PAUL DICKOV is challenging his out-of-contract Doncaster Rovers players to get the club over the safety line as quickly as possible to kickstart talks on their futures.
Eighteenth-placed Rovers, who claimed their first away win since the end of September in a sweet derby victory at Leeds United last weekend, have three pivotal games in the next seven days, starting today at the Keepmoat Stadium against struggling Birmingham City.
Following the clash with fifth-from-bottom Blues, who Rovers have not beaten in nine meetings since April 1954, they will welcome Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday and then visit Ipswich Town next weekend.
They know that a couple of wins could put them on the threshold of Championship survival and enable them to start planning for next term.
A host of players will be out of contract including Paul Keegan, Dave Cotterill, Abdoulaye Meite, Ross Turnbull and Gabby Tamas.
Billy Sharp’s loan spell also ends in May, with Dickov admitting he would like to keep the crowd favourite while mindful he has a year left on his deal at Premier League Southampton.
Dickov said: “I will challenge the players and say, ‘Let’s get safe as quick as we can and then we can sort it out from there’.”
Specifically on Sharp, he added: “It’s no secret that everyone at the club, from the top right through to the fans, would like to keep Billy and we’d like to think he would want to stay.”
One of the players Dickov has confirmed will be offered fresh terms is club stalwart James Coppinger, who is set to play his 400th match for Doncaster today.
Dickov said: “It’s an outstanding achievement to do that at one club.
“It’s very doubtful that will happen again with the way football is at the minute.
“I have spoken very highly of James since he’s been here and he’s a model professional and adding the ability he’s got as well, we’re very lucky.
“The fans are very lucky as well to have a player as loyal and talented as James to be here for that length of time.
“Since I’ve been here, every day James has been one of the fittest and up there with the best trainers at the club, whether he’s in or out of the team.
“He’s so easy to manage as a player.
“What he does along with a couple of other senior players is manage the changing room, too.”
Blues are likely to include striker Federico Macheda, who spent two loan spells at Rovers earlier this term.