Panic! It's January: Musings from the South Stand #1
Little else sets football fans’ minds whirring like the issue of transfers. Signing new players, keeping hold of star assets…everyone has an opinion. Here’s ours.
We are now exactly three-quarters of the way through the January window, and at time of writing Doncaster Rovers are yet to do any significant business. No signings have been announced despite promises earlier in the window, and it has led to a fair amount of discontent amongst supporters eager to see the side strengthened for a Play-Off Push.
Alfie May has departed for Cheltenham Town to nail down a regular starting berth, whilst short-term and loan contracts for Kwame Thomas, Donervon Daniels and Kazaiah Sterling have all come to an end. May is a popular figure but was on the fringes of the team, whilst no tears will be shed over the loss of the other three. However, the outlook in terms of squad numbers is simply that we are down four players from an already small group.
This has led in some circles to criticisms ranging from accusations the club is lacking ambition or competency in the market, to outright conspiracy suggesting the powers that be atop the Rovers hierarchy simply don’t want the club to be successful. Which is it?
Simply put, it certainly isn’t the latter. The notion is baseless, as has been proven over several years that our current ownership have been in charge. Upon relegation to League Two in 2016 – an avalanche that snowballed over several years of on-pitch folly – the board backed Darren Ferguson to the hilt in sanctioning moves for players far too good for the level, and when Grant McCann sprinted off the start line in the first half of last season, he was backed in January resulting in Rovers making the Play-Offs.
When he then kept on running all the way to the East Riding, the board secured something of a coup in appointing highly-rated Championship manager Darren Moore. Resource and ambition are not being tempered. The club is simply exercising the considered approach to all footballing matters that has become a staple since Rovers banished the awful memories of John Ryan’s hastily arranged “Experiment” in 2011.
How well the club is currently faring in transfer negotiations is another matter, but we as outsiders do not have all the facts in front of us to determine whether or not the lack of new arrivals is down to our own shortcomings or not. If February rolls around and there have still not been any additions to the playing squad – and that is a big, unlikely “if” in this writer’s opinion – then those questions over Rovers’ approach to transfers can begin.
Until then, patient is all we can be. Darren Moore has consistently stressed his desire to bring players in, he is as wise to the fact the squad needs it as any of us watching from the stands are. The board know it too. That’s why we attempted to bring in replacements for John Marquis in the summer only to fall short. It is also why audacious enquiries for the likes of Mallik Wilks were reportedly made in the last few weeks: Doncaster Rovers do not want to stand still, they want to move forward.
Darren Moore did not drop to League One for a jolly jaunt round the grounds. He is an ambitious manager with a burgeoning reputation and he has already shown his tactical acumen. He will want to succeed at shaping the Rovers squad and proving he can take the team forward just as much as we would all love to watch him succeed. Moore has maintained an air of calm over the matters, a level of patience in proceedings that we as supporters should all try to follow.
In this most turbulent of months during the season, it is easy to slip into anxiety and panic over the immediate future of the team. That our recent winning run, excellently demonstrating our capability in the league’s promotion battle, only managed to lift the worried mood for a day or two at a time speaks to the collective agitation of Rovers fans so used to near-misses and disappointments of the past.
We have had our hopes dashed before. Truthfully though, much of that fostered anxiety comes from a time some years ago when Rovers were perennial strugglers. For much of the past ten-to-fifteen years following the club has been a positive one, full of great moments and special achievements. There is currently no reason to believe the dark times are on their way back, so let’s sit tight and see what the next eight days bring.