Doncaster v Colchester: Middleton looking to build on impressive display

Midfielder Harry Middleton's performance in the defeat against Millwall won praise from Doncaster Rovers' new manager Darren Ferguson (Picture:   Steve Uttley).
Midfielder Harry Middleton's performance in the defeat against Millwall won praise from Doncaster Rovers' new manager Darren Ferguson (Picture: Steve Uttley).
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IT CAN surely be no bad thing for a young player to get positively name-checked by someone with the surname of Ferguson.

Granted, the comments regarding coltish Doncaster Rovers midfielder Harry Middleton may not have been uttered by arguably the greatest manager of them all in Sir Alex Ferguson.

But they did come from someone with high and exacting standards all the same and a figure, who, like his famous father, does not distribute individual praise freely with it having to be earned.

It was uttered, of course, by Middleton’s club manager Darren Ferguson, son of the famous managerial doyen who was king of all he surveyed during his epic tenure at Old Trafford.

Ferguson snr arrived in Manchester with much to do back in November 1986 – just as his lad has at a somewhat more provincial footballing destination in Doncaster.

It was the onset of the venerated ‘Class of 92’ and the emergence of a golden crop of youngsters that enabled Ferguson snr to assume legendary status with the Red Devils.

The development of youth will also be a key tenet in his son’s quest to put Doncaster back on the footballing map and the likes of Middleton will be integral.

Doncaster-born Middleton’s performance, albeit in a losing cause, in Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat at Millwall was singled out for praise by his manager, a ball-playing midfielder back in his playing days.

Middleton is hoping to build on that display against Colchester United this afternoon when Ferguson will be aiming to claim a significant early milestone in any manager’s tenure – namely a first home win.

While Ferguson may only be a few weeks into his Rovers watch, Middleton has been impressed, just as his gaffer was regarding his midweek display.

Middleton said: “When you come off, you have your own opinions on how you have done and it’s always nice to get good positive feedback.

“I was on the bench for the first game, but have kept my head down and kept focused and I have to make sure it’s a difficult decision to leave me out.

“He will have spoken to the staff before, so he will have an idea on the players. But it’s a chance to impress him and everyone starts on a clean slate. Hopefully I can impress him and he can keep me in.

“He’s a manager I really rate and knows how to manage individuals. Some people need an arm around the shoulder and some need a little bit of a kick. But, so far, he is getting to know us a little bit and I think it’s a positive thing for us.”

If the past few weeks are anything to go by, Ferguson has that same fastidious attention to detail and an abhorrence of sloppiness that his father possessed and drove him on in his decorated dug-out career.

Ferguson has already tellingly spoken about the “culture” needing to change at the club, as clear an indication as any that he plans to oversee a considerable transformation at the Keepmoat and do it his way – just like his father.

Middleton has witnessed Ferguson’s demand for high standards already and despite training at Cantley Park having been truncated in the new Rovers manager’s first few weeks due to a triple-header of away games, the schemer says that signs of what he expects are clearly evident already.

He added: “It’s been a tight schedule of games and we haven’t had a lot of time to work on the way he wants to play.

“But in the sessions, we have worked hard and well and hopefully we will start to click on the pitch.

“He knows what he wants and how he wants us to do things.

“If you start off with simple passes and are sloppy and slow, he doesn’t like it and he wants good quality – even with the simple things, he demands that you do them as best you can.

“We want to put things right and I am confident that we can turn things around and we want to show a reaction from Tuesday.”

This season may have already turned into a slog and test of endurance for Rovers fans, but for local lad Middleton – who hails from the village of Hatfield Woodhouse – it has already been a bit of a breakthrough one.

The 20-year-old may have only just returned to the side, but it is clear that big things are expected of him, with many no doubt also mindful of the advancing years of two stalwarts in the middle of the park in James Coppinger and Richie Wellens.

Both feel they still have a few miles left in the tank yet, clearly.

But equally, it is fair to say that the new-look Rovers will be built around the likes of Middleton and not the aforementioned pair, who have served the club inestimably well in their time.

While being name-checked by Ferguson, his predecessor Paul Dickov was also a big fan of Middleton’s, while being cautious of not exposing him to regular football too early and being careful with regard to his development.

Middleton has experienced that this season when he has been left out on occasions, but equally you sense he is ready to step up.

He said: “I sort of expect being left out sometimes, being a young lad.

“You have to do everything you can to stay there, but then if I am out, I have got to keep my head and keep working and get myself back in there.

“I am expecting to be in and out a little bit. But the main thing for me is to keep progressing and giving the manager something to think about each game.”