DONCASTER Rovers’ sorry season has descended into a torrid tailspin in recent months, but manager Darren Ferguson is sure of one thing: he is in it for the long haul.
He retains belief he is the man to transform the fortunes of a club that are at a decidedly low ebb, relegation or no relegation
The odds are leaning heavily towards the former eventuality with Rovers’ desperate 16-match winless streak suggesting that avoiding the unpalatable scenario of basement football for the first time since 2003-04 is highly improbable.
Ferguson would not dispute that assertion, yet despite their dire predicament ahead of a fiendishly difficult looking home game with leaders Wigan Athletic tomorrow, the Scot is adamant that all is not lost yet.
Although, equally, it would be disingenuous to suggest that the former Peterborough United manager has not planned for the prospect of relegation at Rovers, currently second from bottom and eight points adrift of safety with just five matches left.
In truth, whether Rovers go down or somehow stay up will not affect the close-season structural changes in areas such as recruitment that Ferguson has been planning for a good while – having spoken about the “culture” of the club needing to change early on in his tenure.
Despite obvious concern at some thoroughly grim results so far in 2016, Ferguson’s conversations with the Rovers’ board suggest that they remain on the same page in their long-term plans for the club.
Ferguson is thankful for that support and while the first to admit that he should share the blame along with the players for the club plunging into freefall this calendar year, he is intent on turning Rovers around.
Unequivocal on his desire to be in charge next season, the 44-year-old, who signed a rolling contract when he was appointed six months ago, said:”Absolutely. I want to be here, no question about that.
“All along, I have maintained I need to get my full grip on the club and don’t think one transfer window is enough for that, absolutely not.
“The board have been great and we stand together on it.
“Clearly it has not gone in the way anyone would have expected or wanted. But I have to look at the bigger picture.
“When I came in, it wasn’t just about this season, although clearly I didn’t think we would be in this mess.
“It was always about the structure of the club and how I wanted to change that and see the club in the next three of four years as opposed to just this year.
“In the summer, I can really start looking at how I want to make changes, both in personnel and in other areas of the club. I think the board can see what I am trying to do.
“The results have been nowhere near good enough, but the board have had to stay strong.
“At a lot of other clubs, the manager could have gone, but I think they understand what I am trying to do.”
While Ferguson would dearly love to be planning for another season in League One, he does not believe that relegation, however much of a short-term blow it might seem, would represent a Doomsday scenario in enabling the club to wipe the slate clean.
He added: “I don’t want people to take things the wrong way. It would really hurt if we went out of this league;.
“But if you drop into League Two, I could see us picking this club right up as the momentum would gather very quickly.
“I have done it before with Peterborough and it’s been done many times before. But we are not focusing on that yet.”
In an ideal world, Ferguson, promoted three times from the third tier with former club Posh, will still be a third-tier manager in August although he is the first to acknowledge that saving Rovers from relegation would probably represent his biggest achievement in management to date, given their parlous situation.
The fixture has not been kind with tomorrow’s in-form visitors Wigan closing in on promotion and the title, and the hosts mindful that another defeat, combined with a loss at Chesterfield on Tuesday could result in their relegation.
But Rovers’ chief is not one for throwing in the towel, despite the extent of his side’s task tomorrow and in the final three weeks of the campaign.
He added: It is a huge task for us, so looking at it that way, I suppose it would be (my best managerial achievement).
“I am pretty confident we will probably have to win all five games; although winning four and drawing one might be enough.
“But we had a meeting on Monday and I was very strong in my opinion how the next five games can go.
“I said we are playing against a team at the top of the league and that if we can beat them, we can beat anyone – that was the message.
“In most people’s opinion, we won’t have a chance, but we don’t feel that.”