Doncaster Rovers: “I really fear for our short-term future.”

“There has been a culture of apathy and failure fostered over the course of a couple of years now and that will be hard to shake.” Adam Stubbings from Into The Empty Net isn't expecting a smooth road ahead following relegation to League Two.

Matthew Crist

To those on the outside, Doncaster Rovers have gone from promotion candidates to relegation fodder in the blink of an eye, but their recent demise only goes to highlight a number of long-term problems at the club.

A grand total of just 17 wins from the last 77 games has emphasised the sheer scale of a decline at the Eco-Power Stadium over the past 18-months or so.

And inevitable relegation to League Two was confirmed as they ended the season with a draw at Oxford United having spent just one weekend out of the drop zone all season.

It’s all a far cry from 2019, when Donny reached the play-offs, so what’s gone wrong and can this alarming slide be reversed?

“I’ve felt angry for months,” Adam Stubbings from Into The Empty Net tells FansBet.

“But I think that feeling gave way to grim acceptance a while ago so it was almost a numbness that washed over me on Saturday.

Doncaster Rovers 2022

“Rovers shouldn’t even be flirting with relegation from League One considering our capabilities, yet we have now gone down twice in six years from the third tier.

“There are a lot of problems at the club which have been brewing for quite some time now and hopefully this dismal campaign has made members of the hierarchy wake up to that.”

Doncaster started the season badly, taking just four points from their first nine league games, including a 6-0 thrashing at Ipswich which left them rock-bottom in League One.

By December, their tally stood at 13 points from 19 league games but, with Rovers still six points from safety, they sacked manager Richie Wellens after only six months in charge.

Gary McSheffrey was promoted from leading Rovers’ under-18s side and guided the first team to some spirited results, including wins at play-off chasing sides MK Dons and Sunderland, which kept them in contention to stay up.

Crewe’s dreadful run of 15 defeats in 16 games meant Rovers at least lifted themselves off the bottom of the table – before they ultimately relegated the Alex by beating them three weeks before their own drop was ultimately sealed.

Richie Wellens Doncaster Rovers

“It really would be unfair to lay it all at one person’s feet,” explains Adam.

“The board has made a succession of naïve decisions in the running of the club, we have given the reins to managers who have done more damage to the squad than good, the injuries have been a real killer this season too.

“I think any one of those things would have made it difficult for us but when you add them all together, it was always likely we would have a hard season.

“Nobody who has paid attention would be able to argue with a straight face that we deserved to stay up.

“We haven’t won back-to-back league matches in over a year, we never learned how to defend nor did we work out how to score goals – a fatal combination.

“It has felt inevitable since around the turn of the year that we would go down, and so it has proven.

Doncaster Rovers 2022

“To only amass 38 points in a 46-game season is very poor, and no team with that tally deserves to stay in the division.”

Rovers have been unlucky with injuries this season, something which has undoubtedly hampered their chances of survival.

But a short-term approach to squad-building over the last few years has backfired spectacularly and led to a regression that has ultimately proved terminal.

It is a sad decline that raises some burning questions about the ambition and strategy of an ownership that talked about taking Rovers back to the Championship but have instead overseen a second relegation to League Two in the space of six years.

So how optimistic is Adam that the road back will be a smooth one?

“I worry we are in for a tough time of it in League Two to be honest,” he says.

“Darren Ferguson was an experienced, successful manager and he brought in a slew of top players for that level – John Marquis, Tommy Rowe and Matty Blair to name three.

Doncaster Rovers 2022

“Whereas now we have an inexperienced manager who has struggled in his first job, a new Head of Football Operations who is taking his first steps into a non-playing role, and a squad devoid of quality or consistency.

“We have got to learn from the mistakes that led us here. We can’t rely on loanees and young players in large numbers to fill the squad, and those in charge must open their eyes to the real challenges of being in the bottom tier.

“If we go in thinking it will be easy because we got straight back up last time, I really fear for our short-term future.

“There has been a culture of apathy and failure fostered over the course of a couple of years now and that will be hard to shake.

“Especially as it appears the fortunes of the team are going to be left in the hands of individuals who have played a big role in that collective failure.”

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