FIRST-TEAM regular George Friend has given an insight into the managerial skills of Dean Saunders as rejuvenated Doncaster Rovers step up their preparations for the Yorkshire derby showdown with Leeds next week.
Rovers climbed off the foot of the Championship table before the two-week international break after picking up seven points from Saunders’ opening three matches in charge.
It was the former Welsh international striker who steered Rovers to their first victory on the road in seven months at Peterborough last weekend. Now up to 20th place, Saunders has challenged his players to push for a top 12 finish.
Friend told The Star: “He (Saunders) is enthusiastic about everything. He loves the game.
“Every manager is different and the fact he has come in and changed a few things has really lifted the team.
“He has helped us as a back four. We have done a lot of work in that area to improve as a unit. We have to keep defending well and being solid at the back. As long as we keep doing that, we will be fine.
“Brian (Carey) has come in as an assistant now and he looks like he will be a good addition to the backroom team too.”
Of Sean O’Driscoll’s departure and Saunders’ appointment, the 23-year-old defender, who can operate at centre-half or left-back, said: “It has been a crazy period but you can never settle in football. Things are always changing. We have to get over that. The new manager has come in and he is really trying to motivate us. We are getting success at the moment and long may it continue.”
The return to fitness of key performers Brian Stock and record signing Billy Sharp has coincided with Rovers’ upturn in fortunes.
Welsh international Stock has started the last three matches and the midfield playmaker scored a spectacular equaliser at London Road while Sharp played an hour at Posh before being replaced by Kyle Bennett, who grabbed the winner to seal the come-from-behind triumph. It was Sharp’s first start since the opening day defeat at Brighton.
Jon Parkin’s arrival has also boosted Rovers attacking options and helped the team move out of the relegation zone.
“It is great having players like Jon, Billy and Brian available,” admitted Friend. “We need to have as many people fit as possible and it helps competition for places.
“We have a good looking squad and we have people on the bench who are big players for us so everyone is going to have to keep on playing well to stay in the side.
“Everyone knows they have got to keep working hard or they won’t be in the team.
“We have to stick together and make sure we keep on picking up points. It (the international break) is a chance for those injured lads to get closer to the squad and for everyone to get used to the new manager.
“It also allows the lads who have played quite a few games to have another rest and that can’t be a bad thing.”