An update from chief executive Gavin Baldwin.
Before I begin these notes, I would like to send my best wishes – and the best wishes of everyone at Club Doncaster - to Darren Moore after it was announced that he had suffered a setback in his recovery from COVID-19. We are all hoping for a speedy and full recovery.
As we come to the end point of the season, I and everyone associated with the club shares the disappointment of fans with the way the season has unfolded. Simply put, since the beginning of February results haven’t been good enough.
The bad run of form obviously started under Darren with a series of results that saw us take just one point from a possible 15. With Andy Butler in charge, the team rallied and took seven points from the next four games, but since then we have struggled to retain that form.
Given the speed of Darren’s departure - which happened in a little over 72 hours from official approach to him confirming he wished to leave the club - the decision to appoint Andy was a logical and sound move. Andy had been shadowing Darren since his return to the club and had already stepped in once this season – the decision was also supported by the senior professionals at the club. Indeed, the results immediately after Andy took charge showed that the dressing room had responded well to the change.
Unfortunately, since then the momentum has not continued and it is difficult to put a specific reason on why. Injuries have, without doubt, played a part - the loss of Jon Taylor and Josh Sims impacted upon our attacking potential but defensively we have also looked a shadow of the team we were at the start of the season.
It would be entirely appropriate for fans to ask why the Board didn’t go straight into a recruitment process when Darren left, and for there to be an assumption that we have gone for the cheap or easy option. I can assure all fans that finances were not part of the decision-making process. The board had supported Darren significantly in the January transfer window by providing the resources for both quality and quantity to be added to the team to support the run in. The board also wanted to create a stable environment until the end of the season so as not to distract the players.
The other criticism could be why give it to an inexperienced manager. Again, it was felt that consistency between now and the end of the season was the best approach. Football has a history of inexperienced managers being successful - with players stepping into management and having immediate success in their first seasons including winning league titles and saving teams from relegation. Experience isn’t always the most important factor in how successful a manager will be. It was also a decision supported by the senior players of whom we consulted prior to any appointment being confirmed.
Whilst we will never give up until it is mathematically impossible, it appears that this season has fallen away from us and we share the disappointment of supporters given the position we held at the beginning of the year.
If this season is to end in disappointment, then we are keen to ensure it doesn’t overspill into next year’s campaign. You will have seen that we have now started the recruitment process for the next manager, and we aim to have them in place as soon as the season completes.
Our interview process has proven to work well before and we will repeat it once again. We are, however, keen to ensure we can avoid the short-term stay that has seen our previous two managers depart within less than two years of being appointed and we aim to address this as part of the recruitment process.
We will also use the next few weeks of the season to understand how we may support the entirety of the backroom team, including talent identification, coaching and performance management. Meanwhile some of our younger players will also be given more opportunities.
We are really encouraged to see the Academy products in our first team, and this is something we will aim to develop without compromising on our philosophy or ambition to be consistently challenging for the top six.
Following this COVID-19 year, we also intend to go back to our original criteria: a squad of 22 which is supported by 3-5 development players and boosted by a limited number of high-quality loan players.
As we begin the recruitment process, I know some of you will be concerned about the future of Andy Butler. Please rest assured that we have taken these steps in the full knowledge and in consultation with Andy. Andy has been an incredible servant to this club and there will be a place available for him next season whether that is as manager, coach, or back on the playing staff.
Away from first team matters, I know many of you want to know about season tickets for 2021/22. At present, we have created several options for supporters who purchased last year, and our aim is to delight. We will continue to see how the easing of lockdown goes and understand any capacity restrictions stadia are placed under before releasing this information. We do not wish to start selling season tickets and taking fans money until we have some assurance as to how next season will look.
Finally, as the season comes to a close, I want to join all fans in thanking James Coppinger and celebrating his time at the club. We are working with James and a group of supporters to decide how we can pay tribute to his years of service and how he can say goodbye to the fans.