Cooke capture a cracker

New Don: Paul Cooke with head coach Tony Miller
New Don: Paul Cooke with head coach Tony Miller

DONCASTER Rovers cancelled Northern Ireland midfielder Dean Shiels’ contract by mutual consent.

Shiels had been on a six-month loan to Scottish Premier League side Kilmarnock, managed by his dad Kenny, and had been due to return to the South Yorkshire club the following Monday.

Shiels, who has now joined Killie until the end of the season on much-reduced terms, told Rovers that he wanted to remain in Scotland.

I had a long chat with Rovers’ boss Dean Saunders regarding a wide range of topics concerning the club and there was very little of what he said about his plans for the future which I was able to find fault with.

WEDNESDAY: I had Doncaster Rovers’ media manager Steve Uttley on the phone after he had read that day’s Talking Sport column in which I had talked about the way that my job had changed over the years due to the internet and various sporting websites, including Rovers.

Steve said it appeared to some people, who had got in touch with him, that I was being critical of the club’s media department even though my article did state that the same thing happened at every other Football League club.

That wasn’t the case and I have enjoyed a very good working relationship with the media department during Steve’s 10 years in charge and we have never had a cross word in all that time. I had also discussed most of the points I raised in the article with him in the past and he’s always been most helpful in trying to improve things.

Hopefully I will still be on his Christmas card list.

THURSDAY: Saunders was in a good mood at the club’s weekly press conference at the training ground and shared a joke with the media before getting down to business. The atmosphere is certainly more relaxed than in Sean O’Driscoll’s time in charge.

O’Driscoll didn’t particularly enjoy the media side of the job, but to be fair he often came up with some interesting comments.

I had to cut short my time at Cantley Park, where I can often be 90 minutes or more depending on the availability of a player I have requested an interview with, to dash across to the Keepmoat Stadium where Doncaster Rugby League Club were set to unveil former Super League star Paul Cooke.

Cooke is by far the club’s biggest-name signing for several years and it took the financial backing of both supporters and local firms to make it happen.

Hopefully Cooke will do a similar job at stand-off to what New Zealander Paul Mansson and Graham Holroyd did in the past for the Dons.

I obviously knew of Cooke, who had previously played for both Hull clubs, though I had never previously met him. But he came across as a personable individual during our chat and someone who is committed to doing a good job for the Championship One club, both on and off the field in his part-time role with the club’s Community Development team.

FRIDAY: Doncaster Rovers Belles’ boss John Buckley rung me to say how moved he had been by a visit to the Bluebell Wood Hospice where the WSL club had made a £250 donation.

As you would probably expect given that it was Friday the 13th, Ted ‘The Count’ Hankey came into his own when beating Martin Atkins 5-1 in their BDO World Championship quarter-final at the Lakeside.

SATURDAY: Rovers put their disappointing FA Cup third round defeat against Notts County the previous week behind them with an impressive performance in their goalless draw with third-placed Cardiff City at the Keepmoat Stadium.

SUNDAY: Along with a number of Castle Park supporters, I made a wasted journey to Meadow Lane for Doncaster Knights’ Championship clash against Nottingham. No sooner than I had taken my seat in the press box than the game was called off due to a frostbound pitch.

Annoyingly, the Nottingham website, which I had checked before setting off at 1pm, had proclaimed that the game was on.

Instead of heading home I drove to the Keepmoat Stadium (the pitch had been covered) to catch the last 15 minutes or so of the Dons first pre-season friendly against Hunslet and to do a couple of interviews.

The Dons beat their higher-Division rivals 26-12 and by all accounts played very well and deserved their win against a Hunslet side playing their third warm-up.