Doncaster Rovers: “There’s optimism around the club again.”

"I think this squad can compete at the upper end of League Two with the right philosophy and outlook on the pitch." - Adam Stubbings from Into The Empty Net is optimistic as Doncaster start life under new boss Danny Schofield.

Matthew Crist

Doncaster fans might have been forgiven for not being overly enthusiastic about the appointment of new boss Danny Schofield.

The former Huddersfield Town manager, who replaced the outgoing Gary McSheffrey last week, lasted less than three months as the head coach at the John Smith’s Stadium.

But brief though his time as the Terriers’ boss may have been, the steep learning curve will no doubt have added to his education on what it takes to lead a club rather than working as an assistant.

And that’s something that Rovers fans will hope suits their squad of promising youngsters as they look to bounce back from the disappointment of relegation last season.

“Hiring Danny Schofield could potentially be a very shrewd move,” Adam Stubbings from Into The Empty Net tells FansBet.

“It’s the first big statement acquisition of James Coppinger in his new Head of Football Operations role.

“And if we are to believe what he says about adopting a playing style – which suits the club’s ethos and matches the footballing philosophy that the ownership have always said is a priority for them – then we should be in for some improvement.

“He also has plenty of coaching experience at good clubs, which is an improvement on Gary McSheffrey, who had only coached the academy here.”

McSheffrey, who left the club after a 3-0 defeat to Carlisle earlier this month, had been Doncaster’s under-18s manager when he was appointed as first-team boss last December.

And, after arriving initially on an interim basis, he was then appointed permanently a few weeks later to replace Richie Wellens.

The club were 23rd in League One when he took charge but at no stage did they climb out of the relegation zone, even if they only officially went down on the final day of last season as they finished 22nd.

After making a number of new signings in the summer, Doncaster began their League Two campaign well, and they were third come the end of August as they began the season with six games unbeaten.

Doncaster 2022

But they then collected just two wins from the following eight games, culminating in that loss at Burnden Park to the Cumbrians in what would ultimately be McSheffrey’s last game as boss.

“The writing had been on the wall for Gary for a couple of weeks and I think the change was inevitable,” says Adam.

“He was simply the wrong man for the job while his inexperience has shown throughout his tenure and I think he was struggling with the pressure of turning results around once our bright start to the season tailed off.

“We never progressed from playing route one, aimless football despite bringing in his own players and having a full pre-season to develop some semblance of style or brand of football.

“The lack of ideas in games was costing us and you could never see a plan really.

“I honestly think that a good dose of luck papered over the cracks and teams quickly worked out how to stifle us.

“Gary just couldn’t seem to get anything more out of the players and it felt as though many were playing under their potential.”

Schofield, who was appointed on October 20th, spent much of his playing career at Huddersfield Town, but hasn’t had the easiest introduction to football management.

After cutting his coaching teeth with Leeds United, Birmingham City and Middlesbrough, he took over as Terriers’ boss this summer after Carlos Corberan’s surprise exit midway through pre-season.

But he lasted just nine games before he was sacked with the club 23rd in the Championship table.

However, his reputation as a promising young coach with an emphasis on playing football was enough to persuade the Donny board to give him another chance in management.

Especially seeing as the club had expressed their disappointment that their wishes for a particular style of play and overall identity had not come to fruition during McSheffrey’s 11-month tenure.

“He’s specifically been brought in because our squad has a lot of young players in that development phase of their career,” explains Adam.

“So if he can harness the potential of some of these promising youngsters then we could see a rapid upturn in our fortunes.

“It’s a slight concern that we have opted for younger, less experienced head coaches for a few years now and obviously up to now the results of that have been disastrous.

“He’ll need to instil a style of play which has structure and meaning to it as we’ve have been subjected to torrid anti-football and muddled tactics for months on end under the previous manager.

“But I think this squad can compete at the upper end of League Two with the right philosophy and outlook on the pitch, so I hope Danny has clear ideas about how to put that into practice.”

Rovers currently sit 12th in the League Two table after a disappointing run that hasn’t seen them register a win for five games.

And in his two matches in charge at The Keepmoat Stadium so far, Schofield’s side have notched up a draw with Crewe before suffering a 1-0 defeat at home to Stevenage.

However, they are still only four points off seventh placed Bradford City who currently occupy the final play-off place.

So with well over half of the season still to go, does Adam believe that a promotion push is still a possibility for a young manager with plenty to prove?

“I definitely think it’s attainable, and said at the start of the season that reaching the play-offs should be the minimum expectation.

“I still believe that to be the case despite our faltering form – with four promotion spots up for grabs, I don’t see why we can’t go on a run and get ourselves into contention before Christmas.

“Doncaster Rovers claim to want to get back to the Championship and to do that they need to learn from recent mistakes and put together a side capable of competing with any side they face.

“I’m hopeful that the appointment of Danny Schofield is the first big step on the road back and my first impressions of him and how he wants his Rovers team to play have been good.

“He is a local lad who wants to get his managerial career off and running, and I think this is a good club for him to do that with.

“There’s optimism around the club again and I think that our first two performances since Danny arrived have been really promising, even if we haven’t managed to bag a win yet.

“I see nothing to fear in any of the teams in League Two and believe we can finish in the top seven with the players we have and the new head coach given time to stamp his authority on the squad.”

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