ENTHUSIASTIC Doncaster Rovers boss Dean Saunders has spoken of his long-term vision to bring more players through the club’s youth system.
The Welshman is acutely aware he does not have the transfer funds to compete with the heavyweights of the Championship.
So Saunders, who guided Wrexham to the semi-final stages of the Blue Square Bet Premier Division last year, has outlined his plan to develop the next generation from within.
Along with assistant manager Brian Carey and a handful of first-team regulars, including Simon Gillett and George Friend, Saunders helped put some of the schoolboys on the club’s centre of excellence books, aged between 12 and 15, through their paces in a special coaching session on Monday.
He has promised to take a hands on approach to improving Rovers conveyor belt of talent. But the likeable manager, who penned a three-year contract at the Keepmoat Stadium last month, acknowledges his top priority is to ensure the South Yorkshire club stave off the threat of relegation.
Saunders told The Star: “I am really conscious of the fact we have to bring kids through at the club. We have got a short-term problem which is obvious when you look at the league table that I have got to try and do something about but I am looking at the future.
“I am going to put my slant on what I think a young Doncaster Rovers footballer should be. We need youngsters to come through.
“There are lots of clubs in the area around where we are. Lots of big clubs with great facilities and I have got to try and persuade the parents and the boys that the best place for them to further their education is at Doncaster.
“I’ll be showing as much interest in them as the first team players and I want them to know that, if they are good enough, they will get a chance to prove it while I am here.”
Although he is keen to draft youngsters into the senior set-up, Saunders has ruled out relying on inexperienced players to lead Rovers away from the lower reaches of the division.
“They (younger players) are going to get a chance to play in the first-team but, for obvious reasons, we won’t be doing that straight away,” he stressed. “We have to get out of the situation we are in now but I will be looking at the kids coming through and I want to instil some old fashioned basics into them.
“I want them to work hard and play with a bit of desire and enthusiasm. The defenders have to be able to defend properly, the strikers have to work hard, chase lost causes and score goals and the midfield players have to get up and down the pitch. I’m going to try and put that back into them.”
He added: “We have to convince the kids this is the best place for them to be and to de velop. I want all the coaches to try and instil into the boys the type of attitude I want so whatever happens, whether they become footballers when they leave here or if they don’t, people know they are going to get a young, enthusiastic, determined, hard-working polite young boy. That is what I intend to do but the main thing is that they have got the work ethic.”
In his final year and a half at the Racecourse Ground, Saunders said 16 young players departed the Welsh outfit and earned moves into the Premier League.
“We had to sell 16 players because it kept the club afloat,” he admitted. “I didn’t want to do it but that was the way we had to run things.
“One of the players we sold was Neil Taylor to Swansea. We got £200,000 for him and that is big money for Wrexham.
“The coaches were excellent and we ended up having a brilliant reputation as a club so I’m going to try and do that here without actually selling all the players but I’m going to get them to the standard where other clubs want them.”