September 12th 2020. The day the footballing world has been waiting for. The Premier League and the EFL announced in July that the 2020/21 season will be underway very shortly. Ahead of the new season, I have decided to take a look into the future of the 24 teams making up League One for the new campaign, with an in depth look at what each team has to offer for the coming year. Eighth on the list, is Darren Moore’s Doncaster Rovers.
The 2020/21 season will be Doncaster Rovers’ 142nd in their history, and their fourth consecutive in League One. Their last venture outside of League One was their promotion campaign from the 2016/17 season, when Darren Ferguson led his side into League One by finishing in 3rd position. They couldn’t overcome Portsmouth and Plymouth Argyle on the table, but finished eight points ahead of 4th placed Luton Town. In their first season back, they finished 15th in the league, but only six points ahead of the relegation zone. They improved exponentially the next season, finding themselves in sixth position and pushing for a place in the Championship. They were unable to overcome Charlton Athletic in the semi-finals however. Last season, Darren Moore’s side finished in 9th position after PPG was announced. Doncaster have been looking like a side that are consistently pushing for the play-offs now, which is testament to the work that Grant McCann and Darren Moore have been doing with the Yorkshire side.
Darren Moore is heading into his second season with Doncaster, having taken over from Grant McCann in the summer of 2019, after the previous manager left to join Hull City in the Championship. This is Moore’s second job as a manager, having previously been in charge of West Brom when they were relegated from the Premier League, taking over from Alan Pardew for the final two months of the season. After their relegation from the Premier League, Moore was appointed on a permanent basis for their 2018/19 campaign in the Championship. Despite being in a healthy play-off position two years back, Moore was sacked by the board for not performing to expectations. The man known to West Brom supporters as ‘Big Dave’, took over as the Donny boss before the previous season started, but the expectation of the club was not to be challenging near the top of the table. In an interview with the Doncaster Free Press, Darren Moore spoke about his inspirational players after returning to pre-season training after the long lay-off.
Since the start of the 2019/20 season, Doncaster Rovers have used five separate formations across four competitions this season. The most used one of those is the 4-2-3-1, which was the set up for 36 of the 42 games. So, for the squad set up, I will be looking only at the 4-2-3-1.
25-year-old Seny Dieng was Doncaster’s first-choice goalkeeper this season, after joining from QPR on loan in the summer. Dieng would go on to make 32 appearances in all competitions this season. The back-up to Dieng was Ian Lawlor, who started the first seven league games of the season, before joining Scunthorpe on loan in January.
All stats supplied by WhoScored. Dieng’s contribution for Doncaster this season is undeniable, with Dieng making 70 saves across his 27 league games this year, with 10 clean sheets in all competitions.
On the right-side, 25-year-old Brad Halliday was the only registered right back in the squad last season, making the most appearances of any player at the club, with 42 games in all competitions. Halliday was a summer signing from Cambridge, and has made an immediate impact in League One. Stats wise, Halldiay made 83 tackles and 35 interceptions in his 34 league appearances last season. A very solid campaign from the full back.
On the left, 26-year-old Reece James was the first-choice left back for Donny. James joined from Sunderland in the summer, and went on to make 32 appearances for the club this season, with two goals and three assists. Playing as back-up to Reece James was academy youngster Danny Amos, who played five times for the club this season when James was unavailable.
In terms of the stats, James made 51 tackles and 29 interceptions. Not as many as Halliday, but James was more of an attacking full back compared to Halliday.
In the center of defence, Doncaster had a plethora of options to work with. 26-year-old Tom Anderson was the pivotal player in the centre of defence, making 37 appearances across all four competitions, scoring twice last season. Alongside him was Joe Wright, with 26 games played and a goal from the EFL Trophy. In support of those two was Wolves loanee Cameron John, who spent the season with Donny and played 21 games in total, scoring three goals in that time. Another loan signing the club had was Donervon Daniels, who spent six months with the club on loan from Luton Town, playing 14 times.
Two players who only played a small handful of games last season was Alex Baptiste and Shane Blaney, with four games between them. Stats wise, Anderson made 29 tackles and 34 interceptions from his 32 league games. Compare that to Joe Wright, who made 11 tackles and 17 interceptions from 20 league games. Both Anderson and Wright were not as defensively sound as Halliday and James, which was surprising.
In the centre of the pitch, Doncaster has a fair few players to work with. The most played one of those was 24-year-old Ben Whiteman, who made 39 appearances and got five goals last season, plus one assist. He was a key player in the Doncaster midfield last season, and it will be a brilliant feat if they club can keep him for another year. Alongside him for the majority of the season was Ben Sheaf, a loan signing from Arsenal. Sheaf played 38 times last season, scoring twice and getting two assists. Was usually seen as the more defensive midfielder of the two. Sitting in front of them was James Coppinger, who played 33 times at the grand old age of 39, scoring four times and getting nine assists.
Summer signing Madger Gomes was brought in from Alaves, playing 29 games last season without a goal. Joining in January was Jacob Ramsey, who got three goals in his seven games for Doncaster. Stats wise, Whiteman has a 75% dribble completion rate, also having a 83% pass accuracy. That is incredible when you think of the fact that Whiteman attempted over 2000 passes last season. Ben Sheaf was not similar to Whiteman with his dribbling, having a 66% dribble completion rate. However, his passing was almost exact with an 82% pass accuracy. Coppinger was a very good attacking midfielder this season, having 35 shots and an 80% pass accuracy.
On the wing, Doncaster had a few very good options. The best one of those was left-winger Kieran Sadlier, who was Donny’s top goalscorer. Sadlier played 40 times last season, getting 12 goals and six assists. A stunning season from Sadlier. On the right wing was Jon Taylor, a summer signing from Rotherham who scored six goals and seven assists from his 35 games in all competitions. The back-up to Taylor on the right was Matty Blair, who played 14 games for them this season.
Joining Doncaster in January was Fejiri Okenabirhie, signing from Shrewsbury, and went on to play five times for Donny with two goals. Stats wise, Sadlier made 88 shots in his 33 league games, resulting in 11 goals. However, he was surprisingly unsuccessful with his dribbling this year. Jon Taylor had 58 shots from his 28 league games, whilst also having slightly higher than a 50% dribble completion rate.
Going forward, Niall Ennis joined from Wolves on loan for the season, making 32 appearances, getting six goals and four assists. He was Donny’s leading outlet going forward. Battling him for the first six months of the season was Alfie May, making 23 appearances with 3 goals to his name before joining Cheltenham Town in January. Kwame Thomas played 16 times for Doncaster Rovers, scoring three times before being signed by Burton in the winter.
Rakish Bingham played 12 times for Doncaster this season before moving to Dundee United, scoring twice. Devante Cole joined Donny from Wigan in January, playing nine times without a goal. In terms of the stats, Niall Ennis was the go-to attacker for Doncaster. Ennis had 39 shots, scoring six times from his 29 league appearances.
With Doncaster being in a play-off hunt last season, they will be hoping to continue with the same this year. So far, they have only bought in one new player. That player is Jason Lokilo, the 21-year-old spent the last few months of the season with Doncaster as a loan player. Lokilo rejoins on a one-year deal from Crystal Palace, and will be hoping to make more of an impact this season.
In terms of outgoings, the biggest departure was of the star man for Doncaster last year, Kieran Sadlier, who left the club after failing to agree a new deal. He has just signed up for Championship Rotherham. Also leaving to join another side is defender Alex Baptiste, as the 34-year-old joins Bolton. Ian Lawlor has joined Oldham on loan for the rest of the season, after spending the previous six months with Scunthorpe United. Part of the ‘unretained’ list was Devante Cole, Alex Kiwomya, Myron Gibbons, Rian McLean, Max Watters and Shane Blaney. With the season ending, the loan spells of Seny Dieng, Niall Ennis, Donervon Daniels, Ben Sheaf, Jacob Ramsey, Kaziah Sterling and Cameron John expired.
The Problem Areas?
Despite putting themselves on the verge of the play-offs last season, Doncaster have left themselves incredibly short in a few areas for the new season. In goal, Donny have one option to work with, 21-year-old uncapped Louis Jones. Don’t be surprised if the goalkeeper position is filled with the upmost urgency. At right back, the club still has Brad Halliday as the first choice right-back but doesn’t have a set back up once again. Could be an area to look at, but not a priority. On the left, Reece James, Danny Amos and academy player Branden Horton are left back options, so that shouldn’t be an area addressed in the window unless James is to leave.
In the centre of defence, Doncaster are very light. Tom Anderson and Joe Wright are still with the club, but after the loan deals for Donervon Daniels and Cameron John expired, they are lacking options. Could be a position to work on. In central midfield, Donny still have Ben Whiteman, Madgar Gomes and James Coppinger to work with, but with Whiteman being linked to the Championship, the midfield is an area that needs work. On the wing, Jon Taylor, Matty Blair, Jason Lokilo and Fejiri Okenabirhie are the options. Shouldn’t be an area looked at straight away. However, going forward is where Doncaster are at their worst. If Donny don’t bring in two players at least, they won’t finish above the relegation zone. So far, they have only 19-year-old Harrison Myring.
- Goalkeeper –
Matej Kovar – Manchester United – 20 y/o – Loan Deal
Played a lot of games for the United u23’s last season. Could be offered his first taste of senior football. Linked with the club.
Alex Palmer – West Brom – 24 y/o – Loan Deal
Spent last season with Plymouth in League Two. Has been linked with Lincoln this summer but could Darren Moore be a factor in his decision.
Remi Matthews – Bolton 26 y/o – Free Agent
On trial with Ipswich, wanted by Sunderland, but Doncaster can offer Matthews guaranteed first team football this season.
Joel Coleman – Huddersfield – 24 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Huddersfield in the summer. Could the option to stay in Yorkshire appeal to him?
Jonathan Bond – West Brom – 27 y/o – Free Agent
Released by West Brom in the summer. In need of a career restart, that could happen with Doncaster.
Adam Legzdins – Burnley – 33 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Burnley in the summer. In need of a career restart, that could happen with Doncaster.
- Centre Back –
Cameron John – Wolves – 20 y/o – Loan Deal
Spent the season with Doncaster as a supporting player for Wright and Anderson. Could return to the Keepmoat. Is being linked with a return.
Robbie McKenzie – Hull – 21 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Hull in the summer, could be the perfect defender for a whole host of League One teams this summer.
Rhys Bennett – Peterborough – 28 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Peterborough in the summer, Bennett has experience in both League Two and in League One. Needs a career restart.
Donervon Daniels – Luton – 26 y/o – Free Agent
Would be an excellent signing for Crewe for the new season if they can pull this one off. Would be a very good League One player.
Ben Heneghen – Sheffield United – 26 y/o – Free Agent
Spent last season on loan with Blackpool. Could be enticed into a move to Doncaster if they can prove that they are play-off contenders once again.
Harry Lennon – Southend – 25 y/o – Transfer Fee
Played 20 games for Southend last season, could make the jump back up to League One if they right team wants to take a chance of him.
- Central Midfield –
Jacob Ramsey – Aston Villa – 19 y/o – Loan Deal
Spent the final six months of the season with Doncaster as a supporting player for Coppinger. Could return to the Keepmoat. Is being linked with a return.
Lewis MacLeod – Wigan – 26 y/o – Free Agent
Contract ran out with Wigan this summer. Linked to a lot of Scottish teams. Could be the ideal player for Doncaster in the midfield this season.
Jake Doyle-Hayes – Aston Villa – 21 y/o – Free Agent
Spent last season on loan with Cheltenham in League Two. Deserves a shot in League One. Attempted over 1400 passes last season in only 30 league games.
Marcus Maddison – Peterborough – 26 y/o – Free Agent
Currently without a club, Maddison has been linked with Sunderland. Would be a massive coup if Doncaster could pull this deal off.
Adam May – Portsmouth – 22 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Portsmouth in the summer. Wanted by a lot of League Two sides, but could be good enough to keep himself in League One.
Kyle Dempsey – Fleetwood – 24 y/o – Free Agent
Unfortunate to have been released in the summer by Fleetwood. Can do a job for almost everyone in the league. Doncaster maybe?
- Striker –
Niall Ennis – Wolves – 21 y/o – Loan Deal
Spent the season with Doncaster as a leading player up front. Could return to the Keepmoat. Is being linked with a return.
Armando Broja – Chelsea 18 y/o – Loan Deal
Scored 9 goals in 9 games for Chelsea u18’s, then got 3 in 10 for u23’s. Could be in need of first team football outside of Chelsea.
Tyler Walker – Nottingham Forest – 23 y/o – Transfer Fee
In the final year of his deal with Forest, who are looking to sell. Had a very successful spell with Lincoln last season.
Marcus Forss – Brentford – 21 y/o – Loan Deal
Exceeded expectations with Wimbledon last season. Deserves a chance with a top-end League One side.
Rayhaan Tulloch – West Brom – 19 y/o – Loan Deal
Outstanding for West Brom U23’s last season. 9 goals and 4 assists in 14 games. Could link up with Darren Moore once again.
Danny Graham – Blackburn – 35 y/o – Free Agent
Linked with Sunderland and Ipswich, but currently without a striker means Donny could offer Graham first team football in League One.
It’s always difficult to tell how each team is going to fair in the new season, because we haven’t seen many signings nor the influence of pre-season friendlies. Just by going off how each team is expected to deal with the current COVID-19 financial troubles, and what each team is capable of doing under much greater restraint right now, I think that Doncaster could be in for a mid-table campaign unless they strengthen heavily. They have a chance to push higher depending on transfers, but if they also lose Whiteman they could struggle this year.
What do you guys think? How do you think Doncaster Rovers will fair in the new season? Will Darren Moore be able to gear his side up for another play-off push? Or will he focus on a season of stability this year? Let me know in the comments below and make sure to follow All Out Football on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.