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Doncaster Rovers v West Ham United

Filed: Friday, 12th August 2011
By: Preview Percy

As you can imagine, being an elder statesman Preview Percy had more than a few things to say about the recent outbreaks of civil disorder. Thankfully we had to go before he could tell us any of them. Here's what he had to say about this weekend's visit to Doncaster Rovers before we made our excuses and left...

Next it’s off oop North as we visit Doncaster Rovers. It’s one of those 3pm kick-off on Saturday things which is precisely how things should be.

This is a new venue for us – Doncaster is a club we haven’t faced since 1958 and they moved into their new Keepmoat Stadium in 2007 after over 80 years at the Belle Vue ground. Formed in 1879 it’s fair to say that their history over the next 120 or so years was pretty undistinguished, being one of those clubs that liked to spend its time flitting between the third and fourth levels of the professional game. They reached what was probably a low point in 1998 when they were relegated to the Conference, since when things have improved under the ownership of John Ryan.

Ryan made a mint out of the cosmetic surgery business prior to buying Rovers and he became the oldest player in English professional history when coming on as a late sub in a Conference match against Hereford in 2003. Ryan was 52 years old at the time, though given his profession it is possible that parts of him were much younger.

Doncaster were promoted from the Conference at the end of that season and since then have made steady progress. The well-regarded Sean O’Driscoll took over as boss in 2006, coming in from Bournemouth. During his playing days he gained a reputation as a quiet, private man to the extent that his team-mates christened him “Noisy”. Footballers – they’re such wags aren’t they?!

O’Driscoll spent something like 22 years at Dean Court, the last six as manager where he worked minor miracles on what would have been a shoestring, if only the club had been able to afford such items as shoestrings. Since arriving in Yorkshire he has presided over the 2007 Johnstones Paint Trophy win and guided the team to promotion to the second tier for the first time in half a century, endearing themselves to just about every football supporter who was around in the 1970’s in the process by beating Leeds 1-0 in the play-off final. This will be their fourth successive season in the division, having survived a relegation fight last time out. That they survived at the expense of Sheffield United in the process is something that will have pleased them as much as it did us.

Their season so far consists of a 2-1 defeat at Brighton and a 3-0 win over Tranmere in the League Cup. The defeat at Brighton came after they had led for much of the game and, even as they ran out of steam, a draw looked on the cards until Brighton netted the winner in the 8th minute of stoppage time. The win over Tranmere, on the other hand, was every bit as comfortable as it sounds.

In the squad they have veteran ‘keeper Neil Sullivan. Sullivan’s been about a few years and was ever-present in the league last season. Despite a career that has seen him pick up 20 or so caps for Scotland the player is probably as remembered for being the ‘keeper on the receiving end as some youngster called Beckham scored from the halfway line for Man Utd against Wimbledon all those years ago. Sullivan is probably beginning to wind down now at the age of 41. Gary Woods was first choice at Brighton last weekend and O’Driscoll eschewed the modern trend for swapping ‘keepers for League Cup matches by keeping Woods in goal for the midweek demolition of Tranmere. Having kept a clean sheet in the League Cup win Woods is likely to retain the jersey this weekend.

The captain’s armband belongs to Welshman Brian Stock. Stock arrived from Preston in 2007 and was part of the play-off winning side. He has featured in the full Welsh international side a few times and has a bit of a reputation for having a powerful shot from distance – none of which will cause us any problems this weekend as the poor chap is out for a few months having had an op on an ankle injury at the end of last season.

Stock's is not the only injury in the squad. In fact the injury list is so bad that O’Driscoll has been muttering stuff about having run over a whole litter of cats. Still every cloud has a silver lining and I understand that the cost of getting a tennis racquet restrung in the Doncaster area is at an all time low.

Striker Billy Sharp is something of a talisman for the club and it will have been a major blow to Rovers to have seen the player stretchered off during the defeat at Brighton with damaged ankle ligaments. Sharp has been linked with moves away from the Keepmoat all summer with Ipswich Town and Southampton both reportedly having had bids rejected. Not that it will be much consolation to the player perhaps, but his injury may actually work in the club’s favour as rumours had been circulating that Newcastle were considering a bid. The injury might cool such interest which may mean that Rovers will be able to keep Sharp’s services for a bit longer once the ligaments have healed up.

Another player stretchered off at the weekend was James Hayter. Hayter’s got an interesting past which includes a bizarre record. That he managed to score the fastest ever (2 mins 20 seconds) Football League hat-trick was, in itself, impressive enough. However, the feat was made even more remarkable by the fact that the player had come on as an 84th minute substitute. Famously his parents missed the feat having left a few minutes to catch the last ferry back to their Isle Of Wight home, all of which makes me glad that my rest home is on the mainland (though Transport For London do their best to make the journey back from the post office on pension day a trial). Hayter’s knee problem is being monitored but at the time of writing he is still rated as doubtful.

Yet another on the injury list is Ryan Mason, an attacking midfielder who can also be used in a striking role. Mason has gone up in the world of late having wangled a season-long loan from Spurs. This spell follows a couple of previous spells last season, the second of which saw him return to the Keepmoat in January for the rest of the season. Mason fell victim to a late tackle against Tranmere which saw him end up on crutches. It was a double blow for the player – not only does he have ankle ligament damage but the injury means having to return to Tottenham for treatment.

With such a long injury list (in addition to the aforementioned three there are another six potential first team players cluttering up the treatment room) we may see a start for alleged former Hammers target, the Barking-born Giles Barnes. Barnes is, of course, the nephew of former Hammer Bobby Barnes who was a member of the 1981 FA Youth Cup winning side and is currently doing something frightfully important for the PFA. Barnes The Nephew first came to prominence as a youngster with Derby County but it’s fair to say that his career has failed to live up to the early promise shown. The blame for this can probably be laid at the door of injury, with him suffering long-term absences at key moments during his career. A loan spell at Fulham under Roy Hodgson failed to result in a permanent deal – first team appearances again being hampered by fitness concerns - and the player signed for West Brom in February 2010, his Derby contract having been terminated the previous December. The fact that Barnes did not make a single first team appearance for the Baggies after the arrival of Roy Hodgson as manager in January 2011 probably signifies something, and the player was released by West Brom at the end of last season, signing for Doncaster a couple of weeks ago. He was on the bench at Brighton and for the Tranmere game but, as mentioned, injuries may see him play more of a part on Saturday.

The postponement of this week’s League Cup and international matches won’t have affected preparations in our camp too much. It was likely to have been a second string XI that faced Aldershot Town in the first place and messrs Parker and Green will have benefited from not getting injured against the Netherlands.

I for one am glad to see the return of George McCartney to the left back spot. Herita Ilunga looked ok to start off with against Cardiff but halfway through the second half he was doing a passable impersonation of a goldfish out of water. One would have thought that Linda, as a registered player with Sunderland, would have done a pre-season with the Mackems and thus would have been ready to start or at least play some part in proceedings this weekend. However reports emenating from the club suggest that the player won’t be ready, which is a disappointment. Hopefully Ilunga will have been doing stamina work during the week then.

Our other recent signing, John Carew, has at least got the excuse of having spent all summer on the phone for a lack of fitness. Meanwhile Julien Faubert, who lasted less than half of the Zaragoza friendly, is said to have recovered from the tweaked hamstring from which he was suffering, though I wouldn’t expect him to start.

Pablo Barrera had the longest journey of those who actually did get involved on the international front during midweek, playing as he did in the Mexicans’ 1-1 draw with the USA in Philadelphia. If my last experience of flying through Heathrow is anything to go by, he should clear immigration just before Christmas.

The lines I scribbled down for the postponed match against Aldershot Town (thanks rioters, I missed a whist drive to write all that) still ring true – and not only because it’s easier to recycle rather than come up with new rubbish. Apart from Ilunga’s fitness, the lack of creativity and variety in attack were the things that concerned me most. When substitutions were made it represented less of a plan B, more of an extension of a Plan A that wasn’t working that well in the first place.

During his opening weeks as boss much was made of Mr Allardyce’s preferred style of play. When asked about this the manager suggested (and I paraphrase somewhat here) that whilst the side might play a passing game at home things might be different on the road. This being our first away fixture of the season it will, therefore, be interesting to see the approach that the side adopts against Rovers, a side that under O’Driscoll has a reputation for playing a passing game.

Coming up with predictions in this league is going to be a bit of a balancing act. On the one hand when you look at the resources available to the two sides we ought to be looking at three points, especially when you consider Doncaster’s injury list. On the other hand we’ll be facing the “cup final” factor - and I mean no disrespect to our opponents in saying that. The crowd will be behind them and there will be one or two players who will be itching to show that they ought to have been in the starting line up injuries or no injuries.

Nevertheless I still fancy us to open our account for the season and, as a result I’ll go for a 3-1 win as we take what are hopefully out first steps on the road to promotion.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: N/A

Player to watch: Giles Barnes – Barking lad, a point to prove. Face it, it’s nailed on that he’ll have a half decent game against us if he plays.

Referee: Scott Mathieson - Mr Mathieson has been officiating at this level for about 18 years. This means either:

a) he is a decent ref who doesn’t have the inclination to drop his day career to go for select group status;
b) he is a decent ref whose face doesn’t fit with the idiots in charge of the select group; or
c) he’s at the right level.

His last outing saw him take charge of the Rochdale v Chesterfield League Cup match in midweek. This went to extra time despite which Mr Mathieson showed only one yellow card. Even that came in the 115th minute suggesting that Mr Mathieson may not be one of the more card-happy members of his profession. Further research tells us that:

a) he is very short;
b) that he has recently been sent to Triple A (minor league) baseball team Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs by his parent club the Philadelphia Phillies, and
c) I need to be more careful on the internet when I look up referee details.

Daft fact of the week: Doncaster supremo John Ryan is, sadly, not the same John Ryan responsible for such legendary (and cheaply produced) kids’ animations as “Mary, Mungo & Midge” and “Captain Pugwash”. If ever you fancy winning yourself a really easy pint, just wait for your resident pub bore to spout the oft-repeated but totally incorrect fallacy that amongst the crew of Captain Pugwash’s ship “The Black Pig” were Master Bates, Roger The Cabin Boy and Seaman Staines. There were no such characters and those responsible for running the late Mr Ryan’s estate get very annoyed when anyone repeats the rumour in print. So much so that they actually managed to successfully sue no less than the Guardian newspaper a few years ago for printing the story as fact

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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