Doncaster Rovers v Bradford City: Ferguson keen to entertain as Rovers aim high

Darren Ferguson
Darren Ferguson
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NOT too many moons ago, sexy football was the watchword at Doncaster Rovers – so much so that the town’s team was famously labelled as “The Arsenal of the North” by ebullient former chairman John Ryan.

Yet given the stodgy fare of the past few seasons – and even prior to that – those exhilarating days under former manager Sean O’Driscoll seem an increasingly distant memory.

Entertainment has been conspicuous by its absence at the Keepmoat Stadium. Hopefully, that is where Darren Ferguson steps in.

The former Peterborough United boss, unveiled as Rovers’ new manager yesterday morning, can count three promotions on his CV and also a desperately unlucky relegation from the Championship in 2012-13, when Posh went down with a record total of 54 points.

Thrills, spills and goals were in abundant supply during his two stints at London Road, with Posh famously being the top-scoring side in the whole country in 2011-12 when they plundered 106 goals with their 46 league games generating a total of 181 goals overall, or 3.93 per game.

Attacking instincts are part of the Ferguson DNA, with his father’s champagne stint at Manchester United stirring the heartbeat of supporters who fell in love with a club through its fearless brand of football.

Given the general dirge at the Keepmoat, a bit of joy and bringing the fun back as chief executive Gavin Baldwin put it yesterday, certainly won’t go amiss.

You sense that everyone connected with the club are craving that, along with cultivating a clearly defined identity again.

Some goals would also be nice, with the club currently being the lowest away scorers in the country with just one goal, while their haul of 24 home goals last term was the third worst in League One.

Acknowledging the need to put enjoyment back on the Keepmoat menu, Ferguson said: “That’s the name of the game. Sometimes to my detriment in trying to win games all of the time.

“But every game we play we will be doing to win it.

“Entertainment is a very big part of the job. I like my teams to be free to express themselves at the top of the table, which is really important.

“It is something we will work on. It’s a clear stat that we do need more goals, that’s clear and we will try and find a way of doing that.

“You have to get your own identity of how you want your team to play. But it’s a clear statement from me that I want my team to entertain.

“Fans want to be entertained after saving up their money and coming to watch. It’s our job to do that, although I don’t want it to be 6-5 every week.”

Like his father it may be his desire to produce footballing teams who believe that attack is the best form of the defence, but he is also a chip off the old block in another key regard.

Namely his attention to detail and mastering his subject matter, with the 43-year-old making it his business to do plenty of homework about Rovers before accepting the offer to become Paul Dickov’s successor.

And having done that, he believes he and Rovers have a chance to do something worthwhile – maybe even this year.

Ferguson, who left Peterborough in February, said: “During my break, there’s things I looked at in terms of what I wanted from a football club.

“Until you meet the actual people in charge, you just don’t know. But when we met on Monday our philosophies and visions completely matched and that was the most telling factor.

“I have looked at the squad in detail and games and think it’s a good blend of experience and youth.

“The one thing I do feel in League One certainly compared to the last two seasons is that Wolves, Brentford and Rotherham went up one year and it was Bristol City, Preston and Milton Keynes the other.

“Sheffield United have a big budget up the road and Wigan. But apart from that, this could be anyone’s league this year.”

The Rovers board clearly did their research as well and view the epic 39-day interregnum between the axing of Paul Dickov and the appointment of Ferguson as not a sign of tardiness or indecision, but more a painstaking desire to find the right man and of doing their due diligence.

They, like Rovers supporters, are hoping that entertainment will return and that the team will deliver their own brand like O’Driscoll managed – while also defending the time it took to appoint Ferguson which has drawn censure.

Baldwin, who said that Ferguson was the standout candidate among 70 applications, said: “We met Darren on Monday and got genuinely excited and hairs went up on the back of my neck when we were doing the interview. And I hope that is what happens to the fans when they watch us play now.

“We were blown away by what Darren said in the interview and were genuinely excited to get him here. It will be exciting to see what his team does on the pitch.”

On the time it took to appoint Ferguson, he added: “If we had made a snap decision then we would have been panicking.

“We took the option that we want this to be a relationship where we grow together and Doncaster fans to fall in love with Darren and Darren to fall in love with them.

“We want it to be a long-term appointment and believe it shows ambition to take time getting it right as it was for all the right reasons.

“We had our criteria and the most important thing is the Championship.