DONCASTER Rovers defender Jamie McCombe knows more than most of the current squad what it takes to be successful in League One.
The centre-back has featured in two successful promotion campaigns and also been involved with two teams who lost in the final.
The 29-year-old centre-back was a member of the Huddersfield Town squad which won promotion to the Championship last May. He was also a member of the Terriers’ squad which was beaten 3-0 by Peterborough United in the 2010-11 final.
“I’ve only played three years in this division and every year the team I’ve played for have been one of the teams up there,” said the Pontefract-born star.
Earlier in his career, he was as Bristol City when they won automatic promotion to the Championship and were beaten finalists in the Championship Play-Off final the following year after they had finished third.
“Having been at Huddersfield for the last two years I know what it is all about and I’ve played against most of the sides we’ll come up against this season.
“There are some good teams in the division though I don’t feel that it is probably as strong this season in terms of big clubs with the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield and Charlton Athletic going up.
“That makes League One a bit more of a level playing field in terms of budgets, but there are still a lot of good teams out there with a lot of quality.
“You often get teams who come down from the Championship, regroup and not only win promotion but, as in the case of Norwich and Southampton, go on to win promotion to the Premier League the following season.
“So, sometimes taking a step backwards can result in then going two steps forward.
“Blackpool also went up from this division and went on to get promoted again a season or two later.
“I’d love to win another promotion with Rovers and there is no reason why we can’t be looking at going up automatically, but you can’t let yourself look too far ahead and you have to take it one game at a time.
“From my point of view the worst case scenario would be to finish in a play-off position and be in the shake up at the end of the season.
“It’s always difficult when a team is relegated and it splits and the manager has to bring in a lot of new players in a short space of time.
“The manager has to get the team organised and to get everyone knowing their job. We did a lot of work on those things in pre-season and I think it has stood us in good stead.
“By no means are we the finished article, but the more we play with each other the more we are learning and hopefully there will be a few more additions because we’ve only got a small squad.
“We’ve got some good players here. You need all sort to make a winning team. You need leaders. defenders, flair players and match-winners.”
Released from the last year of his contract by Town by ‘mutual consent’ McCombe has quickly formed a solid centre-back pairing with skipper Rob Jones - another man who is familiar with the division.
“We’ve both been around for a while and we both know the game and we’ve both got a wealth of experience,” said the 6’ 4” defender. “I think that’s why we’ve probably settled in together like we have.
“When you join a club where there are a lot of new players, as was the case here, you have to learn quickly to communicate - especially if you are a centre-half.
“You have to be organised at the back and you need good communication for that.
“Rob has already shown Rovers’ supporters that he likes to organise the back-four during games, but I’ve also got a similar role.
“I talk my way through a game and get other people where I want them. It’s part and parcel of being a centre-half.
“I was always told as a young lad to talk and you pick that up as you get older. You learn the game and get to know what you want from people around you and it’s then your judgement.
“You certainly tend to talk more and get things organised the older and more experienced you become.
“I think you need experience in any team and we’ve got it in the squad - we’ve got people who have played at a higher level and we have people who talk and communicate throughout the side and it helps.”
McCombe kicked off his career at Scunthorpe United, where he started 63 games between 2001-04 and also made 87 starts for Lincoln City.