DONCASTER Rovers chairman John Ryan last night admitted to being left “shell-shocked” after four members of the club’s board – including the vice-chairman – resigned yesterday.
Dick Watson and Terry Bramall, wealthy backers who between them own approximately two-thirds of the club, have stepped down with immediate effect.
They were joined by club directors Andrew Watson and Sarah Kell, the son and daughter of vice-chairman Watson, who has been advised to resign for medical reasons.
Ryan conceded he was stunned by their decisions, but said despite being once again the “last man standing” he was committed to helping Rovers avoid relegation from the Championship.
“I’m going it alone at the moment,” Ryan told the Yorkshire Post. “It is very sad to lose them, so it’s going to take some time to adjust.
“Dick was one of my biggest allies and his resignation has left me a bit shell-shocked. It is for the good of his health.
“Andrew and Sarah were part of Dick’s family, so they had to stand down too. It’s too soon to say whether they’ll continue to invest in the club.
“Things started to kick off when I got back from holiday last week, so we have known since then. We have always had a very stable board but, as in all businesses and in life, things change.
“For Terry, the club was never the No 1 priority but he always did whatever he could to help the club.
“I tried to persuade him to change his mind but to no avail.
“I’m always the last man standing; I’ve been here now for 14 years and I’m not going anywhere. I’d say to the fans to keep calm and keep supporting the club.”
Scottish-born Watson, who founded social housing developer Keepmoat with Bramall in 1986, is reported to be worth £95m and owns 26 per cent of the club’s parent company.
He was influential in the decision to sack manager Sean O’Driscoll in September after a poor start to the season in which Rovers lost six of their opening seven league matches.
By contrast, Bramall, who is believed to be worth £425m, was on holiday in Switzerland when the sacking was made and has recently become more detached from the club.
Ryan and Watson between them ploughed £4m into the club during 2011, a period which saw Rovers win just eight league games out of 48.
The duo also stumped up the cash to offer striker Billy Sharp, who has scored 10 goals in 20 appearances this season, a new contract after Leicester City tabled a £2m bid.
Following the appointment of Dean Saunders as manager, the club also installed agent Willie McKay as a transfer consultant.
But despite the big-name arrivals of Senegalese striker El-Hadji Diouf, his compatriot Habib Beye on loan from Aston Villa and French defender Pascal Chimbonda, Rovers remain second from bottom in the Championship.
The statement from Ryan posted on the club’s website read: “I regret to announce the resignation from the Board of directors of vice chairman Dick Watson, Terry Bramall, Andrew Watson and Sarah Kell.
“In Dick’s case he was advised to resign due to medical reasons and all four will be a great loss to the club.
“I would like to pay tribute to the help they have given me over the last four or five years, particularly my vice-chairman Dick Watson, during which time the club has advanced significantly.
“I cannot disguise the fact that this will come as a disappointment to our loyal supporters, not to mention myself, but we have to look to the future.”