Richie Wellens playing the long game at Doncaster Rovers

Ask new Doncaster Rovers manager Richie Wellens his targets on his return to a club he served in two spells as a midfielder and they are less about trophies and league placings, more about longevity and entertainment.

The 41-year-old claims to prize enjoyment over money when picking his jobs, and the belief he will get time to build something lasting there was a big draw in bringing him back to the Keepmoat Stadium for a third time.

Rovers have made a habit of unearthing good managers in recent years but have not been so successful at keeping them.

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They are also keen to build a team with a strong “identity” built on the crowd-pleasing football one-time Manchester United trainee Wellens is passionate about, so hearing him outline his vision and his career goals yesterday ticked a lot of boxes.

New Doncaster Rovers manager Richie Wellens. Picture: Gary Longbottom

Sean O’Driscoll, a man Wellens learnt a great deal from in his playing days having won the 2007-08 League One play-offs under him, spent five years with the club and Darren Ferguson two-and-a-half, but the last two occupants of the manager’s office have been more fleeting, Grant McCann taking Rovers to the third-tier play-offs but leaving for Hull City at the end of his first season, Darren Moore threatening similar on-field success before moving to Sheffield Wednesday after 18 months.

Stability has not exactly been a defining feature of Wellens’s managerial career, with just over 150 matches spread across three clubs.

He won League Two with Swindon Town but Oldham Athletic and Salford City, the clubs he managed either side of them, have not been renowned for showing their managers patience in recent years. That was something he was looking for having held off his return to the game until behind-closed-doors football was – we hope – a thing of the past.

“I wanted to come here because I knew it was a club that would give me time to build something,” said Wellens.

Richie Wellens.

“It’s a brilliant stadium and there’s everything we need at the training ground.

“I’d had short spells as a manager at my previous clubs and I want the chance to put down some roots and create something.

“If you said to me in five years I would still be manager here, that would be a success for me.

“I decided a while ago I would rather get paid less money and manage at clubs where I enjoyed myself more.”

Richie Wellens in his Doncaster Rovers playing days. Picture: Gerard Binks

Chief executive Gavin Baldwin spoke about Doncaster “refinding” what they are about as a club, and the way they play is a huge part of that.

“The identity he wants to bring the team, the way he wants to play,” stressed Baldwin. “We want to be proud of the way Doncaster Rovers play.

“We have a reputation we’ve maybe not lived up to lately.

“We believe Richie was absolutely clear in how he’ll set the team up – the high energy, the pressing etc etc and we just think it’s the best football to watch and gives us a good chance.”

Wellens wants to put on football the supporters can enjoy but to connect with them on a human level too. As well as the professional benefits of retaining retired club legend James Coppinger in what is loosely described as a “sports performance” role (“It would be mad not to keep him,” says Wellens), he will be something of a link between the various strands of the club. Wellens wants to play his part too, promising to get out into the schools and the clubs as soon as possible.

“What I really don’t like is seeing Man United, Liverpool and especially Leeds shirts in Doncaster,” says the former Manchester United trainee. “I want to see people wearing Doncaster shirts.”

He wants them to take pride in part from the way his team sets out to entertain.

“Football’s all about the fans,” said the man who was sacked by Salford City late last year. “With no fans in it’s not the same, it just didn’t feel like a proper game. It was really hard to watch at times.

“When you go into a press and the fans get right behind you it really gives an intensity the game needs. It’s been such a hard time for everyone not be able to see friends and relatives, not being able to do the things they like and not being able to go and watch football. It’s important we play football the fans can really enjoy coming along to watch.

“I’ve seen what this place can be like when the fans are behind us. If we can just play football the fans can get behind, they will take us the rest of the way.

“I’ve shown during my career I’m not willing to compromise on my style of play. I want us to play good football but it’s got to be with a purpose.

“If we can attack with two or three passes I want us to do that but if there are other times when we need to be more patient and play six or seven. we’ll do that too. I don’t just want us to be passing the ball for the sake of it.”

Wellens will again work with former Leeds United and Republic of Ireland forward Noel Hunt, his assistant at Swindon Town.

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