as the countdown to the new football season draws to a close, football reporter Leon Wobschall gives his verdict on Yorkshire’s clubs and offers his five key things that each team must improve.
Just like at South Yorkshire rivals Barnsley, 2014-15 was a disappointing season at Doncaster Rovers and the end-of-term report read: ‘Must do better.’
But a new campaign has brought a bit of renewed hope to supporters, with manager Paul Dickov also entitled to be enthused after an encouraging pre-season, which has seen several impressive performances from his side allied to the acquisition of a number of key targets including Andy Williams, Richard Chaplow and Thortsten Stuckmann.
It’s been in marked contrast to two massively frustrating close seasons in 2014 and 2013 when Dickov’s transfer plans were left hamstrung by two takeover sagas and ensured he had to scramble around for signings and miss out on a host of targets are something that he can rightly point to as reasons for forgettable campaigns.
Thankfully, without the on-off takeover sagas of the last two years, there’s more stability behind the scenes at Rovers these days.
All Dickov has asked for is a fair chance, with Rovers having been backed by, in his words, a competitive budget ahead of 2015-16.
Having been granted that, the Scot says that there are ‘no excuses’ from when the first competitive ball is kicked at home to Bury on Saturday.
Here’s five key areas Rovers need to remedy if they are to be among the movers and shakers in League One next term.
1: Sort out the homesickness.
A debilitating illness has long since turned into a widespread contagion at the Keepmoat, with Rovers having roughly lost an average of ten home games a season in the past four campaigns.
Rovers were beaten in ten home leagie matches in 2014-15, only four League One sides losing more. Only two sides, Crewe and Yeovil, scored fewer goals.
It must improve radically if Rovers are to push for promotion next term and while continued reference to it by the media drew regular grimaces from Dickov throughout last term, he knows it needs sorting.
2: Hope Andy Williams delivers the goods.
Top-scorer for Rovers last term was Nathan Tyson, with four goals in his final two matches taking his tally to a respectable, but hardly earth-shattering, 14 goals.
But to be in the shake-up at the top, Rovers need a 20-goal man and will be banking on former Swindon striker Williams stepping up to the plate after hitting 22 for the Robins last term to fire them to the play-offs and be among the division’s top scorers.
Rovers’ three main strikers of last season, Tyson, Curtis Main and Theo Robinson, netted 24 goals between them in 2014-15. You need much more from your frontmen if you are to make an impact at the right end of the table and you sense the majority of the quota must come from Williams if the season is to be a success.
3: Rovers still need to invest in a couple of key areas.
Rovers have some proven operators who would get in most League One sides, James Coppinger, Harry Forrester, Andy Butler and Richie Wellens to name four. Deficiencies up front and at the back and in goal have been rectified with the captures of Williams, Richard Chaplow, Gary MacKenzie and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair. Rovers still need a little bit more, including another striker, many would venture.
4: Keep Paul Keegan fit.
It is perhaps no coincidence that Rovers’ play-off tilt petered off with Keegan out of the side with a knee injury. The Dubliner may not be the most creative force, but his work-rate, physicality and discipline is highly regarded by team-mates - and Dickov is also a big fan. In short, he lets others play.
All the best sides have midfield ‘water-carriers’ in the guise of former French World Cup winning captain Didier Deschamps and Keegan has proved a key man for Rovers.
5: Rovers need to ‘man up.’
Paul Dickov has previously spoken about Rovers lacking a physical edge across the pitch and being a bit of a soft touch.
In that respect, Rovers have gone back to the future in that regard in the recruitment of some players with physical attributes - and the additions of Stuckmann, Mackenzie and Tsylor-Sinclair.
The likes of Coppinger, Wellens and Forrester are all good ball players, but are not the biggest, it is fair to say.
When Rovers won the League One in 2012-13, they had some real men in their line-up. Rob Jones, Jamie McCombe and Chris Brown to name but three. Rovers have recruited one or two big lads, but maybe need a couple more?
Don’t miss your guide to The Championship clubs on Wednesday.