Summer Squad Overhaul : Part 2
This week on ITEN I’m taking a look at the Rovers squad going into a busy summer rebuild, taking a look at where we need to strengthen and who needs to be shipped out to help facilitate that. A few days ago I ran the rule over our defenders and goalkeepers, and you can read that article here. This article has smashed my previous record for most views since beginning this site last year, so thanks to everybody reading and I hope you stick with us through the summer as we head into League Two.
Since publishing Part 1 the club has rather stolen my thunder by releasing the Retained List on Tuesday, but in truth it hasn’t altered any of my expectations for who will be staying and who will be leaving. All five of the players I suggested we keep in defence are still here, and the only players I elected to cast aside who were not named on the release list were Marko Marosi, who remains out of contract with an uncertain future, and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair who, as previously noted, is out until 2017 with a knee injury and therefore was never likely to be made available for transfer.
Whilst we desperately need to improve the defence immediately, having a robust back line will count for very little if we can’t create chances going forward. In order to do this, we need a strong core of players in midfield and up front, so let’s take a look at what we have to work with.
Please do remember also that my suggestions for new signings are merely based on what I’ve seen and heard, they are in no way an extensive scouting recommendation. Although, one day after touting Artur Krysiak as a target for a new keeper, Yeovil handed him a new two-year deal to stave off interest no doubt generated by this blog. Just kidding.
Men in the Middle
In thoroughly unusual fashion, Rovers made a signing yesterday, backing up their statement from the previous day that funds would be made “immediately available” to the manager by announcing a three-year-deal for Tommy Rowe, released by Wolves after a successful loan spell at the Keepmoat towards the end of this season. This is undoubtedly a coup for Darren Ferguson, who has laid down an edict early on that we mean business when it comes to challenging for promotion next season and made it clear that we can compete with League One clubs for players, as Rowe will surely have attracted suitors in the third tier after an impressive period with us these last few months. Some fans have already called for the attacking midfielder to be given the captain’s armband, and he said all the right things in his first interview since becoming a full-time Rover.
Despite Rowe’s capture, we are still desperately in need of midfield reinforcements. Paul Keegan and Harry Middleton remain as our holding options, but there are question marks over the viability of both in any starting capacity at present. Middleton is a fantastic prospect but it seemed too much was expected of him this past year and he faded in the second half of the season after an encouraging start. Much like defender Mitchell Lund, Middleton will probably benefit from the drop in standard now but needs to continue his development to stake a claim for a first team place. Keegan has served Rovers well over the past five years but spends too much time injured to be considered a member of our strongest line-up, however I would keep him for his experience and commitment to the club. We need a squad, not just a strong XI and Keegan is one of the contracted players who can help with this.
Outside of these three we only have one more midfielder set to stay and he is club captain James Coppinger. Copps is about to enter his 13th season at Doncaster Rovers and was the one man who came out in the aftermath of our relegation to stress his desire to right the ship and turn things around next season. He has undoubted quality, experience and end product that will make him a threat in League Two even with his advanced age. The Retained List noted that Richard Chaplow, who has flattered to deceive since his heralded arrival last summer, has activated his relegation release clause and therefore will be allowed to leave for free if he can find a new club by the end of June. Young winger Billy Whitehouse has also been told he is free to leave, which should come as no surprise after his failure to break into Fergie’s plans. I will shed no tears over the departures of these two players, particularly as Chaplow only managed to put in a handful of good performances in 2015/16.
STAY: James Coppinger, Paul Keegan, Harry Middleton, Tommy Rowe
GO: Richard Chaplow, Billy Whitehouse
That leaves us with two holding midfielders and two attacking options. Realistically we need to have eight senior midfielders on the books, with young prospects like Will Longbottom, who made his debut on the final day against Burton, there to step in if injuries catch up to us as they so often do. Despite the presence of Middleton, Keegan and even converted centre half Luke McCullough, I would still like to see us bring in somebody to play in that holding midfield role, able to utilise keen vision and distribution skills to set-up attacks. We have been hunting for our next Brian Stock for several years now and this position could be one of the most crucial when it comes to Fergie’s recruitment strategy. Further forward, Rowe is surely in line to be the ‘point’ of the midfield now but more options are needed, and one player from the National League worth a punt is Nicky Deverdics of Dover. He plundered 14 goals and 17 assists, combining with forward Stefan Payne to lift the minnows into the Play Offs, where they came up short. Towards the end of his 20’s now but perhaps hitting his prime, our manager has history with getting the best out of players in this mould. A younger player with knowledge of our new division is Dean Parrett, a former England youth international plying his trade at Stevenage. Other options include Yan Klukowski, leaving Newport next month, and Kalvin Phillips, one of the latest graduates of the Leeds United academy who has seen first team action in the past year.
Out wide, while the name may not be a popular one round these parts, Harrison Dunk of Cambridge contributed significantly to their strong 9th placed finish in League Two, and would also be capable of playing wide left in Fergie’s feted 3-5-2 formation. Could there also be a return for Gary McSheffrey? The veteran attacker is not being kept on by Scunthorpe and impressed on loan at Rovers in the run-in with six assists and a goal on his debut. Currently injured, McSheffrey may be tempted by an offer from the club as he lives locally and is approaching the tail-end of his career.
There is arguably no more important position than that of a striker, and aside from Billy Sharp we have not been known for our prolific marksmen in recent seasons. Any discussion of this group must begin with Andy Williams, who netted 22 goals in his maiden campaign at the club, but has come under fire from the fans for his attitude and astounding ability to go missing for half a dozen games at a time, unable to put away the simplest of chances. When he’s on form, he can be scintillating, but it doesn’t take much to dent the confidence of our enigmatic #1 striker. If he isn’t subject to bids from League One clubs who surely will consider him an option after his goals return in a relegated side, he should be a force to be reckoned with in League Two but we absolutely cannot afford to go into the season firmly relying on him to produce as our main marksman. Youth team graduate Liam Mandeville is another option but, aside from one well taken finish against Walsall in January is yet to show his goalscoring abilities at senior level. He may be able to battle into contention next season providing he follows Harry Middleton’s lead and spends ample time in the gym building his slight frame up during the summer.
Nathan Tyson had a disappointing second season in the hoops but was handed a new deal by Fergie, however it looks like that faith has gone from the manager as Tyson is activating his relegation release clause for a free pass out of South Yorkshire providing he can find somebody willing to take him in the next two weeks. While we may miss the work-rate of Tyson if he leaves, he has lost his penchant for scoring and is only going to decline further as he gets older from this point. Dany N’Guessan has been made available for transfer having failed to recover from the world’s longest toe injury, proving that he was one of the worst Paul Dickov recruitments among many…and what of Curtis Main? Unable to buy a goal at Rovers he was shipped out to Oldham in January, scored four goals at the Latics surged out of the bottom four to safety, and refused (rightly in my opinion) to come back and sit on the bench for Ferguson when we started to worry he was going to help send us down. As a result, he too has been told where the door is, meaning Main will go down as one of the biggest blunders in recent Rovers history. How we allowed a clause to be put in his loan contract giving him final say on a recall I will never know or understand.
STAY: Liam Mandeville, Andy Williams
GO: Curtis Main, Dany N’Guessan, Nathan Tyson
Power and pace are urgently needed up front for Rovers if we are moving forward from here with only Williams and Mandeville on the books. I would like to see us sign a quick attacker to play on the shoulder of the last defender, a bigger forward for hold up play and to be an ‘alternative’ option, and possibly one more striker depending on the budget constraints. Jack Marriott has caught the eye at Luton this season after a move from Ipswich, and whilst small possesses pace and an eye for goal sorely lacking at Rovers, whilst another option could be the positively biblical Bromley forward Moses Emmanuel. Goalscorers in this division are already being snapped up for their achievements this season, such as Stefan Payne and Kristian Dennis who have both moved to League One sides, so the time may be right for Rovers to scour this league too.
A long shot perhaps but somebody who undoubtedly knows where the net is is Dan Holman of Cheltenham, whose 30 goals fired the Robins to the title under Gary Johnson. Holman only signed permanently for the club in January but is a potential target for a club with the clout we have in League Two. The most curious development at this position over the summer could be the situation surrounding former Rovers loanee Keshi Anderson. The skillful youngster suffered a serious injury curtailing his impressive spell at the club earlier in the season, but now fit again and unlikely to push his way into Crystal Palace’s first team plans through lack of game time the past six months, Anderson may be able to boost his fledgling reputation by a longer stay on lakeside. Watch this space.
Assuming then that those on the Released List do indeed all leave, and discounting the out-of-contract back-up keeper Marosi, this is the current senior squad heading forward at Doncaster Rovers:
Craig Alcock, Cedric Evina, Mitchell Lund, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair; Andy Butler, Luke McCullough; Paul Keegan; Harry Middleton; James Coppinger; Tommy Rowe; Liam Mandeville, Andy Williams.
That’s a grand total of 12 players. Per my suggestions this week, I think we need to bring in the following:
2 Goalkeepers, 1 Left Back, 2 Centre Halves, 2 Centre Midfielders, 2 Wide Midfielders and 3 Forwards.
That would double our first team squad to 22, a realistic number in my opinion considering the likes of Longbottom and Joe Pugh who could also contribute. The question is will Darren Ferguson be able to assemble the type of squad he needs to push for an immediate return to League One? We’re in for an interesting summer.
In case you missed it, below is Tommy Rowe discussing his new deal at the club and the future of Doncaster Rovers under Darren Ferguson. Is he a potential captain for next season?
Video credit goes to Doncaster Rovers Football Club and Rovers Player.