REVIEW OF 2014: Light at the end of a dark tunnel for Doncaster Rovers?

Relegation on the final day of the season at Leicester left a sour taste.
Relegation on the final day of the season at Leicester left a sour taste.

It might be hard for fans to glean any positives at all from a year that saw Rovers relegated and then suffer the knock-on effects of yet another takeover collapse.

Doncaster’s self-destruction in the Championship with seven games to go will continue to rankle for some time yet, while scarcely more believable was John Ryan and Louis Tomlinson’s attempted buy-out, despite the pair apparently not having the necessary finance to satisfy the Football League.

However, there are signs that Rovers have picked themselves up and dusted themselves down after last summer’s double whammy. And they might just have learned a few lessons along the way too.

This season started inauspiciously, a model of inconsistency that put front of shop man Paul Dickov’s position under the sort of intense scrutiny that was almost inevitable after he failed to keep Doncaster in the Championship.

The club’s owners continue to keep a low profile, while publicity shy chairman David Blunt could not be more unlike his predecessor if he tried.

But their vision for Rovers to be a self-sufficient, sustainable organisation - powered by ‘Club Doncaster’ - could not have been made more clear.

Rovers at least have a plan. That direction and clear long term strategy is important for any business to succeed.

Whether Terry Bramall and Dick Watson stick around if they are made an offer they cannot refuse - just like Ryan did last summer - remains uncertain. But under the stewardship of chief executive Gavin Baldwin, the brains behind the Club Doncaster brand, Rovers have a very clear blueprint moving forward.

Not so long ago, one former Doncaster player is known to have referred to his employers as “the circus”. The insinuation was obvious - that Rovers were lacking organisation and direction behind the scenes.

That the last two summers have been an unmitigated disaster in terms of the last minute nature of player recruitment only seemed to reinforce this unnamed player’s perception. However, a corner now finally appears to have been turned.

With Andy Butler seemingly being lined up as Rob Jones’ long term replacement, and a new contract for Luke McCullough in the pipeline, the notion of forward planning appears to have been pushed right to the top of the agenda - much to Dickov’s relief no doubt.

And there is another big positive for Rovers fans to see in the new year with at least a modicum of optimism - the emergence of youth. Led by exciting teenage strike pair Jack McKay and Liam Mandeville, the Doncaster Rovers production line appears to have cranked back into gear after an almost dormant two decades. There is hope for the future. And after the year they’ve just endured, who would deny Doncaster’s fans at least a ray of hope. Here’s to 2015.