Doncaster Rovers: Adam Lockwood interview

Countless Championship counterparts look on enviously at Doncaster Rovers for possessing a true managerial trump card in Sean O'Driscoll – and it's not rocket science to deduce that the Keepmoat hierarchy wouldn't swap him for any other in the division.

But equally some remember a time when the Midlander's star didn't shine quite as brightly in South Yorkshire, as resolute defender Adam Lockwood remembers too well.

Wakefield-born Lockwood – actually signed by O'Driscoll's predecessor Dave Penney from Yeovil Town in the summer of 2006 – has been with the Rovers boss every step of the way following his arrival from Bournemouth just a few months after he returned to his native county.

Now 29, Lockwood – one of the longest-serving players at Rovers – readily admits his whole footballing outlook was changed for the better by O'Driscoll when he breezed through the doors at the Keepmoat, although it took a while for a fair quorum of supporters to be so effusive about the talents of the 53-year-old, who most footballing observers feel is destined a crack at the Premiership in the near future.

Never one for hype and hullabaloo, the softly-spoken boss – ironically nicknamed "Noisy" during his playing days at Bournemouth – struggled to resonate with some Rovers supporters in his early tenure at the club.

Crucially, the support from the boardroom never wavered and was always loud and clear, most notably from owner John Ryan, whose decision to plump for footballing purist O'Driscoll on the autumn of 2006 was taken largely as a result of Bournemouth taking Rovers to the cleaners in a delectable 5-0 drubbing on the south coast in September 2004 which made a lasting impression upon him.

The backing was needed as recently as just over two years ago when some Rovers fans called for O'Driscoll's head less than six months after promotion to the Championship following a desperate 12-match winless streak – including 10 defeats which left them anchored to the foot of the division for most of the first half of the 2008-09 campaign.

The same fans were also venting their spleen the previous winter when Rovers – despite an expensively-assembled squad – were stuck in a disappointing 10th place just before Christmas 2007 in what eventually proved a promotion season.

Ryan and his colleagues kept the faith twice and O'Driscoll has repaid their support in spades so far, jettisoning interest from most notably Sheffield United and Burnley to stay loyal with Rovers, where you sense his story has a page or two to run with the club harbouring hopes of a genuine play-off push in the second half of the 2010-11 campaign after acclimatising to second-tier life comfortably in the past two years.

On the merits of O'Driscoll – and the benefits of his long-term planning – Lockwood said: "At this club, the manager set up a philosophy and built that up from the start when he came.

"Luckily enough, I've been here from the start when he's been here.

"There were times when he first came in when he was trying to change things at the club and people's outlooks and he maybe wasn't going to get a lot of time and we were under a lot of pressure at times.

"I don't think some people realised at times what he was trying to do, which was a long-term thing which takes time to set up.

"I think now when new players and staff come to the club, they have to fit in with the way we do things. If they don't, they won't fit in.

"As players, we don't really have anything to do with the speculation surrounding him. He's obviously ambitious, like every player, and wants to improve. Sometimes that happens in football.

"But we'll take each day as it is and come into training with the right approach and try to improve.

"Since I've been here, I've looked at the game totally differently to how I did when I was growing up.

"I've learnt a lot of things and am still learning now and that's what I want to keep doing right to the end of my career, hopefully under Sean here."

While recent interest from near-neighbours Blades has led to a few palpitations among the Rovers faithful, O'Driscoll has steadfastly straight-batted any rumours in his own phlegmatic style, with his sole focus being on the here and now with his current employers.

Frustrated by the festive Baltic blast, which accounted for their Boxing Day fixture at Derby County and Tuesday's home encounter with Ipswich Town, Rovers at least were afforded a Yuletide bonus by way of their last-gasp 2-1 success over visiting Middlesbrough on December 17 when the South Yorkshiremen claimed their first league victory over Boro since way back in September 1957.

The victory, achieved courtesy of a dramatic injury-time strike from skipper Brian Stock, which squirmed past aghast Boro keeper Jason Steele, was all the more notable since Rovers were forced to administer the elastoplasts and send out a totally rejigged back four due to an injury crisis, which contained four centre-halves with one – ex-Barnsley player Dennis Souza – making his full debut as an emergency full-back.

And while the three-pointer was slightly fortuitous given Steele's late aberration, Rovers supporters were happy to see the wheel of footballing fortune finally traversing in their direction after some luckless episodes already this term.

Just six days prior to the Boro clash, Rovers and particularly chairman Ryan were spitting feathers after a hugely-controversial penalty on the stroke of half-time proved a game-turning moment in a heavy 5-1 defeat at Leicester City, with the Foxes scoring four unanswered second-half goals following Paul Gallagher's spot-kick – after Billy Sharp had given the visitors an early lead.

Back in late November, a late, late injury-time leveller from Swansea denied them a deserved three points against the high-flying Welshmen, while Rovers have also been on the end of fair few dodgy calls from officialdom so far this term, most notably in away games at Reading and Burnley when events conspired against them.

Many felt a sense of poetic justice after the late twist against Boro, with Lockwood and his team-mates afforded a pre-Christmas bonus on a freezing night when the game was in doubt before the start – and also in danger of being called off at half-time due to the bone-hard Keepmoat surface.

Lockwood, the senior man in the middle of the back four, said: "Obviously, the conditions were always going to make it tough for both teams. We were also against a great club and when you are up at a club like them, they are always going to have quality with a good set-up.

"But we worked hard for the win. We had a lot of injuries and we proved that when we pull together and use our squad, we're good enough to match people.

"For our workrate and endeavour, I don't think anyone can knock us. Although we can always improve on things and I thought sometimes we rode our luck against Middlesbrough – and we got a little bit of luck at the end.

"But there's plenty of times where we haven't had that this season.

"As a defender, it's always nice to win, especially after an early setback when they scored and the previous couple of games. After the early goal, we could have easily folded and we didn't and that showed a lot.

"We played with four centre-halves and while there's a lot of things to work on and improve, to get a result was nice.

"We shot up something like five places and that's the way the league is. For us, it's about being consistent and if we do that, everything else takes care of itself."

After an injury-ravaged 2009-10, when he broke his foot twice, Lockwood is eager for a first-team run after recovering from a broken toe which he sustained in the warm-down following Rovers' 3-1 derby victory at Scunthorpe United in mid-October.

And with O'Driscoll having utilised his whole squad so far throughout

this season, expect one of his most loyal lieutenants in Lockwood to gain plenty of game time in the new year, given a fair wind.

Lockwood, who penned a two-year deal in the summer, added: "For me, it would be nice to stay in the team. Every club and player has his fair share of injuries, as I well know, and everybody has got to be ready to be play when called upon.

"It's a squad game now."

Yorkshire's Matthew Fisher. Picture: John Mallett

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