DEFENDER James O’Connor sat out Doncaster Rovers final pre-season game against Grimsby Town at Blundell Park last night.
The highly-rated right-back/centre-back has missed the club’s entire pre-season campaign following knee surgery and he will also be one of a number of regulars who will miss the opening game of the 2011-12 Championship campaign at Brighton next Saturday.
“It’s frustrating because you want to be out there,” said O’Connor. “I’m one of those who enjoys training every day so its not been the best of times.”
O’Connor was one of three first-teamers, James Coppinger and Mark Wilson being the other two, who tackled the 62-mile Inca Trek during the summer in aid of the NSPCC.
“It was hard work but I enjoyed it,” said the Birmingham-born defender who is one of the most popular players on the club’s books. “I was one of the few not to be affected by the altitude.
“I came back feeling really good and ready to get stuck into pre-season training but then I started having a problem with my knee.
“I had been having twinges at times before but I didn’t think it was anything serious but it turned out to be a cartilage tear. My rehab is going well and I’m back doing some running and hopefully it won’t be too long before I’m back in full training with the lads.
“Obviously I’ll be a bit behind in terms of fitness having missed pre-season, but my fitness levels are quite high having done the walk.”
O’Connor, who started 34 games last season, hopes Rovers will have a more successful campaign than last year.
“It’s probably going to be an even tougher league this season,” he said. “But I’ve been impressed with the players the club have brought in during the summer.”
n Defender George Friend, whose initial two-year deal expired at the end of next season, has signed a new contract which will keep him at the club until the end of the 2012-13 campaign.
“It was an easy decision to make,” he said. “I’m enjoying my football at Doncaster and I want to push on and play as many games as possible.”
n Rovers cruised to a comprehensive 3-0 victory at Grimsby Town last night. Record signing Billy Sharp and James Coppinger were on target in the first half while youngster James Baxendale added a third late on.