Rovers all set to take £4m hit in battle for survival

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DONCASTER Rovers chairman John Ryan has outlined the financial pressures facing the club ahead of today’s potential ‘six-pointer’ against Coventry City.

The season may only be 13 games old but Rovers’ position in the Championship relegation zone is still a worry to a man who has enjoyed nothing but success in over a decade as club chairman.

According to Ryan, Rovers will definitely lose £3.6m this season and relegation would only make things worse. The time has come to plug the holes not only in the club’s defence but in the bank account.

After sacking the management duo of Sean O’Driscoll and Richard O’Kelly last month, Rovers have turned to former Wales and Liverpool striker Dean Saunders to spark a revival.

Frustrated by home gates of less than 10,000, Ryan has also approved a radical new transfer strategy in which football agent Willie McKay takes a high-profile role in the search to bring in new players.

McKay has already found three internationals – Pascal Chimbonda, Herita Ilunga and Chris Kirkland – who are willing to play for the club on a short-term basis for less than might be expected.

The move is designed to add quality to the team and raise money in the transfer market – with Rovers getting a slice of the players’ next transfer fee as a reward for providing the ‘shop window’.

Ryan has also been in talks with Doncaster Council, owners of the Keepmoat Stadium, about the possibility of becoming owners rather than tenants.

If that deal can be agreed at some stage, it would further improve the club’s financial situation.

“We have to cut our wage bill and live in the real world,” said Ryan. “We have to fight tooth and nail to stay in the Championship this season and move on from there.

“If we go down, it will take us years to get back. Look at Nottingham Forest, Leeds United, Sheff Wednesday – none of them found it easy.

“The directors have put £12m into Doncaster Rovers over the last five seasons. This season our losses will be £3.6m plus we have got to pay Sean O’Driscoll and Richard O’Kelly, so make it £4m.

“We are not like half of the clubs in the Championship who have got wealthy foreign owners. Or the other half who have got the benefit of parachute payments after coming down from the Premier League.

“Apart from Peterborough, I would say we are probably the smallest club in the Championship.

“We were a shell of a club when I took over in 1998 and the club was in the Conference. We now have a beautiful stadium, a beautiful training ground, and we can attract quality players.

“Although we have had a lot of success in the last 10 years, the fans just won’t come out for us,” he sighed. “For whatever reason, the people of Doncaster will not support the football club. Whether it’s because of redundancies or they have got no money, whatever, that is the reality. So we have to do things in a different way.

“I have been a die-hard Doncaster Rovers fans since 1958 and I want to see the club at the other end of the Championship – and this is one way of achieving that.

“People laughed at me when I was in the Conference and talking about getting the club back to the Championship. They are laughing now when I talk about the Premier League but I don’t care.”

In new manager Saunders, Ryan appears to have found an ally who can match his ambition and optimism.

“Eventually, I am going to have this team winning every week – and I have told the players that,” said Saunders. “How long it takes, I don’t know, but eventually we will be winning every week.

“If the players want to be part of it, they have to knuckle down and get on with it, be professional, and want to win as much as I do.

“It’s early days still, we are not a quarter of the way through, but we are in a scrap and I knew that when I came.”

Today’s opponents Coventry are just three points better off than Rovers and one place above the relegation zone. The importance of victory is easy to see.