RICHIE WELLENS will not miss Saturday afternoons watching the TV on the sofa – and neither will his other half either.
Instead of pulling the strings in midfield for Doncaster Rovers at the start of 2014-15, Wellens found himself tuning in to watch Jeff Stelling and co – while waiting for the phone to ring.
A month ago, his future looked away from Rovers due to a release clause allowing him to leave for nothing before August 31.
Despite second-tier interest, with Wellens’s former club Blackpool offering modest terms which were rejected and the manager of another club keen to bring him in, only to be thwarted by his board, nothing transpired.
Wellens, who despite not playing, continued to train with Rovers while his future was up in the air, has now signed a new two-year-deal with the avowed aim of sealing a Championship return.
It’s clear that the 34-year-old, now back in the team, feels he has unfinished business there.
Wellens said: “I don’t want to play in League One and I have got my head around what I have got to do, which is get 100 per cent fit, first and foremost, and back playing the way I know I can play.
“If I do, hopefully we will be at the top end of the league.
“I had a few offers where I was umming and ahhing.
“But if I was going to move, it had to be the right club. I wasn’t going to move to another League One club, there was no point. It had to be a Championship club and one within the distance of where I want to be.
“One of them was pretty close. It was tough, but because of their predicament at the time, the manager wasn’t stable, so it was difficult to go into.
“On Saturdays at the start of the season, I was at home watching Sky Sports News, laid on the sofa. The missus was saying: ‘Will you get up from the sofa’ and I said no.
“It was really frustrating... Even though I was training, the intensity was not there and I wasn’t playing on a Saturday.”
Despite second-tier clubs being able to invoke his clause and take him on a free, Wellens, a proven operator at Championship level even at a seasoned age, found himself left kicking his heels in frustration.
Ageism in a footballing guise counted against him and he is now facing a race against the clock to return to the Championship with Rovers.
He added: “At a lot of clubs now, it is not the manager making the signings. When you ask a manager, he can say: ‘Yes, I like you, I will see what I can do to get you’.
“But the chief executives want young players who they can make money on and sell on. I must admit some of the players I have seen go from Championship to Championship clubs, I would have thought I ‘d have been ahead of them. But age is against me.
“I want to play in the Championship next year and the only way I can do that is get the club promoted.”
That is a case of easier said than done, with Rovers, currently 18th, still adjusting to life back in League One, but in this instant, time is a friend.
Wellens said: “It’s a long season and it is funny how it changes so quickly. My mate plays for Bradford and was going on about them having a wonderful start. If we win our game in hand, I think we are one point behind them.
“More often than not, when you get a team who have been relegated, it’s quite difficult to start well because the transition of players is a lot more.
“If we can keep everyone fit, confident and playing well, there’s no doubt we can get in and around.”