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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 December 2006, 09:35 GMT
Grounds for concern

Doncaster's new Keepmoat Stadium

By Charlie Henderson

Football's must-have item of the 21st century is a foreign investor with overwhelming financial clout.

For those fashion conscious but less fortunate clubs the fall-back option is a new ground.

Where Scunthorpe led and Arsenal followed, Doncaster are the latest team to tread.

Scunny's move to Glanford Park in 1988 was the first time a new football stadium had been built in the English Football League since the end of the Second World War.

Since then 22 League clubs have upped sticks, along with Wycombe and Yeovil, who have graduated to the league since moving home.

And MK Dons and Colchester are set to add their names to that roll call in the coming seasons.

DONCASTER'S NEXT HOME GAMES
v Huddersfield - 1 Jan
League One
v Bolton - 6 Jan
FA Cup
v Darlington - 9 Jan
Johnstone's Paint Trophy

It will be a great start
John Ryan

Donny's New Year's Day fixture against Huddersfield hails the opening of the 15,000-capacity Keepmoat Stadium - the 23rd new permanent home to begin life in the Premiership or Football League in 18 years.

Rovers chairman John Ryan, a Donny diehard, is adamant the move will help his team "immeasurably".

"The players will get such a lift," he told BBC Sport.

"Admittedly, the opposition will as well as the facilities are more pleasant as well - the dressing rooms are fantastic, massively large - but hopefully we'll have a better record than Arsenal did at the Emirates."

While the Gunners have not set the world alight at their new home this season, they remain unbeaten so Ryan is setting the bar high for his squad.

Of the previous 22 clubs to relocate, only two upped sticks mid-season - and the managers who oversaw those moves contradict Ryan's short-term optimism.

Crystal Palace boss Peter Taylor was at the Hull helm when the club swapped Boothferry Park for the KC Stadium in December 2002.

"Playing at home is an advantage because you are used to everything," Taylor told BBC Sport.

"At the start of the season you can have a bit of a pre-season in the new place and going in at the halfway mark is not ideal - but you can't blame Doncaster for the timing, I'm sure they can't wait for it.

"You've got to be a decent team to be able to handle a new stadium and when I did it with Hull we weren't good enough.

The pressure on the players will be enormous

Ian Atkins, former Rovers player and Northampton boss

"Doncaster have to be aggressive at in their early games and they can't let the opposition enjoy the stadium too much.

"They're going in with good form and that will go to their advantage but you just never know whether it will work for you."

Rovers have certainly found their form in League One - they have lost only two of their last 12 league games.

While Taylor exercises caution in his prediction as to how a move affects a team, former Donny player Ian Atkins is less confident that Rovers will maintain that promotion push pace.

As manager of Northampton when they moved from the "cold and horrible" County Ground to the sparkling Sixfields in October 1994, Atkins knows Doncaster boss Sean O'Driscoll and his squad will not find life so easy in the short term.

"Doncaster is a fantastic club in a great area and having got the stadium at long last I can see it being a springboard for them to kick on," he told BBC Sport.

"But this season it could be a hindrance.

"With no disrespect, everybody hates going to Doncaster. You go through that arch opposite the racecourse, in my day the car park had potholes and everything and then there's the rickety old dressing room you can't throw a cat in.

NEW STADIUM FACTS
Who are the 22 clubs to have moved to a new permanent home when in the Premiership or Football League since 1988?
Which team has the best initial record at their new stadium?
And the worst?
Arsenal share the longest unbeaten run of any side moving to a new home with which other club?

"The intimidation that causes people is frightening.

"Now it's a different era in a fantastic new stadium and everyone will enjoy going to Doncaster - I'd rather be going to a new stadium than playing at the Belle Vue in winter!

"And the psychology changes as well. The supporters will expect them to win every week because it's a new stadium, but football doesn't work like that.

"The pressure on the players will be enormous but they can now get into the Championship with the new stadium and over a period of time it will be the best thing for them."

But if that short-term verdict tempers Ryan's optimism, the chairman has a trick up his sleeve.

"Our home record is not so sparkling anyway," he added.

"We've only lost once but we've drawn a lot and we tend to be better away from home so maybe the players will view it as an away stadium and play better than ever."

And bearing in mind Donny have beaten Huddersfield only once at home in 18 years maybe the move has come at the perfect time.



SEE ALSO
Doncaster v Huddersfield
31 Dec 06 |  League One
All change at Doncaster
22 Dec 06 |  Doncaster
Doncaster announce stadium name
21 Nov 06 |  Doncaster
Crowds flock to stadium opening
17 Dec 06 |  South Yorkshire
Doncaster sign new stadium deal
20 Sep 05 |  Rugby League
Public backing for stadium plans
17 Aug 04 |  South Yorkshire
Public have say on stadium plans
14 Aug 04 |  South Yorkshire


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