Wimbledon, Williams and Wishful Thinking
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
The big news out of DRFC towards the end of last week was the announcement that striker Andy Williams was being taken off the transfer list after a positive return to pre-season training. Williams was one of five players shortlisted for an exit immediately following the end of our League Two promotion campaign in May, and it seemed for all the world like Fergie had elected to move on from the man who led the scoring charts for Rovers in his first season, and signed off with a goal at Hartlepool that took him to 11 for the season, not a bad return at all when you consider he missed several months of the season through injury.
Two factors then seem to have led to this u-turn from the manager. In his own words, Ferguson has been impressed with Williams’ attitude and “first class work-rate”, the veteran striker clearly wanting to show his desire to remain at the club having settled in South Yorkshire with his family, which is also expecting another addition later this summer. In addition, it was reported two weeks ago that Rovers had missed out on a transfer target up front and in the wake of that, the manager now feels that his best available option is the man already under contract. This leaves us set with five first team forwards in the ranks – star man John Marquis, Alfie May, Liam Mandeville, new boy Alex Kiwomya and Williams himself – which should allow us to look at other positions to strengthen with our remaining transfer budget, especially with pressing needs still to cover at centre half and holding midfield.
Houghton on the return?
On the note of that holding midfielder, murmurs keep emerging from Cantley Park regarding the potential return of Chelsea prospect Jordan Houghton, who enjoyed a fantastic campaign last season at DRFC before injury cut it short. Houghton then endeared himself to the Rovers faithful by showing up in the crowd away at Colchester, subsequently also joining in with promotion celebrations when the achievement was confirmed at home to Mansfield. Alex Kiwomya spoke of the positive things he’d heard from his Chelsea team mate upon inking his contract with the club last month, and Darren Ferguson himself has begun to speak of the potential to bring the young man back to DN4 once fit.
Therein lies the only real stumbling block with this potential deal, as Houghton is not expected to be fit until at least a month after the end of the summer transfer window. Some would argue that means a move should be left until January when he is back to 100% again, but that does leave open the possibility that we miss out on adding a talented piece of the puzzle to our squad. Luke McCullough looks set to start the season in the starting berth at the base of the midfield, but questions remain over whether or not he is ready to take on such a role despite some impressive showings in the final weeks of last season. Unless a suitable replacement can be brought in permanently in the coming weeks, it seems a no-brainer to go after the signature of Houghton now even if he will miss the first two months of the campaign.
The big talking point among Rovers fans that has received utterly no attention in the press of late is the future of talisman John Marquis. The big Londoner netted 26 goals in a glorious individual campaign to spearhead our promotion push, but rather than taking the old adage that “no news is good news”, many supporters have been fretting about the big man’s future due to the fact no public progress has been made on an extension to the two-year contract that Marquis signed last summer when he arrived from Millwall.
There is no doubt that Marquis could receive interest from clubs with more clout than ourselves off the back of hitting the top of the League Two scoring charts in 2016/17, but as of writing there has been nothing substantial to suggest a departure is in the offing, no serious talk in the national or local press about potential suitors, and no real hiccup in the official communications from the club. Marquis has trained as normal with the rest of the squad and is reportedly in great shape, and crucially Darren Ferguson has expressed no reservations whatsoever regarding keeping his top scorer. With the news that Andy Williams is now staying, the message appears to be that we are set with our five striking options and that certainly would not involve losing our main man.
Whatever happens, if the day comes soon that Marquis does put pen to paper on that new deal, you will be able to hear and feel the sigh of relief across the town.