SUPPORTERS’ Club chairman Len South is taking a pragmatic view of Doncaster Rovers’ relegation from the Championship.
“Obviously everyone is disappointed that Rovers have gone down,” he told The Star in the first of a two-part exclusive interview. “Relegation always seems so negative but there are positives to be taken out of the situation.
“Hopefully Rovers going down to League One could be a case of one step back and two steps forward. I know chairman John Ryan is also thinking along those lines.
“Clubs such as Norwich City and Southampton have shown in recent years that relegation is not the end of the world and that it can give clubs the chance to regroup and bounce back stronger.
“The pressure on the players, manager and directors must be horrendous at Championship level because we can’t compete with the likes of West Ham, Leicester and even Reading, in terms of crowds and finance and I think that come next season that there are going to be one or two others who will be feeling it.
“Relegation could turn out to be a good thing in the short term because hopefully we’ll be winning more games next season and hopefully that will help bring the (missing) fans back.
“The people of Doncaster have shown how fickle they are over the years by not supporting the team when things are tough. Obviously there are all sorts of reasons why they don’t go - economic difficulties being one.
“But when the team aren’t winning, and aren’t playing attractive football, then people won’t go to watch them.
“I think we need to win games to start to get the fans back and I also think that manager Dean Saunders is right when he says we need to get more steel in the side next season.
“There were times last season when we winning games and then we just collapsed and ended up losing - the Leeds United game at Elland Road being a prime example. We were 2-0 up early in the second half and looking comfortable and ended up losing 3-2.
“We’ve got to try and stop that from happening. Whenever we get into a winning position we’ve got to make sure that we close games out and get points on the board.
“Obviously every game is different. But what I’m saying is that if you are 2-0 up with 15 minutes to go you don’t expect to lose. Instead of trying to score again in that situation I’d like to see us close the game down and not make the silly mistakes we’ve made at times in the past.
“One of the statistics, which is quite horrendous, is that the last time we had back-to-back wins is something like 70 odd games ago and that is something that people need to remember as Dean looks at building a new squad and he makes decisions on players that they don’t agree with.”
Like the majority of supporters, Mr South has welcomed the news that the club will not be continuing with the so-called ‘Willie McKay experiment’ where the Doncaster-based football agent brought in Premiership players on short-term loans, and former top-flight players as well as lesser-known players from French football.
“Speaking personally, I don’t think the experiment of bringing in people like El Hadji Diouf, Pascal Chimbonda and one or two others, worked,” he said.
“With the exception of one or two of the players I don’t think they did anything.
“I’m just guessing, but I got the feeling that it totally disrupted the team spirit. That’s how it appeared. When we played at Leicester, and got beat 4-0, a lot of the players who had come in just didn’t seem bothered and that was the most disappointing thing about it.
“Rovers’ fans can accept defeat if the players give 100 per cent. We lost 6-0 at home to Ipswich last season with a weakened side but at no stage did any of the players look like they had given up and they kept battling away.
“I’m not decrying what Willie McKay tried to do - I think it was a good idea at the time. He came in to try and help the club and he tried his best.
“He didn’t come in to make money for himself but unfortunately it didn’t work.
“If it had it would have been the best thing since sliced bread. I thought the last few games we played - and I know we lost against Ipswich - when we fielded what you could term the ‘old guard’ that the performances we produced were considerably better than some earlier in the season.”
Work has started on renovating the Keepmoat Stadium pitch but it won’t affect the Dons home game against Oldham on Sunday in what will be their last home game until June 24. Doncaster Rovers Belles will also be away from home during the same period.
South urges fans to give Saunders their full backing in tomorrow’s Star.