Reining in Mark Duffy’s ‘free-spirited’ ways on the football field has helped develop him as a better footballer, boss Paul Dickov believes.
Since his switch from Scunthorpe United last summer, Duffy endured a slow start to his Rovers career as he struggled to force his way into the starting line-up.
However, as the season progressed, so did the 27-year-old with the former Iron winger enjoying a string of solid performances down Doncaster’s flanks.
Those displays were also capped off with man of the match awards, assists, goals and a Player of the Month nomination.
And Dickov says that Duffy’s effort to show that he is prepared to muck in with the less glamorous off-the-ball duties, has helped the midfielder develop as a better, all-round footballer.
“Since he’s come in from Scunthorpe, he’s been fantastic,” said the Rovers chief.
“He’s grown and has grownup a lot as well.
“I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but he’s always been the main man and been a bit of free spirit at his other clubs.
“But what he has done here is, he’s really bought into the team ethic and work ethic that I want within my squad. I believe he’s a lot better player now than when he came here and I believe he will only get better because he’s really shown maturity this season.”
Duffy’s steep learning curve has continued throughout the season - particularly when dealing with being omitted from the first team for the trip to Leeds United despite some good displays since the turn of the year.
The former Morecambe marksman was the one dropped for the derby day clash following Doncaster’s defeat to Burnley with loan arrival Lucas Neill coming into the back four and makeshift full-back James Coppinger switching to his customary right wing spot.
Duffy had to watch on as Doncaster clinched a superb 2-1 win over their Yorkshire rivals.
However, the winger’s reaction to being dropped has been nothing short of pleasing for his manager. “I’ve had a fantastic response from Mark,” Dickov admitted.
“I pulled him to one side on the Friday [prior to the Leeds United game] to explain my reasons behind the selection and he wasn’t happy - which I like. I don’t want any of my players to be happy at not being in the team, but he completely understood the reason why I made the change.Mark, David Cotterill, James Coppinger, Harry Forrester - when we’ve seen him play - they’ve all done a fantastic job for me throughout the season. They all know there’s serious competition for places and the reaction I have had from Mark has been top class. He knows he’ll play more games for me.”