Doncaster Rovers: Kids make future bright, says Rob Jones

Rob Jones
Rob Jones

Rob Jones is confident Rovers’ growing focus on the club’s youth ranks will bear fruit sooner rather than later.

There was a shift in attitude following relegation to the Championship a year ago with senior figures at the Keepmoat revealing a desire to bring an increasing number of players out of the Academy and into the first-team squad.

Mitchell Lund

Mitchell Lund

And last season ten players who spent time in the club’s youth set-up were involved in matchday squads.

All of those players played a part in Jones’ successful under-21 side which narrowly missed out on winning the league.

And Jones - who last week signed a new deal to remain at Rovers - says the Academy is in rude health.

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“The future is very bright for this club because there’s some good young footballers coming through the system and long may that continue,” Jones said.

“It’s not been a bad number so far but there’s more to come.

“There’s a couple of first-year apprentices coming into the second year who’ve got a chance as well.

“I’ve dealt with the 16-year-olds for most of the year and they’re doing really well.

“Hopefully we can see more home-grown and young talent playing out there as well.”

Of all the Academy-produced players to emerge last season, Mitchell Lund arguably made the biggest impact with assured performances in his three starts at the end of the campaign.

The goalscoring problems that blighted Rovers’ season also saw the spotlight placed on prolific youth-team pair Jack McKay and Liam Mandeville.

Jones said: “Mitchell Lund was terrific at the end of the season.

“It looked like he’d been there for a long time, he barely put a foot wrong.

“He was in my U-21 side all season. He had his ups and downs which all players do but he’s done really well.

“Liam Mandeville - that boy has all the ability in the world. He’s some player, mark my words.

“Jack McKay just scores goals, and Paul McKay the centre-half is coming along great.

“Harry Middleton is going to be some player too.”

Jones sees his coaching role as preparing players for the step up to the first team.

And although he came into the Football League at the age of 23, he is confident he can guide the teenagers through the difficult transition.

He said: “It’s very daunting for an 18-year-old boy to get his first-year pro and go from youth team to first team. Some swim and some sink. The U-21s is that bridge.

“My job is to get them ready for the first team. That’s my role. I’m doing everything I possibly can to get them through.

“We’ve had a few through and there’s a few on the fringes.

“It’s good you have that bridge because it’s scary at times.

“I came in late so I never had to go through it. It’s difficult for me to understand but I can get to grips with going in from people you’ve watched for four or five years to playing alongside them.

“It’s a little bit ruthless in that first team.”