Oxford United v Doncaster Rovers - Andy Butler staying positive in bid to shut out the negative noise

SINCE HE was a teenager, Andy Butler has got used to proving his doubters wrong.

Doncaster Rovers' Reece James (right) and Northampton Town's Peter Kioso battle for the ball at the Keepmoat Stadium during Saturday's 0-0 draw.. Picture: Isaac Parkin/PA.

In his formative years, he can still recall the pain of rejection from his hometown club Doncaster Rovers before being told at the age of 16 that a scholarship contract was unlikely to be offered to him at Rovers’ rivals Scunthorpe United.

Butler persevered. So much so that he went on to be a first-team regular for the Iron and won a league title and later became captain. He has also skippered Rovers – now he manages them.

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Given all that, it should be no surprise whatsoever that any negative background noise regarding Doncaster’s play-off prospects is met head-on by Butler.

TOO SOON: Doncaster Rovers' midfielder John Bostock, left, will not be fit for tonight’s trip to Oxford, but Andy Butler is hopeful he will return for the weekend. Picture: Nick Potts/PA.

Fifth-placed Rovers have won just twice in their last nine League One matches and will again not be blessed with a surfeit of options tonight with Omar Bogle, John Bostock and Josh Sims all missing, while Jon Taylor is out for the rest of the season.

Rovers have also lost their last four games on the road and three of their next four games are away from the Keepmoat Stadium.

But Butler has no time for any pessimism whatsoever and is somewhat irked by it following the reaction to two disappointing results for Doncaster against Crewe and Northampton.

Butler, in charge of the club for the rest of the season, initially, said: “You will always have people doubting you.

YOU'VE GOT TO ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE: Doncaster Rovers interim manager Andy Butler is urging his players to blot out all the negativity about their League One promotion hopes. Picture: Isaac Parkin/PA

“You always have people doubting you in any walk of life asking questions whether you are the right person or is this the right squad.

“That is what I keep saying to the players. It is a challenge and you have to take on challenges head on. If you don’t, you will wither to one side. Rise to the challenge...

“People get challenges in every walk of life every day. The Covid lockdown is a challenge itself and there are people who come out of the other side of it. Football is no different to that – you still come out on the other side of it.

“I do not think you can allow individuals to negatively affect you. That has been one thing I have (not) done throughout my career. When I was 16, I got told to stop playing football.

“You use that to spur you on and that is what I keep saying to players – use people’s comments to spur you on or challenge you. Everything is a challenge.”

Accepting challenges has not just been restricted to Butler’s time on the football field either.

The 37-year-old showed his resourcefulness during his time at Walsall by enrolling on a plumbing course and is also a qualified locksmith.

Finding the key to improving Doncaster’s away statistics at a timely juncture is now dominating Butler’s attentions.

Prior to their recent run of losses, the club’s form on the road was impressive and consistent.

Two of Rovers’ main players and dressing-room figures in James Coppinger and Tom Anderson will also recall the experiences of two years ago for further perspective in the here and now.

Rovers’ top-six credentials were in question following a seven-match run without a win before being firmly re-established.

With games in hand on all of their rivals still, their current position is a positive one and it is something worth remembering.

Butler added: “You don’t usually get these amounts of games (left), but you can pick up a lot of points in a short period of time and that is the message to the players – use these games to your advantage and if you win a couple, you can come out a little bit higher up than you would going Saturday to Saturday.

“Winning breeds confidence and the way you perform on the pitch can show in the dressing room and you see the players smiling and enjoying training.

“No-one wants to be in a losing dressing room because it is a hard place to be in. If we can use those experiences from the older players to encourage the younger ones to keep persevering when times are not going well, we will be better for their experience.”

Meanwhile, Butler is hopeful that Bostock and Bogle could be available this weekend with following groin and hamstring issues respectively.

He said: “Omar is looking really good and really strong. He won’t be available for Oxford, but the weekend is looking positive.

“He has reacted really well to the treatment and he is looking strong in the gym. Hopefully, John will be back for the weekend too.

“Speaking to the physio, he is another one that is reacting well to treatment.

“We have just got to be mindful of their bodies because we do not want to bring them back too soon and risk losing them for longer.”

Loanee Scott Robertson, who came off with a toe injury at the weekend, should be available tomorrow, while Sims was due to see a specialist regarding the nerve issue in his leg on Monday.

Last six games: Oxford LDDDWL; Doncaster DLWWLD.

Referee: B Toner (Lancashire).

Last time: Oxford 3 Doncaster 0, October 12, 2019; League One.

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