Doncaster Rovers: How Doncaster did it - the perfect ten

Just champion as Doncaster Rovers celebrate their remarkable instant return to the Championship
Just champion as Doncaster Rovers celebrate their remarkable instant return to the Championship

It was meant to be a season of consolidation.

Saturday’s incredible scenes at Brentford were certainly not in anyone’s script.

But within the confines of the Doncaster dressing room there was a belief and determination to get out of League One from day one.

Rovers exceeded other people’s expectations - not their own - by winning League One in the most dramatic fashion possible. Here’s how they did it:

1. The Dean machine: Dean Saunders had a clear idea and approach when it came to getting out of the division. His recruitment of strong, physical and proven players was paramount to promotion, while early wins over Walsall and Bury quickly had the squad buying into his ideas.

2. Rob Jones: There was no I in Rovers’ team but Jones has to go down as the best free transfer in the club’s history. Simply immense.

3. Togetherness: After last season’s dressing room split, the return of a genuine camaraderie brought the best out of Rovers. Everyone was rowing in the same direction, which encouraged fringe players and substitutes to play a vital part.

4. Fitness: Unlike previous seasons, Rovers suffered very few prolonged, serious injuries, while several late goals could also be attributed to the fitness of the squad.

Fitness guru Mal Purchase left a lasting legacy when he departed for Wolves.

5. Continuity: Losing your manager half way through the season is hardly ideal but the experience of Brian Flynn and the hands-on approach of Jones meant the effect was minimal. Mission accomplished.

6.Bouncebackability: On nine occasions Rovers followed up a defeat by winning their next game, a trait exposing the sheer professionalism of the players.

7. Experience: Saunders and Flynn went for ‘tried and tested’ players more often than not, and that know-how proved to be invaluable.

8. Away the lads! The shocking state of the Keepmoat pitch meant Rovers enjoyed playing away more - and it suited the way the team was set up. They racked up the best away record in England, winning 15 times on the road.

9. Settled back four: Quinn, McCombe, Jones and Spurr started and ended the season as Rovers’ back four. They were strong, composed and miserly.

10. Goals: Rovers were not prolific scorers, but they found the net from all over the park as Jones and Cotterill, in particular, took the heat off the strikers.