WHEN IT comes to the art of defending, no-one can say that Doncaster Rovers centre-back Tom Anderson has been short of major influences in his career.
In his formative years at home-town club Burnley, Anderson was schooled in defensive craft by Sean Dyche, someone whose playing style could best be described as ‘no-nonsense’ in a successful career with the likes of Chesterfield and Watford.
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It may not have been the precursor to a first-team breakthrough at Turf Moor, but Anderson remains indebted to the wise counsel of Dyche, nevertheless.
Just as Dyche was an imposing back-four leader of stature back in the day, so Anderson’s current manager in Darren Moore was also a formidable presence in the heart of the backline for a number of sides in his career, including Rovers and Yorkshire rivals Bradford City and Barnsley.
The knowledge of another seasoned defensive warrior in Andy Butler has also proved useful in the development of Anderson, whose displays so far this season suggest he has come of age and is emerging as a leader of substance in the Rovers rearguard.
They are all things which are classed as the basics, but then again, it can make a big difference. Your organisational play, clearances and passing. You do not have to do anything fancy, just do the basics very well.Doncaster Rovers’ Tom Anderson
Speaking ahead of this evening’s game with Blackpool, where Doncaster are protecting a proud unbeaten league record in 2019-20, Anderson said: “The gaffer was a quality player and you can see how high he played and he is perfect for me and Cammy (Cameron John) and all the other defenders to learn and develop.
“He has a very calm presence and sometimes as a centre-half, you can get a bit carried away in terms of being too aggressive at times. It is about getting that balance of being aggressive, but calm in possession and try and play out from the back.
“All the nice play looks good, but first and foremost, you are a defender and you have got to make sure you do that and that it is as good as the other parts of your game.
“Sean always told me to be very level-headed and worked on organisation. They are all things which are classed as the basics, but then again, it can make a big difference. Your organisational play, clearances and passing.
“You do not have to do anything fancy, just do the basics very well.”
At 26, the added defensive responsibility currently being assumed by Anderson is something that is sitting increasingly well upon his broad shoulders.
Standing at an imposing 6ft 4in, the defender – part of a Lancastrian triumvirate at the Keepmoat Stadium which also includes Reece James and Ben Whiteman – has been a towering presence in the Rovers defence of late, exemplified in Saturday’s goalless draw at promotion favourites Ipswich Town.
That Doncaster were disappointed not to come away with three points from Portman Road says everything about their current mindset, with their players determined in their resolve to prove that last season’s tilt at promotion was no flash in the pan.
Anderson added: “We have got two big results in our past two games. Rotherham kept us at bay a bit in the first half, but in the second half, we came out and did what we have been doing and at the weekend at Ipswich, we created some very good opportunities and could have won the game.
“But it was a good result and it keeps that momentum going and if you can keep a clean sheet as a defender, that is your pride and joy and what you like to do. I am always happy to get that.
“We have got some tough games this month and there are no easy games in this league and we will have to make sure we keep doing what we have been.
“We did lose a lot of good players from last year, but we knew that we had still got some good players to do exactly the same as we did last year, if not one better.
“That is what we are pushing for to try and get out of this league.”
Defensively, Rovers’ statistics are up there with the best in League One, with their concession of six goals so far this term being the joint third-best in the division – only Ipswich and Burton have conceded fewer goals.
It represents a source of pride to Anderson, an ever-present senior figure in a Rovers defence shorn of the experience of Butler and with Joe Wright still making his way back from injury.
He continued: “I’m not a young kid any more, even though I am not old. But I am not like Cammy, who is a young lad and has got a lot of time to grow and develop.
“Last season, it was great for me in watching Butts and learning from him. Hopefully, I can keep that going and be one of the leaders in the group.
“Getting people in the right position is a big part of the game. If I am organising the people around me, it makes my job easier.
“Cam is a very good player and Brad (Halliday) and Reece are new this season and we are starting to gel really well together and look solid.”
Last six games: Doncaster LWWWWD; Blackpool DDDWLL.
Referee: A Coggins (Oxon).
Last time: Doncaster 2 Blackpool 0, November 27, 2018; League One.