Deals still to be done as Rovers continue overhaul

DONCASTER Rovers manager Dean Saunders admits that his shake-up at the Keepmoat Stadium has not even started yet.

Saunders, who replaced Sean O’Driscoll two months ago, took his tally of new signings to eight this week with the loan captures of Marc-Antoine Fortune, Habib Beye and Herold Goulon.

All three are likely to play in today’s home game against Watford along with former Liverpool striker El-Hadji Diouf, Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, and West Ham United’s Herita Ilunga who had already arrived on short term deals.

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With other new additions in the pipeline, including Senegalese internationals Lamine Diatte and Moustapha Bayal Sall, it leaves the longer serving members of the Rovers squad facing uncertain futures.

Saunders, however, is unapologetic pointing to the state of the league table and stressing that all his players have had an opportunity to prove their worth.

“As a manager, you just can’t keep on saying the same things over and over again. Eventually, you have to say ‘Right, we’re not good enough and I have got to stop it.

“No-one can complain about not having a chance,” he said. “We have won three games in 36 and we had not been winning for a long time when I took the job.

“There is still lots of work to be done and I have to try and change the mentality and the squad around. I have not even got started yet on the rebuilding job.”

Although Rovers are six points adrift of safety at the bottom of the Championship table, Saunders has targetted six points from the next two games against Watford and Millwall.

He is demanding a major improvement on last week’s South Yorkshire derby defeat at Barnsley but feels this week’s transfer activity can help make a difference.

“I never slept for three days after the Barnsley game but I’ve been in football a long time and I know there could be more pain to come. Unfortunately, it happens when you are rebuilding and we have just got to keep picking points up while that is going on.

“I am still pinching myself that we have got Habib Beye. I couldn’t begin to tell you what kind of salary he is on at Aston Villa and we have got him for next to nothing. He is a top, top player who has played for his country and in the Champions League and that is what we need because we have been letting too many goals in.

“Marc-Antoine Fortune is another top class Premier League player who has played for his country and I am really happy to have bagged Goulon.

“He’s another who is on big wages at Blackburn but will end up getting less than the kitman at this club.”

Cash-strapped Rovers have only been able to bring in this army of high-profile signings thanks to financial support from parent clubs and a link-up with Bawtry-based agent Willie McKay.

The majority of the players aim to find bigger clubs in the New Year transfer window but Rovers will be rewarded for providing the shop-window and the quality of those involved should lead to improved results soon.

“People have done us favours all over the place,” said Saunders. “That was the only way around it because we had a group of players here all on long contracts which makes it difficult to change it around. We can’t actually buy players so I am just trying to improve things until we can get safe. All I can say is I am trying my best and we will get it right.”

Saunders has set a target of nine victories from the club’s remaining 29 games to avoid the drop this season. Last season, a points tally of 43 would have guaranteed safety.

“From the start of the season to the end, you have to win 12 games. That gets you 36 points and if you pick up a few draws that is enough. You stay in the league,” he said. “We have won three so there is still a long way to go but by 10 O’clock on Tuesday night we might be in a good position.”

Both Watford and Tuesday’s opponents Millwall are also in the bottom six which adds extra significance to the games.

“If we win on Saturday and beat Millwall, we might step in front of them or be level on points,” said Saunders. “We are capable. We just have to stop making mistakes.

“Everyone was disappointed because I went mad after the Barnsley game. Nobody takes that well. I criticised a few of them but we have lifted people back up and we have to go into this game positive. It’s a game we can win but we can’t make mistakes like we made last week, or against Portsmouth, or against Blackpool in injury time. You have to get these things out of your game.

“We have gone over what went wrong against Barnsley and pin-pointed, tactically, where we didn’t get it right,” he added. “But, most of all, you have to roll your sleeves up and give everything for the club. All the players that do that will stay and be part of what we are trying to do. There is room for everybody. But if they don’t want to be part of it, they can leave.”

Watford, managed by former Chesterfield defender Sean Dyche, have won three of their last four games after winning just twice in the first 13 games.

The Hornets opted against short-term deals prior to Thursday’s Football League deadline but already had three loan players including former Sheffield United duo Nyron Nosworthy and Craig Beattie.