When you’re scratching around close to deadline looking for defensive cover, who are you going to call? How about the ex-captain of Australia?
Socceroo Lucas Neill became Paul Dickov’s latest high profile recruit last week. “I’ve known Lucas for a while”, came an all-too-familiar response from Dickov, delighted to capture his ex-Blackburn teammate.
Rovers’ well-connected boss did cite his bulging contacts book from day one at Doncaster and he’s been true to his word ever since.
And it’s fair to say those contacts - and the experience they have given Doncaster - have become a key reason why Rovers now look like keeping their heads above water this season. In essence, that was the plan all along.
Friends in high places have helped Doncaster secure key signings at key times; Billy Sharp, Richie Wellens, Gabi Tamas, Abdou Meite, Sam Johnstone, even Federico Macheda, they’ve all made important contributions along the way.
Pivotal to those players arriving at the Keepmoat was the relationships and reputation within the game that Dickov has forged as both a player and manager. He has particularly strong connections with both Manchester clubs.
So when others questioned his appointment, Dickov stood out to John Ryan because of his obvious passion for the game and also his potential to improve. He was a typical Ryan appointment.
The Scot’s man-management skills, his ability to raise his team against the big boys, his positive substitutions and superb media-handling skills have come to the fore since last summer.
But his contacts and popularity within the corridors of the game remain arguably the stand-out reason why he was a good fit for Doncaster - because those contacts give Rovers a genuine chance of competing in the Championship.
The ill-fated ‘experiment’ was frowned upon but, the fact is, Doncaster still must think out of the box in order to compensate for their budgetary shortfalls at this level.
Dickov’s ability to speed dial his Premier League colleagues IS that compensation. So far, it seems to be working.