Why I want Doncaster Rovers to beat my team

Ah, the bright new dawn of a fresh, unsullied season, writes Duncan Harman. The optimism – often blind – that our ageing journeyman striker is going to bag twenty before Easter. That the youth team centre-half we’ve vaguely heard of will be the lion-hearted lynchpin of the defence by Christmas. The trenchant belief that, with a fair wind and an empty treatment room, we might, just might be a play-off team…


And yet for the first time since my club and I became intimately acquainted, I’m unable to feel the usual frisson of optimistic excitement. It’s not that I can’t foresee success – you can’t spend the amount of cold hard cash that we have, then fail to expect a tilt at the title. It’s more the context, the sense of embarrassment, a worry that my equilibrium has been interfered with; let me explain…

I support a Football League team that I’m not going to name (it’s not important; what’s happened to my team could just as easily happen to yours). We’ve had a degree of success in the past – we’re not complete strangers to the top division’s mid-table and the occasional blast of minor silverware – but in the great scheme of things we’re not the biggest, brightest or boldest. I’m content with that – it’s the gradual ebb and flow that underpins a following of any team beneath the elite few; a football fan defined by the failures as well as the successes.

Things began to change early last season when our apparently charismatic and fairly rich foreign owner sold the club to a group of duty-free salesmen from the Far East. Then came the big name manager, followed by the decent Premier League loanees to supplant the okay-but-not-great regulars.

Yet that was merely a warm-up to this summer. We’ve seen a constant influx of players more than capable of holding their own in a higher league – and on the wages that come with that. Huge tracts of money thrown about on transfer fees and payroll and renaming the stadium and generally acting like a drunk housewife on the first day of the January sales – all this from a club whose trip to administration in the not-too-distant past still rankles in more than a few circles.

I should of course point out that this isn’t a thinly-veiled attack on foreign ownership. I may yearn for some Utopian ideal where Supporter’s Trusts up and down the land own their respective clubs, but in the real world, board room villainy isn’t dictated by the passport of the occupants. For every Carson Yeung stinking up the place, there’ll have been dozens of home-grown shysters, braggarts, incompetents and Peter Risdale dragging their clubs towards extinction upon a gilded carpet woven from eviscerated promises.

So when it comes to their new toy, perhaps my club’s ownership have long-term sustainability in mind as well as success on the pitch – who am I to doubt that these guys didn’t spend their Bangkok slum childhoods glued to the World Service, awaiting news of Frank Worthington’s latest exploits and dreaming that “one day…?”

No, my deep sense of unease originates from the concept of football as vanity project. Unsustainable spending. Sudden and dramatic investment from oblique sources – and all of it a deliberate grab for the prestige that comes with queuing for the top table.

I’m sure that Doncaster Rovers (to pull a club arbitrarily from the Football League bonnet) are as guilty as every other club in employing the odd mercenary midfielder or harbouring boardroom desperation for that slice of Premier League avarice – but it’s on a far more natural scale than my team. I feel that we’ve taken a shortcut; like a bodybuilder on steroids we’re in danger of becoming big boys without necessarily having put in the groundwork.

So, if you support a Championship club, you can thank my team for the further erosion of parity this season. I won’t be feeling any joy should we beat Doncaster Rovers – it would be the equivalent of rooting for the school bully as he picks on a kid a few years below him. In fact, I might very quietly cheer Donny on, just for that game – at least this way my equilibrium may be restored.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.

9 Comments

  1. Ultra_Fox
    August 15, 2011

    Oh FFS, spare us the angst!

    If you’re feeling guilty about the possibility of your team being successful for the first time in a decade, why not disappear down the M69 and support the sky blues instead?

    Reply
    • theseventytwo
      August 15, 2011

      It’s not the success part though, is it? It’s the method. I can completely empathise to be honest. Loved the brief Pearson era, feeling completely detached from the current state of affairs at the moment.

      Reply
      • Ultra_Fox
        August 15, 2011

        But this is not the first time this club has tried to buy promotion. The previous owner (who in truth was nowhere near as “charismatic” as the author implied) gave a succession of managers the biggest transfer budget in the league and we got relegated!

        I don’t feel any embarrassment or shame at my club being bankrolled by Thai sugar-daddies, any more than Man City fans should do at the level of funding by Arab ones.

        That’s the way English football is these days. Very few clubs survive at the top level without wealthy backers or benefactors. Yes, there may be a crash coming but at least having a global fanbase may at least partially insure us against that.

        Nigel Pearson, good manager though he is, doesn’t necessarily have the attributes to sustain a side in the topflight. Sven-Goran Eriksson does.

        Reply
        • theseventytwo
          August 15, 2011

          The parallel with Mandaric is an interesting one. This is on a different level to that period I think most would agree, but nevertheless it gives you a cast-iron reason as to why some people are uneasy. It’s not quite embarrassment or shame in my own view, but a sense of unease. It also seems doomed to fail and I’m not sure the fanciful idea of a global fanbase is going to help there. It takes more than a few Championship names and a shirt or two flogged in Bangkok to build up an established global fanbase.

          Regardless, I’ll be there on Wednesday and then off to our annual defeat at the City Ground on Saturday, “keeping the faith”…!

          Reply
  2. Husky Red
    August 15, 2011

    To be honest, leics are pretty extreme, but a big minority of champ clubs spend wl beyond their means. If financial fair play comes in and neither forest nor leics get promoted, both teams are up a certain creek without a paddle.

    Last year saw cardiff almost wound up for failing to pay debts including taxes, whilst at the same time signing players like bellamy. The phrase used in the football press atthe time was ‘financial doping’. Very apt

    Reply
  3. Ted
    August 15, 2011

    A well crafted article but I’m left wondering if this lack of enthusiasm is symptomatic of an ageing old fox who’s struggling to adapt to the forever changing world we live in. Watch the Doncaster match on your square screen and enjoy the show for what it is and always will be. Contextual dissection is an art but enjoying yourself is far more important old boy;)

    Reply
  4. Pomegranates Are Not The Only Fruit | Lazer Guided Melody
    August 15, 2011

    […] get the garish self-promotion over with quickly. Prestigious soccerball blog The Seventy Two today features words by me, which seems a little inextricable, but there you go; I probably go all man-crush over Brian […]

    Reply
  5. Beyond the School
    August 16, 2011

    I agree with a lot of this article. I think a lot of people had exactly the same opinion towards Notts County when they got out of League 2 a few years ago with some players on huge wages even after the Munto Finance fiasco. On the other hand, it has been the same story for years and years, just the scale of unfair advantage has increased. I think a lot of what makes football interesting now is to judge relative success as opposed to absolute success.

    Reply
  6. Royal
    August 17, 2011

    Contextual dissection? Wise words about having perspective but the impact of money on football is not an academic debate. Nice to just concentrate on the game but you can’t ignore the damage done to clubs by short term maverick ownership. When even the ‘winners’ are saying something’s not right, something’s really not right.

    Reply

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