Exclusive: Promoted Doncaster Rovers plan Championship return

DONCASTER ROVERS' chief executive Gavin Baldwin has revealed that the club are aiming to complete their summer recruitment before the end of June having targeted 'five or six' new signings.

Doncaster Rovers manager Darren Ferguson celebrates promotion with John Marquis after the Sky Bet League Two match against Mansfield at the Keepmoat Stadium

Rovers, fresh from their promotion back to League One at the first time of asking, are looking to hit the ground running for the second successive close season and are already making headway with several of their leading targets.

Manager Darren Ferguson is also being backed with a “generous budget”.

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Twelve months ago, Rovers supporters saw a flurry of transfer business in the first part of the close season, with Tommy Rowe, Mathieu Baudry and Matty Blair signed in May and the likes of John Marquis and Joe Wright following in the first half of June.

Doncaster Rovers manager Darren Ferguson celebrates promotion (Picture: PA)

The club, who have already turned Niall Mason’s loan into a permanent move, are intent on doing their business swiftly again with the fact that promotion was clinched in early April also affording Ferguson and Baldwin some valuable extra time in their preparations for 2017-18 – when the club are aiming to be in play-off contention in League One.

Baldwin, speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, said: “Darren has identified five or six positions we’d like to fill to bring some added depth and that is exactly what we are doing.

“We are already having some really good conversations with players and their clubs.

“We have clearly identified targets who we are talking to now and making progress with.

Doncaster Rovers chief executive Gavin Baldwin (Picture: Scott Merrylees)

“The vision of the club still (ultimately) remains to be a successful Championship club. The funds that the owners have made available for next year is again generous.

“The emphasis is on myself and Darren to recruit well and prepare the team for every game. If we do that, we have a good chance of success.”

On a specific timescale, he added: “The lads come back on June 26 and we would hope to have the squad together by then.

“If not, we would want just a couple of additions after that. But we are working at having all the players in by the 26th. It might not happen, but we will have the majority in by then.

Doncaster Rovers manager Darren Ferguson celebrates promotion (Picture: PA)

“We learned about how much that benefited the team last year and will try to replicate it again.

“Getting promoted early was really fortunate. It means that we sat down weeks ago and spoke about what the squad needs to look like next year.”

Alongside new signings, another key priority for the club is agreeing a contract extension with Marquis, with the striker having proved a revelation since joining the club, hitting 26 league goals in 2016-17, the most by any Rovers player in a single season for 51 years.

Rovers are understood to be close to agreeing a contract extension with Marquis, whose exploits have attracted the attention of rival clubs.

Doncaster Rovers chief executive Gavin Baldwin (Picture: Scott Merrylees)

Last month, the Londoner – out of contract next June – expressed his willingness to sign a new contract and Baldwin remains confident of a deal being finalised. He said: “John has got an excellent relationship with Darren and it is an ongoing conversation.

“But it is genuine; the club wants to do it and John wants to do it. It is very positive.”

While Marquis remains a firm part of Doncaster’s plans, several other contracted players have been told they can leave with 2015-16 top scorer Andy Williams among five players who were placed on the transfer list last week by Ferguson.

Harry Middleton, Mitchell Lund, Cedric Evina and Ross Etheridge have all been informed that they can leave, with Ferguson having decided that the quintet have no place in his plans.

Williams has already attracted interest, along with Evina and Etheridge. Rovers also announced their retained list last week, with Paul Keegan, Gary McSheffrey and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair told that they would not be offered new deals, with Baldwin confirming that the departures of the five listed players will also free up further room in Ferguson’s transfer budget, with the club eyeing both experienced signings and loan additions ahead of the 2017-18 season.

Baldwin said: “The owners have never taken a penny out and anything (outgoing transfers) which have been done are put back into the pot.

“Those funds will be made available to Darren to strengthen and that is what has always happened.

“Our recruitment will be specific to doing very well in League One next year, but should we be fortunate enough to get to the Championship, we would want those players to be with us there as well. We are looking at a mix of loans and contracted players and extending contracts.

“Within the squad, there are players with different lengths of contract and we have to find players that we would want to retain if we should be fortunate enough to make the Championship. We have already extended quite a few contracts.”