TENACIOUS defender Tommy Spurr has to play smarter to reach the top, believes Doncaster Rovers manager Dean Saunders.
The left-back, drafted in by Sean O’Driscoll last summer from Sheffield Wednesday, has cemented a regular starting role in Rovers side, having shaken off a series of injury problems.
Now Saunders wants Spurr, a £200,000 signing from the Owls, to step up a gear and improve his all-round game to fulfil his potential.
Saunders said: “Tommy is doing well. He has got a heart the size of a bucket. He’s still got things to learn and still makes little mistakes but that’s my job to put them right.
“You never stop learning in football. There is always something you can do better.”
With George Friend ruled out for a further 10 days with a knee injury, Spurr is set to keep hold of the left-back spot despite the return of Herita Ilunga from West Ham.
A serious groin injury prevented Leeds-born Spurr from playing between September and January. There were fears the 24-year-old had re-aggravated the issue at Nottingham Forest last week where he had to be taken off after 50 minutes. Fortunately for Spurr and Rovers, it proved to be just a minor hip knock and he started at West Ham just four days later.
Saunders, who has reiterated his long-term desire to bring more players through the club’s youth system, says he wants to develop Spurr as a footballer without overloading him with information.
“You try not to tell Tommy everything because he has still got to have a clear mind when he goes out on to the pitch,” said the ex-Wales international.
“He is playing with his heart and he has just got to learn how to play with his heart and his head. That comes with experience. You try and put that into his head but it is a gradual process.”
Having watched his players secured a well-earned 1-1 draw with Reading in midweek, Saunders is confident things are on the up for Rovers, who are undefeated in five matches in the Championship.
“We were dead and buried at one stage with one point from seven games,” he said. “We’ve clawed our way back into it and we’ve got a chance now (of staying up).”
Follow Dom Howson on Twitter @domhowson