2018-19 Preview - High aims put in place as Grant McCann drives on Doncaster Rovers

NO-ONE can accuse Grant McCann of being a '˜glass-is-half-empty' type of manager.

Doncaster's Tommy Rowe. Picture: Marie Caley
Doncaster's Tommy Rowe. Picture: Marie Caley

Despite his involvement in two ‘nearly’ seasons at former club Peterborough United, who talked the League One play-off talk for spells – only to fall away in the final analysis – McCann’s enthusiasm has not been dented enough to prevent him from shooting for the moon at his new club. Far from it.

Doncaster Rovers may be a decent-sized punt for promotion despite a low-key 15th-placed finish in League One last term, but their new manager is aiming high.

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The Keepmoat Stadium hierarchy self-evidently like the cut of his gib too.

Doncaster Rovers manager, Grant McCann. Picture: Marie Caley

Having publicly declared that their interview process would involve managerial candidates successfully explaining how they will pilot Rovers into a promotion challenge in the coming season, the club’s board were sufficiently won over by McCann when it came to deciding upon their new manager late last month.

Rovers may not be blessed with the financial resources of several of their divisional rivals with that disparity being the major reason why former manager Darren Ferguson elected to walk – but McCann believes that the club are abundant in a number of other advantages.

After impressing the Rovers hierarchy, McCann is aiming to practice what he preaches. And he spies hope.

“We have got to be aiming for the stars, that is the way I work,” McCann told The Yorkshire Post.

“I want to be aiming as high as possible and setting the boys those high expectations and targets is what I am about. We have to go and deliver it.

“If we do not and fall short, we might just slip into the play-offs. Let us see where we go and take it game by game and get a good early start and build some momentum. When you do that, you can carry it on throughout the season.”

Shrewsbury Town’s rise from nowhere in 2017-18, which saw them rise spectacularly from an 18th-placed finish narrowly above the League One relegation zone in 2016-17 to within a game of Championship football last term, is unlikely to be lost upon Rovers supporters and those of many other rivals either.

It is something duly acknowledged by McCann. But more pertinently, he sees key qualities within the squad that he has inherited which suggest that Rovers can have a successful season, with a fair wind.

It is one that is still rich with personnel who were promoted with the club from League Two in 2016-17.

Others have sampled that winning feeling at other clubs, with Rovers’ young squad also fortified by a year’s hard experience in League One after being comparative rookies last season.

McCann, promoted three times in his playing career through the play-offs with three different clubs, Peterborough, Scunthorpe United and Cheltenham, said: “You have got to be robust enough and I know this group is because most of them did it in League Two and had a promotion.

“There is even Malik Wilks who is only a 19-year-old boy who was part of a successful team last year at Accrington.

“The mentality in the group is there; it is just about us adding that extra bit of what we think the group needs. Nothing against the previous management who I have huge respect for, but any new manager wants to put their own stamp on it and that is what we are trying to do to get that extra drive to finish in the top end of the league.

“There are a lot of things in the squad where you can see the only way is up. A lot of the boys have now played a bit of football in League One such as Joe Wright and they have sampled the league and the foundations are there and it is about us giving them a platform to express themselves and kick on.”

Last season was a story of Rovers never quite getting going following some untimely injury ills during their problematic pre-season of 12 months ago, with Luke McCullough and Alex Kiwomya suffering desperate luck in particular after being sidelined for major spells.

That was compounded by a serious season-ending injury in late August for full-back Danny Andrew, with the fit-again trio particularly eager to showcase their wares in the coming season.

Others plainly have the potential to kick on following sporadic glimpses of the promise they too showed last term.

McCann said: “It is a huge season for Kiwomya and Luke McCullough and we have a 100 per cent fit Tommy Rowe coming back, when he was playing at sixty or seventy per cent (last season) and there are the likes of Alfie Beestin too.

“There is a drive among the players and it does not have to be nastiness or anything like that, just keeping on top of each other.

“That goes with a successful football team and we set those standards in La Manga recently in terms of the expectations. The players are well aware of what they have to do to be successful. It is about adding the finishing touches and making sure we are more ruthless in front of goal.”

On the challenges posed by their League One rivals, McCann acknowledged: “I think it is going to be tough, although not as tough as last year with Wigan, Blackburn and Rotherham moving into the Championship.

“Yes of course, there are two big clubs coming down in Sunderland and Barnsley, along with Burton, but we have just got to concentrate on ourselves and make sure we get ourselves up there as quickly as possible, stay there and maintain it for as long as we can.

“Being successful is a bit of everything, really.

“You need luck in terms of injury, good play and management from us and, hopefully, we can go and have ourselves a successful season.”