Musings from the South Stand #18: The Eve of Something Special?
It hasn’t exactly been a vintage year. You don’t need me to retread through the horrors of the year, but as a Christmas like no other arrives for everyone, our football team is at least doing its bit to boost the feeling of positivity that has been in such short supply for the past nine months.
Whilst it would be easier to sell that optimism following a fifth straight win this week, that was not to be, but as we round into the final week of 2020, Doncaster Rovers find themselves very well placed for a League One promotion tilt in the new year. Darren Moore’s side reeled off four victories on the bounce prior to Tuesday night’s defeat against Shrewsbury, and still have a chance to hit top spot before Big Ben chimes over London.
On the field, Rovers are playing well and showing huge potential, trending in a direction not at all dissimilar to the promotion teams of Sean O’Driscoll and Brian Flynn and featuring a crop talented young players with bright futures ahead of them. At times this season the football has been joyous to watch, and results against big clubs like Portsmouth, Charlton and Ipswich show the level that this team can aspire to longer term providing Rovers can see out the pandemic on a stable footing.
On that front, noises out of the club should come as a relief for Rovers fans. Whilst difficulties obviously remain for all EFL clubs far removed from the obscene wealth spread about the Premier League, a Doncaster Free Press interview with CEO Gavin Baldwin from earlier this week provided some encouraging words, particularly when discussing the fact that Rovers wouldn’t need to dip into the EFL’s Monitored Grants pot likely to be used for clubs seriously struggling to stay afloat.
Money is obviously an issue across the sport at present, but so long as Rovers can avoid any significant or prolonged COVID-19 outbreaks in the squad and the EFL pushes ahead with its intention to continue play if the country moves into Tier 4 on a wider scale, then the 2020-21 season can still be a potentially very positive one for the men in red and white hoops.
Up to now, the club has already shown its intent by recruiting top level players, such as when Josh Sims and Matt Smith were recruited from Premier League sides on loan in October. The manager’s statement that he would have to offload players to bring new ones in is also fair considering Rovers currently have a 25-man senior squad on the wage bill, including injured loanees Sims and Tulloch.
All in all, the club should be commended for their ability to sustain a competitive squad and keep afloat amidst the most challenging year the world has faced since the end of the Second World War, and that they have done so whilst also keeping up their unrivalled community outreach is all the more pleasing to see as a fan.
Rovers even featured in a New York Times article this week for their part in EFL club’s efforts to stay connected with the people of their towns, delivering care packages to those most in need of them, demonstrating in the best way that the issues faced by the pandemic will not dampen the desire of our football club to make a difference for local people.
What more could we ask for? Whether it is on the pitch or around the town, Doncaster Rovers are providing plenty to get us all through this time and as Christmas takes an unusual shape this year, our team stand on the eve of something potentially very good indeed.