Doncaster Rovers stars could face old team-mate

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DONCASTER Rovers could be lining up against one of the stars of last season’s team in tomorrow’s pre-season friendly against Barnsley at the Keepmoat Stadium - midfielder Simon Gillett.

Gillett was the only player to feature in all Rovers Championship games last season and he who won several end-of-season awards including The Star and Green ‘Un Doncaster Rovers Player of the Year trophy.

The former Southampton ace was one of a number of out-of-contract players that manager Dean Saunders would have liked to have kept but wasn’t in a position to make him an offer - much to the disappointment of many Rovers’ fans.

Gillett was interesting Portsmouth, and along with former Rovers’ team-mate Mustapha Dumbuya, and other trialists, went on Pompey’s pre-season trip to Spain at Gibraltar late last month.

Pompey boss, Michael Appleton, who is still hoping to tie up a deal for Dumbuya, had wanted to keep Gillett.

But the club’s much-publicised financial problems meant that he was unable offer Gillett a contract at the time.

Gillett left the club and was reported to be spending this week training with Nottingham Forest, now managed by former Rovers’ boss Sean O’Driscoll - the man who brought him to the Keepmoat Stadium.

But he has spent the week on trial at Barnsley and he is thought likely to play some part in tomorrow’s game at the Keepmoat.

“I didn’t know that Simon was training with Barnsley,” said Rovers’ No 2 Brian Carey yesterday. “If he plays I’m sure he’ll get a good reception from the Doncaster supporters. Simon did quite well for us last season and Dean (Saunders) must have liked him because he played him in all the games.

“He was out on contract at the end of last season and unfortunately he was one of the players who missed out on a new deal.

“As everyone knows we are working on a reduced budget and we are having to cut our cloth accordingly.”

During the five decades that I have covered Doncaster Rugby League Club, there have been far more bad times than good.

That is why everyone connected with the club should enjoy the good times and I’m sure many supporters will have toasted the club’s promotion back to the Championship for the first time since 2009 at the weekend with four games to spare.

Whitehaven’s win at Rochdale killed off Hornets’ outside hopes of overhauling the second-placed Dons.

Such were the odds against them doing so - they would have had to win their remaining five games and the Dons lose their last four by more than 12 points - that Tony Miller’s side were as good as up the previous Thursday when they had exchanged places with second-placed Workington.

It would have been better had supporters been able to celebrate promotion after that match but they needed one point to be absolutely certain but I’m sure that they will give Miller’s men a rousing reception when they return to the Keepmoat to face North Wales a fortnight on Sunday in their penultimate league game.

Hopefully the club will still be in the title race by then - much will depend on what happens over the next two weekends.

Although the title would be the icing on the cake, whatever happens during the run-in Miller has done an excellent job on a shoestring budget.

I’ve known Miller since he played for the Dons in the early 90s and he’s always been a modest and likeable character and I’m delighted that he is getting the rewards his efforts have deserved.

Injuries have put the promising career of Doncaster Athletic Club’s Nichole Bewley on hold for the last year or so, but the talented teenager is getting back on track.

The multi-events England international suffered a bad hamstring injury competing in the high hurdles at last July’s English Schools’ Championships and was unable to do any meaningful track work either over the crucial winter period or early season.

“I’m getting there,” said Nichole, who helped out at the club’s recent Olympic Startrack course, “I’m just a bit slow over the 200 metres and the 800 metres. “

Coached by her dad Bruce, a coach at the club, she made her return to top competition when finishing ninth in the shot in the English Schools finals last month and has set her sights on competing in the English Schools’ Combined Events Championships next month.

“I’m not bothered where I finish on this occasion; I just want to get back competing again,” she said.

“I plan to have a good winter and hopefully come back strongly next year when I will be competing as an Under-20.”