DONCASTER Rovers’ boss Dean Saunders is hoping to secure the services of West Ham United left-back Herita Ilunga ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup third round tie against Notts County at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Ilunga returned to Upton Park earlier this week at the end of his loan period, designed to put the out-of-favour defender in the ‘shop window’ but Saunders is hoping that the Hammers will agree to let him return to the club until the end of the season.
“The problem is that what we’ve been paying him (West Ham have continued to pay the bulk of his contract payments) has not really benefited West Ham,” said Saunders.
With George Friend, who had a scan on his knee yesterday afternoon, joining Tommy Spurr on the sidelines, and Mustapha Dumbuya having joined Crystal Palace on loan yesterday, Saunders will find himself short of experienced cover at left-back if Ilunga doesn’t return.
Dumbuya has failed to win a place in Saunders’ starting line-up since the Welshman took over in September, but the Rovers’ boss stressed that he had not written him off and challenged the London-born player to prove to him during his time at Selhurst Park that he is worthy of a new contract at the club.
Spurs have granted Rovers permission to play loan keeper David Button, who made a solid debut against Barnsley on Monday, in tomorrow’s game as have Aston Villa with regards to veteran defender Habib Beye, who is available for selection after a serving a one-match ban. But Blackburn Rovers have told Rovers that they don’t want midfielder Herold Goulon cup-tied.
Saunders hopes to have striker El Hadji Diouf available. Diouf sat out the Barnsley game after reporting a tight hamstring, but trained yesterday and will come into contention unless he reports any adverse reaction today.
Although retaining the club’s Championship status remains Saunders No 1 priority in the first few months of 2012, the Rovers’ boss - a former FA Cup winner with Liverpool - insists he is keen for a good run in the competition.
“We are going to try and win the game,” he said. “The players who played against Barnsley did well and I don’t think we’ve got the luxury of being able to tinker with the team and then thinking we can win. I’ve got to pick what I think is my strongest team.
“Martin Allen is an experienced manager and they’ve got some good players.
“Both Ben Burgess and Lee Hughes have played in the Premier League and they are one of the best combinations in League One. It’s not going to be a pushover and I’ve told the players that if we go in with the wrong attitude, we’ll lose.”
Rovers have released Richard Naylor at the end of his short-term contract.