No let-up un­til the ti­tle is in our hands – Fer­gu­son

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL - Leon Wob­schall FOOT­BALL WRITER Email: leon.wob­ Twitter: @LeonWobYP

MAN­AGER Dar­ren Fer­gu­son is not likely to for­get in a hurry the events of the last oc­ca­sion Don­caster Rovers took the field against a vis­it­ing Black­pool side in the league.

Amid Rovers’ cat­a­strophic and tor­tu­ous slide to­wards rel­e­ga­tion in 2015-16, last Easter’s Bank Hol­i­day Mon­day de­vel­op­ments rep­re­sented a par­tic­u­larly pun­ish­ing episode, with a late strike from Seasiders’ for­ward Mark Cullen in­flict­ing a seventh suc­ces­sive de­feat upon the con­fi­dence-sapped hosts.

Com­ing against a di­rect ri­val also down among the dead men at the foot of League One, it was per­haps the mo­ment when all se­ri­ous sur­vival hope was ex­tin­guished for Rovers.

Their atro­cious win­less streak was ex­tended to 14 games as they suf­fered an 11th loss in 12 out­ings to leave them­selves ef­fec­tively five points adrift of safety.

For ev­ery­one con­nected with the club, it rep­re­sented a thor­oughly bit­ter af­ter­noon. For all those who take their seats at the Keep­moat today against the same op­po­nents, the in­ner well-be­ing at what has tran­spired since will be con­sid­er­able.

It is likely to be par­tic­u­larly preva­lent among Fer­gu­son and the Don­caster hi­er­ar­chy, with the col­lec­tive de­ci­sion of the lat­ter to hold firm and stick by the be­lea­guered Rovers man­ager when many a ri­val board­room would have run out of pa­tience and dis­pensed with his ser­vices fol­low­ing such a shock­ing run hav­ing been thor­oughly vin­di­cated.

It may not prove quite as fate­ful as the de­ci­sion by the Manch­ester United board in the late Eight­ies to hold their nerve and keep faith with Fer­gu­son’s fa­ther Sir Alex dur­ing some dark days, but the prin­ci­ple is not dis­sim­i­lar.

In Rovers’ case, the turn­around is such that they are on the cusp of a ti­tle-win­ning party as op­posed to a rel­e­ga­tion wake this Easter with Fer­gu­son quick to pay credit where it is due.

He said: “The board de­serve an enor­mous amount of credit be­cause they did not ex­pect when I came into the club for us to be rel­e­gated – I think they were look­ing the other way.

“But I would have been sur­prised if they had made that change in the sum­mer be­cause I don’t think they were go­ing to change their minds over such a short pe­riod of time.

“They re­alised that we needed to change quite a lot and trusted me to do it. I think what helped me was that even though we went down last year, the play­ers I brought into the club ac­tu­ally did quite well and you get that trust in the re­cruit­ment.

“Thank­fully, I have re­paid them. I have a great re­la­tion­ship with them all and the chief ex­ec­u­tive has been out­stand­ing and he’s been very good at his job.

“It helps ev­ery­one and the trust we have with the board helps ev­ery­one at the club. As a man­ager, your most im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship is with the peo­ple above you and it is a very strong one ac­tu­ally, which has been shown over the last 18 months.”

Given con­tem­po­rary events and the mem­o­ries of last sea­son’s game with the Seasiders which are likely to be burned into the soul of Fer­gu­son and those who played on that painful day of March 28 last year, mo­ti­va­tion should not be hard to find today.

Good Fri­day events mean that even if Rovers tri­umph and sec­ond-placed Ply­mouth sur­pris­ingly slip up at home to New­port, it will not be un­til Satur­day that League Two sil­ver­ware could be clinched when Fer­gu­son’s side head to Wy­combe.

But vic­tory over the Lan­cashire club would be un­de­ni­ably sweet, with Fer­gu­son also minded to rec­ol­lect a dis­ap­point­ing and rare off-day for his side in a 4-2 au­tum­nal de­feat at Bloom­field Road, too.

Fer­gu­son added: “I think Black­pool are a re­ally good team with a good man­ager and I am sur­prised that they are ac­tu­ally where they are. I thought they would be closer to us and they beat us at their place and on penal­ties here (in the Check­a­trade Tro­phy), so there is plenty of mo­ti­va­tions for this game – no ques­tion about that.

“I want this league des­per­ately. It would be a shame if we let it go now. We have been top for such a long time that we do not want to let Ply­mouth get it off us. There won’t be any let-up and we re­ally are de­ter­mined to get this done. “In the meet­ings we have had, it has all been about win­ning the league and not ( just) get­ting pro­moted. That is the one thing we have been af­ter all sea­son and spoke about.

“Now we have got pro­mo­tion, there is no ex­cuses of pres­sure or any­thing like that. It is a tough run-in but it will be tough for the op­po­si­tion as well.”


BOUNC­ING BACK: Don­caster Rovers man­ager Dar­ren Fer­gu­son ap­plauds the fans af­ter his side clinched a swift re­turn to League One with vic­tory over Mans­field Town at the Keep­moat Sta­dium be­fore join­ing in the cel­e­bra­tions with the play­ers, in­set.

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