Paul Newman: Yorkshire rivals follow different routes to survival

The Football League Column: it would be a remarkable feat if Doncaster could survive in the Championship this season

The football map is forever changing but surely no part of the country has witnessed as big a shift in power over the last decade as Yorkshire. Consider the white rose county's fortunes only 11 seasons ago. Leeds United, who had just signed Rio Ferdinand for £18m, finished fourth that year in the Premier League, Bryan Robson's Middlesbrough settled for mid-table safety and even Bradford City were enjoying a season in the top flight.

In what is now the Championship, the 2000-01 season saw Sheffield United rebuilding under Neil Warnock, Sheffield Wednesday putting back the pieces after relegation from the Premier League a year earlier, Barnsley still licking their wounds after their own single season at the top and Huddersfield Town waging an unsuccessful fight against relegation.

Remarkably, of those seven Yorkshire clubs that occupied the top two divisions 11 seasons ago, only Barnsley are not playing at a lower level in the current campaign. The recent rise in the fortunes of Hull City and Doncaster Rovers, who were in the Football League basement division and the Conference respectively 11 seasons ago, has only partly retilted the balance.

While Middlesbrough, Leeds and Hull offer the best chance of Yorkshire representation in the Premier League next year, Barnsley and Doncaster are in the unlikely position of being the only clubs in the division that will host South Yorkshire derbies this season. The first was held on Saturday, with Barnsley making the most of home advantage to win 2-0 in front of a crowd of 11,783, the biggest at Oakwell this season.

For both, survival in the Championship would be an achievement. While Barnsley should be satisfied with their current mid-table position, Doncaster are bottom and already six points adrift of safety.

The two clubs have chosen to go down very different paths, almost amounting to role reversals. Under Mark Robins, who was appointed manager two years ago, Barnsley spent comparatively heavily and at one stage had a midfield comprised of an Argentine (Hugo Colace), a Uruguayan (Diego Arismendi) and a Serb (Goran Lovre). Robins' replacement, Keith Hill, is working mostly with home-grown talent, including Matty Done and Scott Wiseman, who followed the manager to Oakwell from Rochdale.

Hill had transformed Rochdale's fortunes in nearly five years in charge at Spotland. Putting his faith in team-building, fitness and analysis, the former central defender left in the summer after a season in which his side were in contention for a play-off place until the closing stages of the campaign.

Sean O'Driscoll, who was the longest-serving manager in the Championship until his dismissal by Doncaster less than two months into the season, had followed a similar policy. During five years in charge O'Driscoll had carefully constructed a well-organised team who, it could be argued, amounted collectively to more than the sum of their parts. Nevertheless, Doncaster's sizeable wage bill, which is said to be £8m a year, had been weighing down a club with the second-lowest average attendances (9,864) in the division.

Dean Saunders is now Doncaster's manager and is facing a very different challenge. An equally important figure at the Keepmoat Stadium is the agent, Willie McKay, who has an agreement with the club under which he brings in big-name players on short-term loan deals, with a view to putting them in the shop window.

The Doncaster line-up on Saturday included the Senegalese international striker El Hadji Diouf, who was released by Blackburn in the summer, the Congo international Herita Ilunga, who is on loan from West Ham, and Carl Ikeme, a goalkeeper on loan from Wolves. The French defender Pascal Chimbonda, who is a free agent after leaving Queen's Park Rangers earlier this year, was another recent arrival, though Robert Pires was reportedly among those who have turned down the chance to don the red-and-white hoops this season.

With such a disparate group of players it would be a remarkable feat if Doncaster could survive in the Championship this season, though the chances of further Yorkshire representation next year are looking good. Huddersfield, who on Saturday set a Football League record by extending their unbeaten run to 43 matches, and the two Sheffield clubs currently fill three of the top places in League One.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
News
peopleWarning - contains a lot of swearing
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project