THE celebrations may have been audible above him, but Grant McCann’s ability to blank out the noise, move on and deliver an unmistakably defined message about the future for Doncaster Rovers was striking.
Emotions were high at The Valley on Friday night after Charlton booked their place in the League One play-off final after semi-final progress which was cruel – and undeserved – on McCann’s Rovers.
McCann managed to successfully articulate his pride at Rovers’ fine season and fielded a good number of questions on that topic in a room in the bowels of the West Stand at The Valley as the noise from jubilant Charlton supporters above him threatened to drown him out at times.
The utterances of the Rovers manager regarding plans for next season to go one better will have gone down just as well.
Herbie Kane and Mallik Wilks both return to their parent clubs – with the smart money being on the pair continuing their footballing education in the Championship – while it will not be lost upon many that John Marquis and Tommy Rowe – who both failed to convert in Friday’s fateful penalty shoot-out – may have kicked their last competitive ball for Rovers.
Marquis is likely to be the target of several clubs, with Rovers’ continued residence in League One meaning that they may be forced to take a pragmatic decision regarding their star striker, whose desire to prove himself in the second tier will also be understandable.
Rowe, who turned 30 at the start of this month, is out of contract and mulling over his future.
The justified fear of many supporters is that Rovers will lose a number of their leading lights in much the same way as Shrewsbury Town, the League One surprise packages of 2017-18, did when an accomplished line-up was broken up last summer.
But McCann, thankfully, provided some reassurance in that direction, while retaining confidence that plenty of talented and aspiring players are eager to join up with a Rovers side whose talent, fearless attitude and application has been one of the stand-out League One stories of 2018-19 – regardless of the fact that they have not gone all the way and been promoted.
He said: “The squad will be stronger (next season), let me tell you that. The players that will be coming in will mean that this group will be stronger next time.
“We are quite down the line with a few signings.
“We have tried to play on the front foot and be brave and fearless and players who we have recruited this season in Kane, Crawford and Sadlier in terms of the midfield and forward areas have helped us press and release and create things.
“The calmness of Paul Downing also added to the group and made us stronger and we will add again next season.
“We will be stronger, so that we can have a go maybe at the top two instead of the top six.”
It may have been a bitter finale to events late on Friday night at SE7 when Rovers bowed out on penalties after a heroic performance on the night had seen them turn around a first-leg deficit to level the tie after 210 minutes, but there was plenty of hope as well.
When the dust settles, attention will turn to the future and McCann is confident that the disappointment will be harnessed to positive effect next season.
He added: “I have a disappointed changing room in there, but every single one of them should be proud of themselves – and every single member of my staff should be, too.
“We came to a team who had not been beaten in seven or eight months (at home in the league) and played them off the park. We took Charlton all the way and I could not be prouder of my players.
“The players were outstanding, they really were. To a man, we were first-class. This group can respond and they will do it again next season.
“This has given us a taste for next season. I have a squad who believe in their own ability and are together.”