Twin towers set example

WITH almost 60 appearances between them last season for two Yorkshire clubs who won promotion from League One, Doncaster Rovers’ new arrivals Jamie McCombe and Rob Jones have, unsurprisingly, found themselves being quizzed by Dean Saunders.

The Rovers manager has been keen to discover just what helped Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday over the line during the heat of battle in a truly memorable campaign for the county.

Was it their respective preparations in pre-season? Or some tactical masterstroke implemented by either manager when the going got tough?

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The reality, however, is rather less dramatic with both McCombe and Jones insisting there was no great secret to the success enjoyed by either Town or the Owls. Instead – and as Saunders knew all along but was trying to make a point to his squad ahead of the new season – hard work, determination and organisation went a long way towards securing the double promotion enjoyed by the White Rose county in 2011-12.

“I spoke to Rob Jones and asked him what he did last season,” explains Saunders as Rovers look to bounce back from relegation at the first attempt.

“The reply came back, ‘Everyone worked their socks off at Sheffield Wednesday and we had a striker who kept scoring every week’. You ask Jamie McCombe what happened to get promotion and he says the same.

“Both those teams got results when they didn’t play well and that was because they defended well. We have to do the same. It is not rocket science to say we need to get good players, working hard.

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“McCombe and Jones may be 6ft 5in but they are not hopeless on the ball. They play good football. Jamie has had a lot of success in his career. He is also honest, as is Rob.

“Tommy Spurr is another who is honest and so is Paul Quinn.”

This summer has been far from easy for Rovers with the impact of relegation being keenly felt right across the club.

A wage bill that last term stood at £9m has had to be slashed as the south Yorkshire club face up to millions being wiped off their central payments from the Football League. The upshot was Saunders having just 12 players report back for pre-season.

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He said: “We’ve added a few since then but I wince every time anyone looks like they have been hurt. We scraped through against York (last weekend when Rovers beat the League new boys on penalties in the Capital One Cup).

“I can only bring one or two more in and then we have to keep them fit. It won’t be a big squad at the start. But if we can pick someone up along the way who will play for appearance money or a small wage then that would help.

“I could do with someone with experience who can play anywhere across the back. That is what we could do with, someone who can slot in and won’t cost us the game.”

Against York, it was evident that Rovers lacked a striker with the physique capable of bullying opposition defences and capitalising on what was, at times, impressive delivery from the flanks.

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Saunders is hoping the arrival of Leeds United striker Billy Paynter on a two-year deal this week can solve that particular problem.

Paynter may have had a wretched two years at Elland Road to score just three goals in 27 appearances but he did net 26 times for Swindon Town in his most recent campaign at this level.

With the experience of Jones and McCombe already on board along with former Leeds United striker Robbie Blake, ex-Barnsley winger David Cotterill and David Syers, a Bosman free transfer from Bradford City, Saunders is hoping Doncaster can get their season up and running straight away.

He said: “Some of the players hadn’t played together (before the York Cup tie), while Jamie McCombe’s first game will be next weekend (at Walsall) so we need to get a little bit of luck to hit the ground running.

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“We need to get as many points as possible on the board so I can spend time on the training ground to get us programmed and into a system that can get us results.

“Things haven’t been ideal. We only had 12 players (at the start of pre-season). Against York, we had 11 on the pitch plus Robbie Blake and David Syers available.

“A couple are out on loan and a couple are injured, including Shelton Martis who is a couple of weeks away.

“But the important thing is this will be my team. I am getting there and I am hammering principles in. We want to do well this season.”