The first year after relegation can always be difficult, as Wolves, Fulham and several others have found in recent years, so Doncaster will have been relieved to consolidate in mid-table. Now Paul Dickov has a good chance to shape his squad to his needs and launch a real assault on the promotion spots.
Last Season: League One (13th)
Manager: Paul Dickov
GKs: Marko Marosi, Thorsten Stuckmann
DFs: Cedric Evina, Rob Jones, Luke McCullough, Liam Wakefield, Andy Butler, Paul McKay, Ben Askins, Mitchell Lund, Gary MacKenzie, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair
MFs: Harry Forrester, Paul Keegan, Richie Wellens, James Coppinger, Harry Middleton, Billy Whitehouse, Richard Chaplow
FWs: Curtis Main, Nathan Tyson, Jack McKay, Liam Mandeville, Andy Williams
In: Gary MacKenzie (Blackpool), Thorsten Stuckmann (Preston North End), Andy Williams (Swindon Town), Richard Chaplow (Millwall), Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (Wigan Athletic)
Out: Kyle Bennett (Portsmouth), Stephen Bywater (Released), Lewis Ferguson (Released), Dean Furman (Released), Jamie McCombe (Released), Alex Peterson (Released), Abdul Razak (Released), Theo Robinson (Released), Reece Wabara (Released)
First Six: Bury (H), Wigan Athletic (A), Southend United (H), Port Vale (A), Fleetwood Town (H), Gillingham (A)
Likely Lineup: (4-3-3) Stuckmann – Lund, McCullough, Butler, Evina – Wellens, Forrester, Chaplow – Coppinger, Tyson, Main
A word from…Brian Stock
On settling down at Doncaster I don’t regret moving to Preston, it gave me my learning curve in football, when Sean O’Driscoll went to Doncaster it made sense for me to go there and play some games.
The one move I made in my career which I look back on and think that was the most significant one. I made some great friends, have some great memories and I was made captain of the club. I really do hold that club close to my heart, I always look out for their results straight away, there’s not many clubs that happens with but Doncaster are certainly one of them.
On stepping up to the Championship There are some very good players in each division but what separates them is how organised they are. The higher you go you’ll get punished more for your mistakes.
We learned that in the first four or five months in the Championship was that we were dominating teams but making a couple of mistakes. We didn’t convert chances, we lost games and came off the pitch wondering how we’d lost the game. But we had a great team spirit, we were bottom of the league at Christmas but we stopped making stupid mistakes, took our chances and that was a huge turning point for us. We learned our lessons very quickly.
On the current side When we made the Championship, it’s a small club with small attendances but we made the transition by staying in there as long as we could. We got relegated but went back up, they’ve made some good signings and consolidated last season after coming back down.
The players I spoke to were confident last year of making the play-offs so I’m sure they’ll be looking towards at least hitting that target this season.
On Paul Dickov I’ve spoke to him a few times and spoke to people who know him. You look at how he played football, he’s passionate, he motivates his players and if he can align that with talent on the field and they all pull together then I believe they can have a successful season this year.
On the missing link We played some very attractive football when we went up but we just weren’t converting chances. I remember we signed Billy Sharp and Paul Heffernan, players that will score goals. If you’ve got a player who can put it in the back of the net at any level then you’ve got a chance.
We had a manager who in my opinion is one of the best I’ve worked with and he never changed his style of play. He kept with it, we kept the belief, I think on Boxing Day we went to Nottingham Forest and beat them and went on an unbeaten run of about ten games. The most important thing is to bounce back because anyone can beat anyone in the football league.
On picking up the trophy You can’t explain it really, it’s hard to put it into words. When you start the game and you’ve got 55,000 Leeds fans and 20,000 Doncaster fans, it’s amazing.
I don’t think I’ll ever have an experience like that again, the hairs do stand on the back of your neck. I remember going as a kid and saying to my brother that I’d play there one day. Like I said, you can’t put into words, it’s just an amazing thing to do. I went back recently for an Ed Sheeran concert, you see the size of it and sometimes remember how lucky you were to do what you did there.
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: Whilst the club appear better prepared than last season, it’s difficult to see them making the step up this season when you look at the quality of the other teams and the teams that have come down from the Championship.
Key Player: Luke McCullough – The 21-year-old has really grown into his role in the defence since arriving from Manchester United. A key part of last season’s team, he can only get better with experience.
One to Watch: Mitchell Lund – The youngster finally broke into the team last season and played the final game of the League One season, with defence opportunities limited throughout the squad, Lund could feature much more this season.