Doncaster Rovers: McCullough ready to leap into the fire

Luke McCullough made his Rovers debut, and first senior start, as a last gasp replacement for Rob Jones last weekend.
Luke McCullough made his Rovers debut, and first senior start, as a last gasp replacement for Rob Jones last weekend.

To say Luke McCullough was thrust into the Rovers mix last weekend is somewhat of an understatement.

A week ago, the 19-year-old centre half’s senior football experience amounted to just 43 minutes from one game while on loan at League Two Cheltenham last season.

And as he ran out to warm up for Rovers’ clash with Brighton, named among the substitutes, the former Manchester United youngster was certainly not expecting to add to any further minutes to his personal clock.

In a matter of moments, McCullough was lifted from another 90 minutes on the bench and dropped into his first senior start.

Add to that the fact he was faced with replacing one of Rovers’ most influential figures in Rob Jones.

With Jones ruled out for the next two months and Paul Dickov less than certain about making a pre-weekend loan signing, McCullough is facing the strong possibility of a second consecutive start in the Championship – coming in the cauldron of a derby trip to Barnsley.

Not that any of the events of the last week seem to have fazed the Northern Irishman.

“It was just nice to get my debut out of the way,” he told the Star.

“I’ve been sitting on the bench for a while now waiting to get my chance.

“I didn’t have much time to think about it but I was delighted to get it out of the way.

“Quite a few people have said it was probably best that it worked out the way it did.

“I supposed if I’d have known a couple of days before that I was going to play I could have over-thought things.

“But I didn’t have time to think, I was just straight into it.

“Overall I was quite happy with how I did.

“In the first half we weren’t good as a team but in the second half we were on top and probably unlucky not to get something out of the game.”

McCullough is certainly excited by a potential start at Oakwell on Saturday.

He said: “They are the games you want to be playing in.

“Derbies are the best games and the most enjoyable.

“All being well I’ll be playing.

“It’s going to be a bit different this time because I’ll have time to think about it but I’m looking forward to it.”

Prior to last weekend’s events and Jones’ unfortunate injury, McCullough was more than happy to bide his time at Rovers, working on building foundations for what he hopes to be a long professional career ahead.

After all, just a few month ago he was facing a footballer’s ultimate uncertainty following his release from Old Trafford.

“It was a hard time,” he said. “I didn’t know whether I’d be staying at home in Northern Ireland or coming back over here to get a club.

“There was a lot of uncertainty and it was a really difficult time for me.

“Thankfully I was invited here and the manager showed faith in me.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of being here. I had no problem settling in.

“The manager has told me that my time will come so I’ve been patient and worked hard in training to make sure I’m ready when my chance to come.

“I’m young so I’ve got time on my side.

“I’m just looking to improve as much as I can which will stand me in good stead for the rest of my career.”

McCullough will next week join up with Northern Ireland U21 with whom he has become a regular during qualification for the European U21 Championships.

Qualifiers with Italy and Cyprus await.

But first there is the matter of a local derby.