League One Lowdown: Doncaster Rovers
Feature by Jim Bonner
Updated Monday, 27th August 2012
A closer look at Donny and the Keepmoat Stadium.
Chairman: John Ryan
Last Season: Championship - 24th (Relegated)
Nicknames: Donny, Rovers
Portsmouth vs Doncaster: Saturday, November 17th (3pm)
Doncaster vs Portsmouth: Saturday, March 16th (3pm)
The Manager: Dean Saunders
Having spent his playing career with a multitude of clubs including Derby, Liverpool and Aston Villa, the Welshman hung up his boots in 2001 and began his coaching career before being given his first managerial role at Wrexham.
Despite his mediocre results, he was snapped up by Doncaster Rovers after Sean O'Driscoll was sacked and started well. However, Donny fans now want him out after an abysmal run of results that saw Rovers relegated at the end of last season.
Doncaster in-depth: An interview with Rovers fan Adam Stubbings
What are your hopes and expectations for this season?
Having just been relegated along with yourselves - indeed we were relegated against Portsmouth in April - we are hoping for a fresh start, a new beginning and a resurgence after a tough couple of years trying unsuccessfully to survive in the Championship. It's somewhat a clean slate, we've offloaded a large portion of the playing staff that got us relegated and are looking for a new approach.
The Willie McKay 'experiment' has ended thankfully and we need to be looking to re-establish ourselves. The chairman and the manager have made no secret of their desire to challenge for promotion this season and I think that's only right, we've come down into a division that many feel is weaker than it has been in the last few seasons and we also have one of the biggest playing budgets.
I expect us to be able to put a side together to finish in the top 6 at least. However at the present time that is looking optimistic at best, as we are still short on players and need to bring in 4-5 more to form a full and functioning squad.
What do you think of your manager?
The jury is still out for me. Dean Saunders was a surprise appointment when he came in for Sean O'Driscoll last September, and needless to say things have not been great so far. Rumblings of dressing room discontent and tactical ineptitude were prominent last season, but how much of this can actually be put down to the manager is hard to say.
Some of the egos at the club last season were most unhelpful, specially the clash between the senior long-term players and the short-term 'quick fix' players that actually fixed very little.
Saunders has another chance to prove he isn't a failure for us, but if he doesn't get it right from the get-go this season he will be under immense pressure and I expect him to be dismissed if we are not looking like challenging the top 6 by October/November time. One thing I will give him is that so far this summer he appears to have brought in some very good players to rebuild our squad.
Who are your key players?
Another tough question. The firesale of our playing squad has not yet finished so I could look very stupid naming players that won't even be here by the time we play Walsall in our opening game next weekend. James Coppinger has been a superb technical player for us for the last eight years but it looks likely that he will leave before the end of the month.
After him Kyle Bennett and Tommy Spurr are excellent young players who are more than capable of playing at a higher level. Hopefully they will return to the Championship still as Rovers players in the future!
Of our new signings I would pick out Welsh international David Cotterill as one who stands out above the rest, and I'm expecting him to do very well in this division.
What is your club most famous for?
I'm not sure to be honest - perhaps our collapse into oblivion in 1998? We became pretty well known for that as we went about setting all the worst records we could take in the football league, all of which was nicely highlighted in an ITV documentary showing off every dark facet of this club at the time.
More recently I guess our 5 year rise from the Conference to the Championship gained a lot of attention, capped off with a shock win over Leeds at Wembley in the play-off final.
Last season the now departed star striker Billy Sharp was in the national press when his young son died soon after birth, but Billy made a story of inspiration and courage coming back in and playing only days later, scoring a world class volley and dedicating the goal to his son.
Describe the Keepmoat Stadium for Pompey fans.
It's not a great ground the Keepmoat, I don't think many like it. We moved in 5 years ago and whilst it is undoubtedly much better than our old ground in terms of facilities, size etc. it does not make it easy to harness a decent atmosphere, the pitch has tended to be diabolical at times and it is very much like a soulless indentikit bowl ground as a lot of fans like to call it.
'Hilariously' dubbed the Keepquiet by many opposition fans. I couldn't tell you much about the away end as obviously I've never needed to be in it, but since the stadium is the same the whole way round I imagine it's just as windy and boring as the other three stands.
Describe your rivalries with other clubs.
I'm not sure we really have any! I could list off a reel of local clubs who we have derby matches with, but I doubt many of those (if any) would call us their biggest rivals. Rotherham United perhaps more than any other, but we haven't played them too many times in the last couple of decades.
Every time I have experienced that fixture it has been a bad tempered affair, as have our matches against Barnsley. Beyond them we have flitting rivalries with Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday and certainly Scunthorpe.
And of course Leeds, but I imagine they're well over losing to us at Wembley four years ago as they are now in the league above and beat us 5-2 at Elland Road in each of the last two seasons. We certainly don't have any club we look upon the same as you would Southampton.
What is the most interesting fact about your club that is little-known to fans of other clubs.
Beyond those aforementioned football league records we've set I can't think of a great deal. Two years ago the woman who played our mascot 'Donny Dog' was sacked after she posed in lingerie for a photoshoot in a newspaper, along with the mascot uniform. After a bit of a campaign though she was rehired. Thrilling I know!
Predict your team's finishing position.
If we go through the season with the current threadbare squad, I can't see us finishing any higher than about 9th. I hope I am wrong and we can bounce back into the Championship at the first time of asking however!
The Ground: The Keepmoat Stadium (Capacity: 15,200)
After spending 84 years at Belle Vue, it was time for Doncaster to move into their new stadium built in the middle of nowhere, although it is the only football league ground situated next to a lake.
There was a unique place to drink nearby called The Toad Brewery which is situated in part of a nearby warehouse but unfortunately it has now been closed down, meaning its a fair walk to the nearest boozer.
The exterior of the Keepmoat Stadium is more interesting than the interior. The floodlight design is unique and the ground looks tidy as you'd expect.
Pompey fans are housed in the North Stand which looks just like the South Stand opposite. The concourse inside is a good size though which means less chance of being bundled pre-game and during half-time.
This is the rather plain looking East Stand.
And this is the also rather plain looking West Stand. Basically, the Keepmoat Stadium is a smaller scale version of St. Mary's and so isn't very spectacular at all.
This is a slightly-skewed photo of the Keepmoat when it is "full" before kick-off. With so many empty seats, the atmosphere from the home fans can't be heard but the away end is very condusive to creating a loud noise.