Doncaster Rovers: Daring to dream the unexpected

Rovers chairman John Ryan
Rovers chairman John Ryan

Few Doncaster Rovers fans dared to dream about an instant return to the Championship - with one notable exception.

But then again, John Ryan is not your ordinary supporter, or indeed chairman.

While many doubted Doncaster’s League One credentials following last season’s damaging relegation - and even feared that Rovers might end slipping through the leagues again - Ryan was quietly confident about his beloved club’s prospects.

Quiet being the operative word.

Ryan, now in his 15th season at the helm, has operated very much under the radar this season. It’s not like him.

Last season took its toll on Ryan. He came close to calling it a day.

But despite his somewhat lowered public profile, his passion for Doncaster Rovers still burns as bright as it did on the day he came to the club’s rescue in 1998.

During that time one thing about Ryan has not wilted; his unwavering optimism and positivity about everything Rovers.

On Saturday Ryan’s recurring dream about Doncaster playing in the Championship could become a reality. It would be the fourth promotion of his rollercoaster reign.

But even he could not have expected a response to last season’s relegation nightmare like the one that has been masterminded first by Dean Saunders and continued by Brian Flynn.

Or could he?

“To be honest as an eternal optimist, yes I did,” Ryan said.

“A lot of people asked if I was serious and I was, although a top ten position, well away from relegation would have been acceptable after the trauma of relegation following four years in the Championship.

“I’m absolutely delighted that with two games to go we are in with a chance of automatic promotion.

“It would be a dream to come true to see Doncaster back in the Championship and competing against some very big clubs in that division.

“I like to reflect upon my reign as one big promotion,” he added.

“This club in the past has predominantly operated between the old third and fourth divisions.

“But now we’ve moved up a level. We’re a Championship or League One club. That’s good progress.”

And the main reason for Rovers’ resurgence this season, according to Ryan?

“The main reason has been the reconstruction of the squad by Dean Saunders. Dean made some excellent signings, particularly Rob Jones and David Cotterill.

“Those two have made a huge difference with their experience and skill allied to all the attributes possessed by others in the squad.

“I must also mention separately Chris Brown. Chris has his best season in many a year.”

Some things never change. Ryan, in typical fashion, this week sounded another rallying cry to the Doncaster public in an attempt to lure them to the Keepmoat Stadium on Saturday.

‘Your local club needs you’, implored Ryan. He has become accustomed to such statements. If only more people in Doncaster shared his undying passion.

Ryan has not let the apathy that rages get him down. He’s bounced back from his low point last season and his infectious enthusiasm continues to rub off on Rovers’ reconstructed squad.

From the Conference to the Championship, and then back again? It has been some journey under Ryan, he would be excused for taking more of a back seat.

But if Rovers do go up this weekend, don’t expect him to keep such a low profile.

He’ll be banging the drum about Rovers big time - and probably not just in a metaphorical sense either.