WATFORD HEAD to the Keepmoat Stadium this Saturday to face Dean Saunders` Doncaster Rovers.
Donny have struggled this season and their slow start cost long-serving boss Sean O`Driscoll his job. Former Wrexham gaffer Saunders is the new man tasked with the challenge of keeping Rovers up for another seaso.
Doncaster have created a few headlines off the field this season with controversial football agent Willie McKay taking over the transfer reigns. In a peculiar move, the club`s hierarchy have signed over all control of Rovers` transfer dealings to the agent in a deal worth just £200 a week. For McKay, the money is in the slice he will take from the deals he pulls off.
This new set up has seen a number of Premier League outcasts sign on temporary deal or short-term contracts if they are free agents. The idea being a few months on peanuts with Doncaster will put them back in the shop window before they move to a bigger club. By way of thanks for facilitating the arrival of top-draw players in Yorkshire, McKay will take a handsome cut of the profits.
So far Saunders has been handed Pascal Chimbonda and El Hadji Diouf on free transfers whilst Herita Ilunga (West Ham), Habib Beye (Aston Villa) &Herald Goulon (Blackburn Rovers) have penned loan deals.
Agreements to bring Marc-Antoine Fortune (West Brom) and free agent Bolo Zenden to the club are apparently in the pipline whilst players of Mahamdou Diarra, formerly of Real Madrid, have been linked.
All in all, it`s a very irregular setup. Whether or not it will help Saunders and co. move away from the relegation zone remains to be seen.
There are some undoubtedly talent players plying their trade at the Keepmoat already – Billy Sharp for one. The nippy forward has stayed loyal to Donny despite summer bids from Ipswich Town and Southampton. Whether or not the club will be able to re-buff January offers or not is uncertain. Sharp has not allowed the terrible off-field adversity he has faced interrupt his form, notching four goals from 10 league appearances this season.
In midfield, James Coppinger also attracted attention from the Tractor Boys overt the summer but a paltry offer for the midfield schemer was quickly turned down. The 30 year-old Middlesbrough-born man has made over 250 league appearances for Doncaster in his seven-year association.
Doncaster are going through something of an injury crisis with James Chambers, Martin Woods, Rachid Bouhenna, Tommy Spurr, John Oster, Chris Brown and Paul Keegan all sidelined long-term.
Pascal Chimbonda has been ruled out for a month with a hip injury whilst fellow defender Adam Lockwood is suspended.
James Coppinger, Herita Ilunga, Richard Naylor, Billy Sharp and Shelton Martis are all doubtful through injury after picking up knocks at Barnsley last weekend.
Watford are without midfielder Jonathan Hogg who serves a one-match suspension after his fifth yellow card of the season against Portsmouth. John Eustace should return.
There is no information regarding Lloyd Doyley whilst long-term lay-offs Martin Taylor and Stephen McGinn are both still out. The Hornets are without a senior back-up ‘keeper owing to our loan commitments so youngster Jack Bonham may or may not take a place on the bench.
STOP PRESSS: WEST BROM STRIKER, MARC-ANTOINE FORTUNE HAS SIGNED ON AN EMERGENCY LOAN DEAL.
Doncaster Rovers: Ikeme; O’Connor, Hird, Friend, Bennett; Woods, Gillett, Goulon, Diouf; Hayter & Fortune.
The Doncaster team is a ‘worst-case’ scenario prediction. They really are scraping the barrel here!
Watford: Loach; Hodson, Mariappa, Nosworthy, Dickinson; Yeates, Eustace (c), Buaben, Kightly; Sordell & Iwelumo.
Match Officials: (R) Mr P Tierney; (AR’s) Mr W Grunnill & Mr P Hodskinson; (4th) Mr K Heycock