VIDEO: Doncaster Rovers v Sheffield United preview - Fergie has one birthday gift on his mind
On your birthday, you could be forgiven for getting your work done and getting home quickly.
After finishing Rovers training on Tuesday, the day he turned 44, Darren Ferguson instead led a coaching session for youngsters on Rovers’ half term football camp.
As he mixed in with the kids during the matches which concluded the session, the Rovers boss was clearly enjoying himself.
He could not resist on several occasions nicking the ball off the feet of the young footballers as they darted past.
And the opportunity for a strike on goal was not to be missed. He groaned as he struck the post with a fine curling effort from 15 yards.
His hour on the all-weather pitches was a welcome break from preparations for the biggest league game that will be held on the Keepmoat’s main pitch this season - the visit of Sheffield United.
Ferguson is desperate to jolt Rovers back into life after the recent disappointing run which has seen their play-off hopes all-but die.
No wins in four, two home defeats on the bounce - what better way to jump start than with a local derby in front of a bumper crowd, right?
With a fully fit squad to choose from for Saturday’s clash, he is confident Rovers will begin to show the type of form which typified the first two months of his reign at the club.
“I think it’s a very good game for us at a right time,” he told the Free Press.
“We’ve got all our players back and fit. The squad is strong.
“There will be a big crowd and I’m fully expecting a performance from my team.
“It’s probably the biggest home game we’ve got in terms of geography and the size of the club coming.
“It’s a big game for us, and we know what it means to the supporters.
“It’s a game I think we can do well in and we’re really looking forward to it.”
With last weekend’s trip to Scunthorpe United postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, Ferguson quickly re-routed to Bramall Lane to watch the Blades’ clash with Wigan Athletic.
United lost 2-0, taking their recent run of form to just one league win in six and seeing them drop to 11th in League One.
“Wigan were very good, they won fairly comfortably,” Ferguson said after being asked what he made of United.
It could be read as a telling comment on United, a side far from their best at the moment with the weight of expectation proving a heavy burden.
With expectations demanding nothing less than promotion this season, the atmosphere around the Blades has grown increasingly toxic over the last month.
Ferguson added “There is a lot of frustration there at the moment in terms of expectations which are massive at that football club.
“But they’ve got some good players, a big squad. They’ve got a very good, experienced manager at this level.
“It’s going to be a tough, tough game.
“But it’s one I’m looking forward to.”
Up to 4,200 away fans could make the short journey along the M18 from Sheffield with 3,100 sold at the time of writing. An attendance of more than 10,000 is on the cards for the game.
Given the current mood around United, Rovers could very easily turn up the frustration levels on Saturday.
But Ferguson prefers to focus on his own team rather than worrying about the opposition and their fans.
He said: “I think we have to concentrate on ourselves.
“The game I watched on Saturday, there was a lot of frustration because the expectation is they should be going to the Championship.
“Can we play on it? No.
“We just have to make sure we perform to the best of our ability but there are definitely key areas on the pitch where we can hurt them.”
Rovers have conceded first in each of their last six home games. They went on to win only one of those games.
The trend is something Ferguson has highlighted on several occasions over the last couple of months.
And he says a strong start will be vital on Saturday in the pressure cooker atmosphere.
“Confidence is a massive thing,” he said.
“They could have more than 4,000 here and they’ll be very vocal.
“The opening period of the game is going to be pivotal.
“I thought we did it better against Walsall in the last game. We got the ball forward quicker, with good quality.
“I think we’ve got to test them and make them defend early doors.
“It’s stuff we’ve spoken about at length and we will again.”
A knock-on effect of the cancellation of the Scunthorpe game is that Ferguson’s touchline ban will now transfer to the game this weekend, forcing him into the stands at the Keepmoat.
But he does not expect it to have a bearing on the game.
“I’ll get a better view,” he said. “I can still go in at half time.
“I’ve got a radio so Strachs [assistant Gavin Strachan] is not looking forward to it because I’ll be shouting down his ear for 90-odd minutes.
“It’s sometimes more of an advantage when you’re sat in the stands.
“Normally you’d go down for the second half but it’s not going to make too much of a difference.
“It’s not about me.”
As he stops for pictures and autographs with the young footballers on the way to his car, even on his birthday it is not about him.