• Adam Stubbings

Rovers Ready for Moore: Darren's Back in Donny

Change is afoot at Doncaster Rovers once again. A year on from the unexpected change in manager that saw the departure of Darren Ferguson, his successor Grant McCann forced the matter of change again. A shock move to Hull City took everyone by surprise last month, but three weeks of uncertainty and rampant speculation ended a week ago with the appointment of former West Bromwich Albion boss Darren Moore.

Moore is no stranger to most Rovers fans, of course. A brief but distinguished spell as a player in the mid-90s put the defensive colossus firmly into the hearts of those who saw him flourish at Belle Vue during a time when the club had little to shout about, on a downward spiral to the brink of oblivion under the reviled Ken Richardson. 20 odd years have passed since then and almost everything has changed, but that bond forged in the mid-90s helped contribute to a managerial move that has galvanised the club from top to bottom at a time when concern was creeping in.

So what should we expect from the new man in the dugout? Is our newfound optimism justified? ITEN takes a look at three reasons why the union between Darren Moore and Doncaster Rovers could be an exciting one for us all.

1. A Winning Mentality

Moore’s first team managerial career to date has been brief but encouraging. Winning is the aim in football, and a 47% win rate at the helm of West Bromwich Albion over the course of one year in charge is nothing to scoff at. Finding a way to win in almost exactly half of his matches in charge, Moore has shown that he knows how to get the job done. His most notable achievement was a run of form immediately after taking over from Alan Pardew, with the Baggies all but relegated from the Premier League at the time. Moore turned things around and took the club to within a game of survival, notching significant results in victory over Tottenham, a draw with Liverpool in which West Brom came from 2-0 down and, most impressively, a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford against Manchester United, ending the Red Devils’ title challenge.

Moore earned the Premier League’s Manager of the Month award for his unbeaten start and picked up where he left off in the Championship as an early seven-match run saw him bank September’s Manager of the Month award too. This form included an emphatic 4-3 victory away at eventual champions Norwich, a 7-1 demolition of Queens Park Rangers and, further into the campaign, an away win at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United and a noteworthy 4-1 drubbing of Leeds United. West Brom never went more than three games in succession without a win under Moore, and he was harshly sacked with the club sat comfortably in the Championship Play Offs.

Although Moore had one of the division’s strongest squads at his disposal last season, financial clout is no guarantee of success. Ask any one of the myriad ex-Premier League clubs who have struggled to recapture their former glories in the past decade or two. West Brom were a club dealing with off-field issues who had lost their top-flight status for the first time in eight years necessitating a quick rebuild with fresh ideas, and Darren Moore provided this in his first senior managerial job. With Rovers now facing a similar rebuild after losing many of the players who led the club to the Play Offs last season, this opportunity may have come at the perfect time for both Moore and Doncaster Rovers.

2. Academy Credentials

An aspect of the club that Gavin Baldwin and his fellow higher-ups have been keen to push in recent years is the academy. A pathway to the first team that has yielded so little in the past two decades, fans are keen to see more return on the investment in an extensive youth academy. James Husband is really the only true success story of Doncaster Rovers’ academy since Paul Green, who progressed into the first team from the old academy at High Melton in 2002 (sorry if that makes you feel old!) and went on to become a club legend. Liam Mandeville looked to be the next youth graduate to break through and make it stick, but whilst he may still make it as a professional, he won’t be doing it here having left for Chesterfield this summer.

One of the main aims Darren Moore has been tasked with upon his return to DN4 is to improve the effectiveness of the pathway to the senior side, something he knows all about from his time at West Brom. Working his way up coaching the U18s at The Hawthorns before taking charge of the U23s, Moore knows what it takes to bring young players through and has spoken already of his desire to do that here too, quoted this week in praise of the close links at the training ground between the first team and the academy. Rovers have made no secret of their intention to improve the quality coming from the club’s academy in an edict started under Darren Ferguson, one which led to initial success for the likes of Mandeville as well as Harry Middleton and Mitchell Lund. Sadly, none of these players ultimately made the grade at the club and so Moore must try to bring his experience and expertise to the fore to boost our academy prospects now.

Moore has nurtured the likes of Sam Field, Craig Dawson, Rekeem Harper and Jonathan Leko, current Leeds United stars Kemar Roofe and Tyler Roberts, as well as helping Harvey Barnes to flourish during a loan spell last season that led to a place in the Leicester first team for the son of former Rovers striker Paul Barnes. Rovers have a number of exciting young players on the books, and the hope is that Moore will be able to cultivate a new youth culture at the club which could benefit the likes of Danny Amos, Rieves Boocock, Lirak Hasani and Branden Horton.

3. Football’s Mr. Nice

Being a friendly fellow isn’t a necessity in football, but it can make a difference. Darren Moore is cited universally as one of the nicest guys in the sport, a personable character with time for everyone and a vested interest in community matters. Rovers fans who had the chance to speak to him during his playing career here can probably vouch for this, but how important is it for him to fulfil his role as manager?

Some of the best managers in history got there without being kind personalities. Sir Alex Ferguson certainly didn’t need to be on everybody’s Christmas card list to be a success, but increasingly in the modern age being likeable seems to matter. It was certainly on the job spec when Moore applied, with a “pleasing and willing personality” listed as a must by the board. Another of the criterion was that of having “excellent contacts within the football community”, and this is something that Moore’s personality allied with his experience in the game spanning three decades should mean an ability to maximise our recruitment capabilities.

Outside of the practical aspects, being a nice guy that the fans can warm to as quickly as the players surely will, can help to foster unity and positivity around the club. Several of our recent managers failed to do this, notably the adversarial, stand-offish Darren Ferguson and the at-times baffling personality that was Dean Saunders. Our last truly great manager, Sean O’Driscoll, was respected and liked by everybody for his reserved demeanour and many would argue he is the most successful manager in Doncaster Rovers history. If Darren Moore can channel his upbeat, positive energy into all aspects of his role here then we may be in for an exciting ride in the months and years to come.


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