Cult hero off bench to show Doncaster why he is still No 1

BIG INFLUENCE: Goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann has been told to marshall the Doncaster Rovers defence this coming season.
BIG INFLUENCE: Goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann has been told to marshall the Doncaster Rovers defence this coming season.
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JUST two months ago, Thorsten Stuckmann was right in the thick of Preston North End’s Wembley play-off celebrations – dousing his team-mates and manager in champagne to toast promotion.

Yet for the Doncaster Rovers’ new No 1, the bubbly he imbibed that fateful spring Sunday did not taste as sweet as it could have, though it was not exactly flat either.

The giant German’s three-and-a-half-year spell at Deepdale saw him make 77 appearances, but also be a bench-warmer for considerable spells, to the likes of Declan Rudd and latterly Sam Johnstone.

It was why, in the final analysis, he turned down fresh terms at North End to head across the Pennines to Doncaster this summer, despite an enriching time in Lancashire in a happy environment where his family settled in fully and at a club where he became something of a cult hero.

Despite being usurped in goal by ex-Rovers loanee Johnstone in January, Stuckmann did not mope around and his delight when Preston clinched promotion back to the Championship –at the expense of Swindon Town – was genuine, despite his peripheral role in the final months of 2014-15.

But how he would dearly like to play a leading hands-on role in taking Doncaster back to the second tier this term – and he sees no reason why it should not be a realistic target.

Stuckmann, 34, who has signed a two-year at the Keepmoat Stadium, told The Yorkshire Post: “That (promotion) is what I am here for.

“Wembley was great, although and we want that feeling and promotion at Doncaster.

“Of course, it was great that Preston got promoted but I want to savour that feeling on the pitch.

“I just want to get the feeling back of going into the dressing room and being part of winning matches.

“I want to go back to where I was – in the Championship – and on the pitch, not off it.

“We have a good chance to reach our goal. We set high standards and targets and demand that of each other in training every day. We must keep doing this.

“This league is all about togetherness and quality as well. I think we have that quality.

“If we are to be successful this season, we need a really good team and togetherness and that is how it was last season at Preston.”

On his exit from Deepdale, he added: “Preston wanted to keep me over and I had the option to stay. But they said to me I would be the second-choice keeper.

“I haven’t played so much over the last two years and I want to be out on the pitch.

“The manager (Paul Dickov) rang me and said: ‘Listen, I want you as No 1 and need you to be a big influence on the back four.’ I was up for that.

“But it was still hard to go after four years at Preston. It was our first time abroad and we made a lot of friends. But, from a football perspective, it was a no-brainer to come here.”

The vibes Stuckmann has felt since heading to Doncaster have been good.

A training camp in Portugal that several senior players described as one of the best of their careers has helped, as has some sound recruitment in a steady close-season – far removed from the previous two summers at the Keepmoat.

Everything is starting to come together nicely for Stuckmann, whose family will move into a new home in Yorkshire next week.

He fully immersed himself into life at Preston after moving from Germany in November, 2011, and endeared himself to the Deepdale faithful by saving three spot-kicks in a penalty shoot-out on his debut against Rochdale in a JP Trophy tie. His popularity in 2011-12 became such that fans paid homage in a Thorsten Stuckmann-themed away-day at Oldham in April, 2012.

Now, just as another continental goalkeeper in Jan Budtz proved a cult hero in his time at Doncaster, so Stuckmann is hoping to claim a similar mantle.

“The fans made it really easy for me. When you get the supporters behind you, that is great and want you need.

“Every club I had played for was a minimum of three years. I am not the kind of guy who moves on every time.

“I want to be part of the club here and feel welcome already. Doncaster is a really lovely club.”

Stuckmann will not be lacking a few familiar faces in Yorkshire.

They include former Preston team-mate Scott Laird, who joined Scunthorpe this summer and will be his next-door neighbour. Stuckmann said: “It makes it a bit easier for my family to settle in and for him as well.

“Scott is a great player and I was at his wedding and he was at mine and I will look forward to playing against him. Jack King and Scott Wiseman are just around the corner as well (at Scunthorpe). It is easier to settle when you see some familiar faces.”