement that this one-year deal would be the great man’s last as a professional footballer mean it has dominated the conversations for two days since being revealed. Copps will call time on his incredible career after a 17th season in the hoops, in which time he has cemented himself as an EFL legend and icon of Doncaster Rovers who will never be forgotten.
We all knew this day would come but we all hoped, somewhat naively perhaps, that it just simply wouldn’t come to pass for another year or two yet. Coppinger allayed any notion that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic played any part in his decision when discussing the details with the Doncaster Free Press earlier this week, and at least this news means Rovers fans should get plenty of opportunity to enjoy the blonde-haired maestro’s swansong, providing government projections to allow fans back into stadiums hold.
Having his place in the squad confirmed for next season now means Darren Moore can get to work planning for Coppinger’s eventual retirement in earnest, but also means he has the comfort of knowing one of his most creative players and a bona fide dressing room leader will be at his disposal for what will surely be a challenging campaign on and off the field. Copps could yet be the oldest person still playing in the EFL next season and what a feat that would be for a tricky winger whose career could have gone any number of different ways over the course of the last 20 years.
The Future is Now
By contrast to Coppinger’s extension, the new contracts for Louis Jones and Danny Amos represent an investment in the future. The duo are the brightest prospects out of the Rovers academy system in some time, are players who have been nurtured into first team football under multiple managers, and look quite likely to breakthrough and make their promise stick next season.
Darren Moore has consistently talked up Jones and how highly he is thought of by his coaches, chiefly former Premier League stopper Paul Gerrard, so his development is one that should excite Rovers fans. The departure of Seny Dieng means Jones has a genuine shot at claiming the #1 shirt going forward and the next couple of months will prove whether or not Moore has that confidence in the young keeper to step in and make the grade next season.
Amos meanwhile has only signed a one year deal, but is in a better position than he ever has been at the club having broken into the starting XI just before the curtailing of the 2019/20 season. Getting past Reece James for a place at left back will be quite a challenge for the Northern Ireland youth international, but he appears to have all the tools to do it and six months from now we could be talking about a truly terrific prospect breaking through and earning a longer contract.
Matty Blair is the remaining player yet to sign the new terms offered to him, and as we mooted in our previous edition of Musings from the South Stand, the opportunity to find a longer deal elsewhere may prove too tempting for Blair to commit to another year as a Rovers player. Injuries spoiled his season and he is now over the age of 30, so a chance at more stability elsewhere would be a wise career move; that said, he has been a tremendous ambassador for the club and will be sorely missed if he is to move on.
Finally, a word on the new kit unveiled earlier today at time of writing. The initiative to get Key Workers involved is another heart-warming one from the club that speaks to the connection Doncaster Rovers has with its fanbase and community, and we hope that those who got to be involved enjoyed playing their part.
The kit itself ticks the necessary boxes – red and white hoops, respecting the tradition and familiarity of what the shirt represents – with the expected flourish of individuality that this year means a charcoal grey trim reminiscent of the O’Driscoll era Championship kits that featured heavy black trim and shorts, although a switch to red shorts here is one we’ll have to get used to.
There is nothing too crazy about the design and that is a bonus in this writer’s opinion, as simple and smart usually does the trick when it comes to making an easy-on-the-eye Rovers home strip.