Talking Sport with Steve Hossack

Dons v Oldham....Dons Danny Cowling
Dons v Oldham....Dons Danny Cowling
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MANY Doncaster Rovers supporters will have some sympathy for chairman John Ryan, fined £3,000 plus costs by the FA and warned as to his future conduct this week.

To a man of his means, though he would be a lot better off financially had he not got so involved with Rovers a decade or so ago, the size of the fine is pocket money. He was more concerned when I spoke to him that his character had been stained by the FA verdict.

John Ryan

John Ryan

I know what he meant but I don’t think anyone in the game is going to speak badly of him just because he said what the rest of the people at the Keepmoat Stadium were thinking that day.

Ryan may well regret calling referee Mike Russell an ‘idiot’ when talking to the media post-match with emotions running high after Rovers had just been relegated following their 4-3 defeat by Portsmouth. But even his harshest critic would have been hard pressed to find fault - except possibly the penalty for handball given against Jimmy O’Connor - with the claim that none of Pompey’s four goals should have stood.

The errors made by the officials for the first, third and fourth goals were there for all to see and undoubtedly contributed to Rovers’ defeat.

It is very rare to see a player, even at the level Rovers have played at the last four years, go through a game without making a mistake, so we shouldn’t expect officials to get it right every time. They often have to make tough calls in a split second without the aid of the technology which later so often proves them wrong.

They also know the rules of the game far better, and have proved that to be the case by passing exams, than 99.9 per cent of the people in the crowd who are quick to criticise when they feel they get a decision wrong which affects their team.

But like players, match officials should expect criticism after a match if they have had a stinker, as was the case in the Rovers-Pompey game, as long as it is not of a personal nature. And you can understand people like John Ryan, who has injected millions into the club over the years, being a little upset in such circumstances.

It wasn’t the fact that Rovers were relegated as a consequence of that defeat - if it hadn’t have been Pompey it would have been some other club who hammered the final nail into their relegation coffin - which upset Ryan, it was the officials’ performance. I don’t know Mr Russell, but I don’t imagine he would have slept too well that night had he watched BBC’s Football League Show before he went to bed.

Rovers had become an embarrassment to the football authorities before Ryan took over. During his time at the helm the club have enjoyed the most successful period in their history, treated fans all over the country to some of the best football played outside of the Premier League and earned a well deserved reputation as a friendly club who have never got above their station,

All that needs to be taken into consideration and be balanced against the charges levelled at Ryan on Tuesday. I for one hope that Ryan, though he may need to count to 10 more often before giving vent to his feelings post-match, doesn’t change, because he has something to say and deserves to be heard.

These are heady days for long-suffering Doncaster Rugby League Club supporters. More used to being at the other end of the table for most of their 60 years in existence, the Dons have been flying high at the top of Championship One for several weeks now - albeit they have played a game more than most of the sides just below them.

But the way they have seen off Rochdale and Oldlham in recent games underlines the fact that they deserve to be there.

Their title credentials will face a searching examination in Sunday’s game up at third-placed Workington Town - never an easy place to go.

But if they can come home with a result, in a game which will mark the midway point in their season, then they have every reason to look forward to not only promotion to the Championship but also as champions - a feat they have never previously achieved.

I must admit that I had my doubts as to whether Carl Hall, co-owner and chief executive, would be able to stick to his very tight budget and still deliver success. Yet he is on course to do just that and in a most entertaining fashion and the side put together by head coach Tony Miller has been a joy to watch this season.