Rovers' relegation a fair price for failed experiment

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Six months ago, Doncaster Rovers were struggling at the bottom of the Npower Championship, and looking for a quick-fix to prompt an upturn in form.

Unfortunately, what they got was wily football agent Willie McKay, who arrived at the Keepmoat Stadium in November, promoting a new and innovative idea that promised to change football as we know it.

He signed a contract with Rovers stating that all transfers required his approval. In return, McKay undertook to sign, on short-term loans, a series of moderately celebrated, yet currently under-used football stars.

The players would be paid a maximum of £2,000 per week by Doncaster, with their parent club picking up the rest of the bill. And, when they were sold, Rovers would receive a cut of the transfer fee. It sounded like a good idea at the time?

Using McKay's extensive contacts, the plan was to profit from the age-old loan system, by targeting big English and European clubs to help subsidise the wages of players that no longer figure in their team’s plans.

Ultimately, that would enable Doncaster to bring in a higher calibre of player that the club could previously only have dreamed of signing to help in their bid to stave off the threat of relegation to England's third-tier.

Described by the Daily Mail as 'a bizarre and cynical distortion of all the values that the game is supposed to embody' - it is safe to say that the experiment was met with a mixed reaction.

For a club that was seemingly clutching at straws, the initial signs looked good, as deals for El Hadji Diouf, Pascal Chimbonda and Herita Ilunga were agreed. There was even talk of former Real Madrid and Lyon midfielder Mahamadou Diarra joining the revolution, but that move failed to materialise.

Rovers added Aston Villa's Habib Beye, and West Ham United's Freddie Piqiuonne to complete the compliment of players tasked with keeping the club in the division.

However, on Saturday 14 April, Doncaster were beaten 4-3 by fellow strugglers Portsmouth, and were subsequently relegated. As their Championship status fell by the wayside, so did special agent Willie's 'Big Idea'.

Speaking to BBC Radio Sheffield last week, club chairman John Ryan reflected: "Willie's brought some great players into this club, but it just didn't work.

"The experiment wouldn't work in the third tier. I don't think he'd want to be involved next season. Unfortunately, the way it worked would only be possible in the Championship. We're just too far down now."

Doncaster manager Dean Saunders - who arrived at the Keepmoat two months prior to McKay, in September 2011, and is determined to see out his three-year deal - believes the club now needs to start afresh by bringing in some younger players with a different mentality.

"We have to ­rebuild with a different age group of players, a different mentality. I am confident I can get a squad together to take this club forward,” he said.

"Willie has done his best to help the club. He has worked his socks off to try and get players through the door and, without them, we might not have got as many points as we have."

With average attendances of around 10,000, some would argue that Doncaster have been punching above their weight in England's second-tier for the past four years, and have now deservedly paid the price for the failure of a controversial transfer policy that never had any real sustainability.

Despite backing a project that was destined to end in tears, there will be no shortage of regret from fans of the club, as the stellar cast of players vacate South Yorkshire almost as quickly as they appeared. But, in truth, it will probably be the best thing that could happen to Doncaster Rovers, as the club looks to stabilise itself, and start again in League One next season.

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