Saunders hopes for more board backing

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DEAN SAUNDERS is set for crunch budget talks with the Doncaster Rovers board which could determine the fate of the club’s season on the pitch.

Saunders, whose side visit Portsmouth today, has won plaudits by managing to keep Rovers at the top end of League One despite having to practically build a new team from scratch amid the fall-out of relegation from the Championship and a huge slashing of costs.

Rovers’ playing budget has been cut from around £9m to £3.9m following relegation, but not at the cost of the Keepmoat Stadium outfit being uncompetitive.

With Rovers in a good position, Saunders is wanting a leap of faith from the board to help the club push for promotion.

Saunders said: “We have got some talking to do soon. We are probably going to decide what direction we go in – whether we go forward and have a right go or just consolidate the way we are and keep going as the way we have been.

“If we win our game in hand, we go third in the league, which is a great position. I said that if we were eight points off the play-offs at Christmas, that would be a decent position. So we are right in there.

“The club (backers) have been nothing but a help to me since I have been here. Dick (Watson), Terry (Bramhall) and John (Ryan) are obsessed with the club and all want the club to do well; we just had to get our house in order and the budget under control and try and rebuild the team. This is a new cycle and building process and, at the meeting, we will discuss the next step.”

One item of key business at the meeting will be the future of striker Iain Hume, with Saunders hoping to convince the Rovers board to help him secure the services of the Canadian international on a permanent basis – his loan stint from Preston ending in the new year.

Rovers head to Fratton Park on the back of successive home losses to Bournemouth and Crewe Alexandra, but Saunders hopes to welcome back key defender Rob Jones today.

Goalkeeper Neil Sullivan has joined AFC Wimbledon on a short-term loan from Rovers.

The 42-year-old will be reunited with Dons boss Neal Ardley, who he played alongside for nine years at the original Wimbledon FC.