The Inquest: Paul Goodwin’s verdict

Rovers' players applaude the crowd after the final game of the season against Ipswich. Picture: Andrew Roe
Rovers' players applaude the crowd after the final game of the season against Ipswich. Picture: Andrew Roe

WE had a mixed reaction to last week’s Doncaster Rovers inquest.

In some quarters we were praised for being the first publication to reveal the behind-the-scenes confusion about Rovers’ long term plan and the details of Sean O’Driscoll’s future strategy.

Yet other readers thought we did not provide any new information at all.

One thing we purposefully avoided was a verdict - because there is no single, simple explanation why Doncaster Rovers were relegated.

The dreaded drop was down to a culmination of factors, evident in the wide-ranging views expressed by fans on Twitter that we received and printed.

Last week’s inquest, however, unquestionably raised several question marks about where the responsibility for relegation lay.

No one is exempt from blame.

O’Driscoll’s footballing principles were commendable but he arguably over-complicated tactics and formations in the latter stages of his Rovers career.

His out of character half time substitution of Richard Naylor for Milan Lalkovic, when the scoreline was still goalless at Cardiff City, was the act of a man under serious pressure; a man wilting under a constant tide of injuries and individual mistakes from his players.

Post-relegation Dean Saunders has admitted he should have given Sam Hird more of a chance in the holding midfield position he occupied for the final few games.

In hindsight, Saunders might have gone with a more defensive-minded formation away from home and attempted to grind out results rather than going for the jugular.

The players must also take their fair share of the rap for the drop.

There were far too many defensive errors and gilt-edged misses, along with a worrying tendency to produce a complete no-show like last season’s forgettable trips to Derby and Barnsley.

While the Rovers board must ultimately accept responsibility for sanctioning expensive contract renewals at the same time as rejecting a £3.25million bid for Billy Sharp; decisions that left O’Driscoll and Saunders with a proverbial shoestring budget.

A lack of foresight forced Rovers’ hand into the experiment and ultimately cost them dear.

A similar lack of foresight must not be allowed to let Rovers slip further down the Football League ladder.

Lots of work is currently going on behind the scenes at Rovers and a major part of the club’s long term strategy will be unveiled next month.

A big announcement is pencilled in for Friday, June 8 - with speculation mounting over the potential return of Dick Watson and Terry Bramall, as well as a potential deal to takeover the Keepmoat Stadium.

Neither of those possible developments guarantee to arrest Doncaster’s alarming slide on the pitch over the last 16 months.

There is LOTS of work to be done this summer.

And the overriding message of The Inquest was that Rovers must learn from the mistakes that cost them their place in the Championship.