Former player-manager Rob Jones believes that Rovers was the right club at the right time when he joined from boyhood team Sheffield Wednesday in the summer of 2012
Speaking to Football CPF, Jones explained that while he could have stayed at Wednesday for another 18 months after being told he was no longer part of the manager’s thinking, his desire to play football helped spur him to a move just a few miles down the road.
“Sheffield Wednesday was magnificent for me, but I would never, ever have let myself sit there in the background and pick up money because that’s not the way I do things. I wanted to play and thankfully, Doncaster gave me the opportunity to play,” he said.
“They’d just gone down from the Championship to league one and wanted to get back up as soon as possible. It was only 35 miles from Sheffield, I knew a few people from there, it suited me. When I first met manager Dean Saunders I was in Portugal with a fitness thing and I knew this was a guy I wanted to play football for.
“He was a down to earth guy and it was important that it was done at the right place at the right time. Dean was great – he gave me the captaincy as soon as I came in.”
Jones admitted that having the captaincy was important to him because he felt the armband made him a better player on the pitch.
“I never shied away from the fact that I love being the captain of the club that I play for,” he added.
“That armband does something to me that I can’t explain – you put it on and it changes you. I’ve always been very proud to captain every club I play for. For me, because of the stature that I am, the way I look with the broken nose and the bald head and the scars, I think people take you literally and the wrong way but people follow you if they want to follow you and throughout my career – the personality I had on and off the pitch helped me support those that we around me.”
Jones was a natural leader and when Saunders took a job at Wolverhampton Wanderers part way through the season, Jones was an obvious candidate to share the manager role with Brian Flynn.
“I was always keen to coach – I finished my UEFA A license before I retired which was what I wanted to do so I only had my Pro license to complete,” he said.
“I’d been coaching in the background – U12s at Grimsby, U14s at Wednesday, U17s at Hibbs, and the U23s at Doncaster – throughout my career because I wanted to start something before I retired and it was important to me that I did more than just play and all of that was a benefit for when I took the position as a player-coach.
“I inherited a very good group too – they all had the same aim and the same focus. Any manager out there will tell you that it makes life so much easier.”
Following Rovers dramatic final-day promotion to the Championship at Griffin Park, Jones chose to step back from his coaching role to concentrate on playing.
“I think if we’d have stayed in League One there might have been a possibility that I’d have been given the job, but the fact that we went up to the Championship changed that.
“Me playing in the Championship had never gone to plan and I had a conversation with the chairman at the time because I wanted to concentrate on playing.
“The Championship is a completely different world to League One. It’s so intense – so fast, so physical, so demanding mentally and physically and to do both roles would be really tough, really tough.
“I played the first 13 games and then I did my neck which probably started the demise of my playing career to be honest. I did a little bit of soul-searching at that point and then I had the operation to fuse the vertebrae together – there was five and a half months of rehab and knockbacks and rehab. I got back, got fit and then got injured again. When you get to the age I was then and you start getting these niggly injuries, it’s very difficult to try and get that momentum. Inevitably, that was the main reason that I called it a day on my career.”