Analysis: One hard luck story too many for Paul Dickov

Paul Dickov
Paul Dickov

As we started the long journey back from Gillingham, former Free Press sports editor Peter Catt and I bemoaned another hard luck story for Rovers.

It was hard to understand why Gillingham’s goal was given and even more difficult to comprehend why Rovers were not awarded a penalty.

But as we chatted, Peter threw out a question - how many more hard luck stories would be allowed before something had to change?

As it turns out, the tale of woe at the Priestfield Stadium provided the conclusion of Paul Dickov’s chapter in the Rovers history book.

It quickly became apparent after Saturday’s defeat that a vocal section of the club’s support had grown tired of excuses - however valid - and wanted change. And it seems, judging by the reaction to Dickov’s dismissal on Tuesday, that plenty more supporters thought it was time for a change of direction too.

Nevertheless, there was certainly a sense of shock when the news came through that Dickov was no longer the manager of Doncaster Rovers.

Statistics and performances may have suggested the 42-year-old’s position was balanced on a knife edge but the message from the club’s hierarchy said differently.

Just five days prior to his dismissal, Dickov was the subject of staunch defence from major shareholders at the club’s biannual Meet The Owners event.

Dickov came in for criticism from some sections of the audience, with one supporter suggesting he should not have been appointed in the first place.

But Terry Bramall was quick to leap to Dickov’s defence, taking the microphone even though the question was not asked of him.

“You cannot blame Paul for applying for the job,” Bramall said. “If anything you can blame me and John Ryan for making the appointment.

“And for the record, I think we did a very good job making the appointment.”

Bramall, Dick Watson, David Blunt and Gavin Baldwin were all in support of Dickov last Thursday.

It appears however they carried some of the messages from the event and plenty of negative social media reaction from the weekend into their monthly board meeting on Monday, when they ultimately made the decision to part company with Dickov.

Dickov’s time with Rovers could easily be termed a hard luck story, one where goals were so nearly achieved.

He arrived in May 2013 into one of the most wonderful situations a lower league manager could hope for, taking over a club freshly promoted to the Championship.

But he would soon be presented with a situation far from ideal and one that would repeat itself the following summer.

Because of the strong possibility that separate takeover bids from Sequentia Capital, and John Ryan and Louis Tomlinson would go through, Dickov had two separate hypothetical budgets in his first two summers at the club.

On one hand he would be signing Shay Given, Richard Dunne and John Guidetti. On the other he would be operating under much more traditional means for a club of Rovers’ stature.

And in both summers he found out at the 11th hour he would have the latter, leaving him with little time to put together a squad for the coming campaign.

Yet each season he coped rather admirably in the main.

Rovers competed well in the Championship, overwhelming teams at times with Dickov’s pressing approach.

But they should have survived. The fact they capitulated so badly, winning one point from the final seven games, marked the card of some supporters when it came to Dickov.

Like the summer of turmoil was repeated for Dickov’s first two seasons, so was the end of campaign capitulation.

The worst thing he could have done was guide Rovers into the top six, particularly when the business end of the season was firing up. Rovers’ ideal first XI last term could compete with any in the division but the depth of the squad suggested mid-table was a more realistic target.

So expectations were raised when Rovers battled into the top six. And, rightly so, there was considerable disappointment when they again dropped off so badly, winning just twice in the final eight games of the season.

It was clear Dickov needed a strong start to the current campaign. Unfortunately that did not come.

Injuries again played their part but the lack of goals, something which blighted last season also, was a major concern. Particularly so after the signing of Andy Williams.

The woeful defeat at Port Vale was worrying. Such horrendously bad days at the office had been peppered throughout Dickov’s reign. For many, it was the final straw, but that would ultimately prove to be a loss at Gillingham, a day when Rovers came agonisingly close to achieving something.

Too many had grown tired of tales of woe and desired a much more positive story. Now we will see if Dickov’s sad ending delivers the start of a feel-good new chapter.