WHEN asked about Doncaster Rovers’ seasonal objectives earlier this summer, the answer from Darren Ferguson was brief but emphatic.
The steely look in his eye also did not waver and spoke volumes when conducting an interview with The Yorkshire Post at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Promotion back to League One, in Ferguson’s words, is not just the mission in 2016-17, but quite simply, a non-negotiable ‘must.’ It is something he is not shying away from.
He cut to the chase amid the wreckage of what amounted to a painful, self-inflicted and plain embarrassing relegation for Rovers. After the club effectively reached the end of the line at Crewe on April 30, he frankly admitted that he and his players had not been good enough.
Entrusted as the man to instigate the fightback, you sense Ferguson will only truly settle when the club return to the third tier, hopefully some time next Spring.
Ferguson said: “Promotion is a must.
“For everyone at the club. Not for any individuals, but just for where we want to go. It has got to be a must.
“No matter how you wrap it up, last season was a failure. That is how I looked upon it and did not want it on my CV and did not come back (to management) for that.
“People can call it a personal mission if they want. But for me, there is just a determination to succeed and provide support for the people I work with, with whom I have got a really good relationship.
“I have got to make sure I succeed this season.”
That bond and support between Ferguson, chief executive Gavin Baldwin and the club’s hierarchy was fundamental in not only ensuring that the Scot did not pay the price for Rovers’ descent to the basement, but that the fightback started quickly.
A big summer overhaul was always on the cards whatever division Rovers found themselves in after a desperate second half of 2015-16.
Conscious of the need to somehow reconnect with disillusioned supporters, reeling after two relegation in the space of three seasons, Rovers were proactive as Spring turned to summer. They had to be.
A raft of signings, headlined by the marquee capture of Tommy Rowe, showed the club meant business in their quest to ensure that their stint in League Two is the briefest of visits.
Armed with a budget that is only bettered by Portsmouth and ‘not too many others’ according to Baldwin, Rovers brought in eight players by the end of June, creating expectation aplenty and also pressure which Ferguson does not baulk at.
Ferguson, who has landed most of his targets along with the ‘added bonus’ of Rowe, who rejected interest from a host of League One clubs to join Rovers, said: “We created the doom and gloom among the supporters, but feel as though we have managed to give them a lift without kicking a ball. But now the pressure is on and we have got to deliver.”
It should come as no surprise that Ferguson has prized attitude and durability as being core assets in players he has recruited, along with ability.
It is a sage philosophy given the horses-for-courses nature of League Two where physically and mentally strong individuals, and units, are the ones who usually prosper.
Ferguson, whose headline signings include central defender Mathieu Baudry, striker John Marquis and winger/forward Gary McSheffrey, added: “I have tried to get a squad to cope with this league physically and have enough energy, with good quality at the top end.
“We have to respect this league totally from day one. We aren’t just going to walk out of it; look at Portsmouth last season, everyone thought they should walk it and didn’t and there are probably good reasons for that.
“I had to get the right personnel who can cope when it goes badly. That was the one thing that stood out for me last season and those are the teams that are generally successful because there will be bad days and good days.
“Players with the character and good mentality and history of getting promoted is what I have looked at. It won’t be an easy 10 months. The one thing we will have to cope with is the travelling and we will have something like 6,500 miles to do and must deal with the logistics of that.
“I would expect Portsmouth and Plymouth to be up there and I think Notts County will have a go and Cambridge.”