DONCASTER Rovers could have former Sheffield Wednesday centre-back Rob Jones in their squad in tonight’s pre-season friendly against Hull City at the Keepmoat Stadium (7.30).
Rovers boss Dean Saunders has been desperate to strengthen his back-four since it became clear that George Friend would be leaving.
With Habib Beye also having left by ‘mutual consent’ and Shelton Martis yet to feature in pre-season due to a leg injury, Rovers have been forced to field as many as three teenagers in their back-four in some warm-up games.
Jones, aged 32, who stands 6ft 5ins tall, wasn’t in the Owls squad in Saturday’s goalless pre-season draw between the two sides at the Keepmoat Stadium.
But he was at the game and is believed to have discussed personal terms with Rovers boss Dean Saunders and had a medical over the weekend.
Rovers declined to comment on speculation linking them with Jones, who started 36 games for the Owls last season, as they have with other players during negotiations this summer.
But The Star understands the deal is set to be finalised today after Jones left Wednesday by mutual consent last night.
Formerly with Scunthorpe United, Jones captained the Owls for much of their League One promotion-winning campaign last season. He regularly impressed with his trademark fearless defending until losing his pace in the side and fits into the criteria of players Saunders wants to bring in.
He would also boast invaluable experience of League One: “We’ve got to get some bigger, stronger players in the team to cope with the demands of League One,” said Saunders over the weekend.
“We’ve got to make sure that we don’t get bullied by anyone and that we can score from set plays, which we didn’t last season, that we can score scrappy goals from free-kicks. We also need to be able to fight our way to a result away from home.”
Rovers, who are facing competition from Blackpool, have also tried to distance themselves from reports linking them with transfer-listed Leeds United striker Billy Paynter.
The Championship club are reported to have spoken to the 28 year-old, considered surplus to requirements by recently-appointed United boss Neil Warnock, yesterday.
Paynter started his career at Port Vale, where he played against Rovers on several occasions, and went on to find fame with Swindon Town where he scored 29 goals in the 2009-10 League One campaign which ended with them being beaten 1-0 by Millwall in the Promotion Play-Off final.
Chairman John Ryan, who doesn’t rule out at least another big name player leaving the club in the next week or so, shares Saunders’ desire to strengthen the club’s squad as quickly as possible now that the financial shackles have been loosened.
“Hopefully by the time we play Barnsley on Saturday we’ll have a much stronger side than we had against Wednesday,” he told The Star.
“But even though we were depleted, and had two youngsters in the back-four, I don’t think that there was too much between ourselves and Wednesday.”
Former Rovers star Simon Gillett, who had been with Portsmouth. is now training with Nottingham Forest.