SETTLING for second best simply does not come into the equation when your surname is Ferguson.
The champagne may have flowed just under a fortnight ago when Doncaster Rovers booked a return ticket to League One after beating Mansfield in front of almost 10,000 fans at the Keepmoat Stadium, but heads have long since cleared and after a blow-out, it was swiftly back to business for manager Darren Ferguson.
The scenario was an identical one, albeit in a division above, for Rovers’ near-neighbours Sheffield United back on April 8, with the delirious Blades hordes savouring promotion some 100 miles away from the Keepmoat following a 2-1 win at Northampton Town.
But whereas Chris Wilder’s side were bestowed with more jeroboams of bubbly after clinching the League One championship – both on Easter Saturday when silverware rivals Bolton Wanderers lost and on Monday when the Blades toasted winning the title in fitting fashion against Bradford City at Bramall Lane – Rovers have work to do.
There was certainly no envy from Rovers in watching the latest celebrations unfold at the other end of South Yorkshire, but it might have crystallised their determination to be drinking from the same cup shortly.
On Rovers emulating the feats of the Blades, whose league statistics had been uncannily similar in terms of the number of victories, points and even goals for and against and goal difference until the Easter programme, Ferguson said: “The motivation is to finish the job off. We have nine points to play for and (if) we get all nine, we end up with 94 points, which is an incredible total. Anything over 90 is outstanding.
“You look at Sheffield United and they will probably get to 100 and that could be 199 points that Chris picks up over two years. You are going to have to go some to get anywhere near that and he has done an incredible job.
“For us, the main focus is finishing it off, but I still really want nine out of nine.
“But you cannot get to nine if you don’t get your first three and that is all we are focusing on.”
Despite being promoted three times in his two separate stints at Peterborough United, a league title has so far eluded Ferguson and, given Rovers’ outstanding season, passing up the chance of silverware at the 11th hour will plainly be something that would rankle with him.
His side have sat proudly at the summit of League Two since beating Stevenage on January 2 and apart from a short spell just before Christmas, Rovers have topped the table since early December.
But a haul of just one point over Easter has enabled Plymouth Argyle to close the gap to three points with three games to go, but Ferguson is remaining calm.
This said, the return to the fray of several influential players is somewhat timely ahead of this weekend’s trip to play-off hopefuls Wycombe Wanderers.
James Coppinger, Andy Butler and Luke McCullough are all available again, along with Liam Mandeville and Ian Lawlor, while Mathieu Baudry could also feature, despite the club initially ruling him out for the remainder of the season earlier this week with an Achilles issue.
The Frenchman was expected to go under the knife today, but Ferguson has revealed that surgery may be delayed, with the fact that Rovers have yet to clinch silverware entering his thoughts.
On getting over the line and securing the title and following in the footsteps of Rovers’ class of 2003-04, Ferguson added: “We are all very calm about the situation.
“The key is the next game and not looking ahead at all. Wycombe will be a very difficult game as they are pushing for the play-offs. But I am very confident we will get the job done.
“Winning the title is the most important thing. But we have got to concentrate on ourselves and I am not bothered what Plymouth do.
“It will only affect us if we drop points. It is on our hands with three games to go. If we pick up points, it is irrelevant.
“With three games to go and three points ahead and plus ten goals, it would not be great if we did not finish it off now. But credit to Plymouth, they have chased us all the way.”
Meanwhile, Ferguson has revealed that he has already made up his mind regarding the future of several players whose deals expire this summer and his thoughts are likely to be outlined when he discusses next season’s plans with the board next week.
He said: “I have decisions to make where I feel we need to strengthen and on players that will be surplus to where I want to go with the club.
“But all of these decisions I have (already) made in my head.”