O'Driscoll open to Sheffield United advance

DONCASTER Rovers manager Sean O'Driscoll has admitted that he would consider a move to Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United.

The Blades are seeking a replacement for Gary Speed, who quit Bramall Lane this week to become the new manager of Wales.

O'Driscoll has won rave reviews over the last four years – leading Rovers back to the Championship after a 50-year absence and securing two mid-table finishes on a limited budget.

Although there has been no official approach, the Blades are aware of his interest and have not ruled out a move.

A major stumbling block in any deal will be Rovers' demand for 1m in compensation but O'Driscoll, who was interviewed for the Burnley job last season, also has reservations about his suitability to the club.

The Blades are locked in a battle against relegation from the Championship and under intense pressure to reduce a 10m wage bill after recording losses of 18m last season.

Despite the problems at Bramall Lane, a large section of the club's supporters still demand a return to the Premier League and are unlikely to indulge a manager needing time to turn things around.

Speaking ahead of his side's home game tonight against Middlesbrough, O'Driscoll said: "If there was any opportunity – not just Sheffield United – it would be a case of what do they want, what type of manager do they want? To me, that would be my first concern. I don't know whether I would be a good fit for Sheffield United or a lot of clubs. It depends what they want.

"It's a different type of job and whether or not I would be suitable, I'm not sure," he added.

"We do things a little bit differently and (Rovers chairman) John Ryan had faith that this is the

way he wanted to run a football club.

"You need faith but you are going to go through some tough times. If an opportunity came up, and I felt it was the right opportunity, I would have to consider it."

O'Driscoll, 53, spent 22 years on the south coast with Bournemouth prior to joining Rovers in September 2006 and his appointment initially raised eyebrows.

Although his first season resulted in a lower league position, he survived calls for his head and bought time by winning the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

During the subsequent 2007-08 season, O'Driscoll's footballing philosophy won over the doubters and Rovers secured promotion courtesy of victory over Leeds United at Wembley in the League One play-off final.

His success in keeping Rovers in the Championship led to interest last season from Burnley but the Lancashire club, who were in the Premier League at that stage, opted instead to appoint former Sheffield Wednesday manager Brian Laws.

Coach John Carver is now in caretaker-charge of the Blades and will be looking to push his case for the job on a permanent basis with a good result against Swansea City tomorrow.

O'Driscoll said: "It's difficult to speculate because I'm not privvy to what goes on at Sheffield United. It's a big club with a great tradition and a big infrastuctre. We are trying to get there with Doncaster. The two clubs are completely different in terms of tradition, history, crowd base."

Rovers chairman Ryan was adamant yesterday that O'Driscoll would not quit for the Blades, saying: "Why would he go there? Man for man, we have a better team!"

Tonight's opponents, Middlesbrough, are looking to avoid the same pitfalls of relegation from the Premier League that have led to the Blades' current plight. After finishing only 11th in the Championship last season, they suffered a slow start to the current campaign and parted company with manager Gordon Strachan. Under Tony Mowbray, they have picked up 10 points out of a possible 24 but moved out of the bottom three last weekend with a shock victory over second-placed Cardiff City.

"It's always difficult for a team to come out of the Premier Division and attempt to go back straight away," commented O'Driscoll.

"You have massive decisions to make about whether to keep the players you have got, invest in new players, do you get them off the wage bill? All of a sudden you have got a 17m parachute payment and the temptation is whether to buy quality and hopefully that's enough. But this is a really difficult league to just rely on that. Maybe, if you are going to learn anything if you come down from the Premier Division, it's that you can't just rely on the quality of the players.

"It's got to be the way the football club is run. It has got to be run properly to enable talented players to realise the ability they have got."

The Blades, no doubt, will have noted his advice.

Rovers defender Mustapha Dumbuya has been ruled out of action for four to six weeks after a minor knee operation. Byron Webster has been recalled from a loan spell at Hereford United.

Last six games: Rovers WDWDLL, Boro WLLDLW.

Last time: Rovers 1 Boro 4; January 26, 2010, Championship.

Referee: C Boyeson (East Yorkshire).