A FEELGOOD factor is usually hard to detect less than two months after relegation.
But that is the reality that has transpired at Doncaster Rovers, with supporters’ memories of that doleful and crushing afternoon at Crewe Alexandra on April 30 when the club dropped – to all intents and purposes – into the Football League’s basement.
Rovers’ response to that blow has been proactive if their significant close-season recruitment has been anything to go by.
A swift spate of business has contrasted markedly with the scenario in some previous summers when incoming deals were often super-slow.
While soul-searching and recriminations can often follow a season’s failure, Doncaster’s board adopted a different stance.
Manager Darren Ferguson has been handed the tools to deliver what everyone connected with the club hopes – and expects – will be a short stint in the bottom rung, Rovers’ first campaign at this level since 2003-04.
Rovers’ hierarchy have sanctioned seven signings, headlined by the capture of midfielder Tommy Rowe, on loan from Wolves last season and recently released by them, to help sweeten the pill of relegation.
Chief executive Gavin Baldwin has also revealed that the club’s playing budget will be one of the biggest in the division.
With that brings expectation, with neither Ferguson nor Baldwin needing to spell out what is expected in 2016-17.
That is instant promotion with Rovers’ sponsors having backed the club’s attempt to return to League One at the first time of asking.
On Rovers’ budget, which has seen Rowe, Gary McSheffrey, John Marquis, Matty Blair, Mathieu Baudry, Joe Wright and Ross Etheridge arrive, Baldwin told The Yorkshire Post: “We expect to be behind Portsmouth. But we wouldn’t expect to be behind too many others.
“We believe we have given sufficient funds to give us the best possible chance next season.
“When we got relegated, we were devastated. But we had been talking for weeks before about the future and, as Darren said, maybe when we looked back on it, we thought it wouldn’t be the worst thing and we used it as an opportunity. Hopefully, with the signings that Darren has made, it is a sign of intent to fans and commercial sponsors.
“Darren has got the exciting job and I am the boring one! But, from our point of view, we have been extremely impressed with our commercial sponsors to bring players in and our sponsorship in League Two is in the high six-figures, more than it was in League One. So we have been impressed by generating revenue to pay for the players.
“The sole intent of the owners was to give Darren the tools to bring in the players to be competitive next season.
“We have sold more season-tickets now than at the same stage last year. The excitement among the football staff and fans appears to be greater than at any time since I have been here.
“It has because we have not recruited quantity, but quality as well. Who would have expected us to recruit Tommy Rowe, who signed for us because of Darren Ferguson.
“There is a genuine confidence in the staff base and that leads to excitement which rubs off on our fans and sponsors. All the club is pushing in one direction and it probably feels the most united it has been in the last three or four years.”
That sense of unity is something Ferguson concurs with. He has the desire to repay the faith of a board who have backed him with hard cash when they could have easily dispensed with his services following a calamitous relegation season.
Ferguson certainly has not let the grass grow under his feet regarding recruitment and with seven players now in, the focus will be on some loan recruits while also getting several more transfer-listed players off the club’s wage bill. Developments appear imminent.
Ferguson said: “We thought it was important we got our targets in early because you never know what is going to happen and what players are going to be offered.
“It was about meeting them and getting the deals done and all of a sudden after the doom and gloom we created with supporters, we have managed to give them a lift.
“We made a decision as soon as the season finished really that there would be quite a bit of change, personnel-wise.
“But the good thing about it for me is that we all agreed – the board, Gavin and I – to have the tools to get the players we wanted without even thinking about the players that we wanted to get rid of.
“We got the targets we wanted and did it quick and early and it has been really positive.”
On the prospect of future signings, he added: “The market has been quiet generally, apart from ourselves and one or two others. In terms of bringing in contracted players, I think we are pretty fine with that at the moment. We have got to around 19 players, including those we want to keep from last season.
“We will be looking at getting in one or two loans but we appreciate that will be in late July after players have done pre-season with their clubs. So there will be others.”
The centre-piece of Rovers’ signings has unquestionably been Rowe, with Ferguson professing surprise – albeit a pleasant one – that the club managed to land him amid considerable rival interest.
The Rovers chief said: “I wasn’t convinced we would get Tommy in League One.
“So that has been the big one with no disrespect to the others who have been good signings for different reasons. I do feel Tommy is a Championship player, but I think he has understood what we are trying to do as a club.”