FOR the second season running, it has not exactly been a summer of love for Doncaster Rovers. Or Paul Dickov for that matter.
Another summer, another episode of discontent for Rovers supporters who, 12 months on from being put through the mill in terms of a takeover that never transpired, have had another dose of frustration this time around.
Caught in the crossfire of it all, again, was Dickov. Penny for his thoughts when John Ryan and Louis Tomlinson’s takeover dramatically collapsed in mid-July.
But Dickov is a street-fighter and it is just as well.
A workaholic who chased lost causes and was the proverbial ‘100 per center’ in his playing days, those redoubtable qualities will be required in abundance in the Rovers managerial seat this season if the club are to be in the shake-up at the business end of League One.
Rovers’ last stint in the third tier in 2012-13 was a gloriously brief one, culminating on a crazy Spring day at Griffin Park when they clinched the title some 19 seconds on from looking being destined for the League One play-offs.
The odds of anything resembling a repeat appear fairly long, although Dickov is grateful for small mercies with his painfully-thin looking squad at long last augmented last week by the additions of Nathan Tyson, Curtis Main, Cedric Evina and Jed Steer, with Paul Keegan, James Coppinger and Reece Wabara re-signing with the club.
Following super-slow delays in finalising contracts and depleted squad resources – shades of last year again – it was a welcome development for Dickov, who held urgent budget talks with his board after the takeover collapse.
But in terms of the wish-list of targets he had in mind if the takeover had gone through, the ground has clearly shifted. Not that you will catch him complaining.
Dickov told The Yorkshire Post: “You have to deal with the cards you are dealt with and there is no point dwelling on what has happened or looking to point fingers or anything like that.
“We have a big season ahead and that is where all my – and the club’s – focus is.
“I am not going to lie, it has been a difficult situation purely because of the time-scale we have had. But I am more than confident with the players we have now got and with a few additions and the young kids coming through that we have a squad which is going to be competitive.
“You don’t get anywhere without hard work and that has always been the one thing I have been prepared to do. Me and my staff have been constantly working, trying to get the right people in and keeping everyone’s spirits up. And I must say the players here have been fantastic.
“People can be leaders in different ways. They can shout and scream or be leaders by working hard and how they train and we have a lot of players like that.”
In terms of seasonal hopes, he added: “There’s no major aim at the minute. We just want to get a settled squad together, start the season well if we can and then take it from there. The one thing I have is a lot of belief and faith in the players I have got in. Me and the staff believe we will come through this in the right way.”
Dickov is the first to admit that his deep sense of loss and heartache after Rovers’ relegation from the Championship will serve as a motivational tool in 2014-15.
The drop came at the King Power Stadium, with Doncaster victims of the cruellest of late twists which saw Birmingham City dramatically stay up by the skin of their teeth.
In all his years in football, that afternoon on May 3 at one of his old clubs in Leicester, was his lowest point in the game. Now, it is not about getting mad, but even and giving Rovers fans something to cheer about.
Dickov said: “I have never felt as bad as that ever in football. I still feel we were desperately unlucky to go down and were good enough to stay up.
“But that drives you on; sometimes you must have bad experiences in football and in life to realise how hard you have to work to get to where you want to go.
“It’s a challenge this season, but I love having a challenge. If things get given to you easily, sometimes you don’t appreciate it.
“Sometimes, when challenges are put in front of you, you rise to the occasion and that is what the whole football club – and not just myself – will do.
“This is my fifth season as a manager and you are always going to learn by your experiences. That is one thing I am determined to do.
“This division will always be difficult, but it is one I know and I know what it takes to get results.”