DONCASTER Rovers’ Brian Flynn reckons he is the manager of the best team in League One.
“We are the best team in the league and I don’t mind saying it,” Flynn declared in response to a 2-0 defeat at Bury last weekend.
It was a bold pronouncement for Flynn to make, given Doncaster currently hold second place, behind leaders Tranmere on goal difference and ahead of the chasing pack.
Most rival managers say the League One promotion race is too close to call. For the moment it is conspicuously lacking an outstanding team.
Flynn, 57, is an experienced football man who built a strong and stable set-up during 12 years at Wrexham (1989 to 2001) and picked Swansea City off the floor between 2002 and 2004. He spent eight years heading the Wales under 21 set-up, started the current season as chief scout at Doncaster and moved into the manager’s office when Dean Saunders moved out to join Wolverhampton Wanderers in December.
Tranmere’s Ronnie Moore, equally experienced in the business, says: “I understand what Brian means. Every manager in the top half of the table will think he has the best team in the league.
“Brian is having a bit of fun. But when you say things like that you can end up getting custard pie on your face. I think it is better to say nothing and see where everyone is come April 27.”
Flynn’s appointment at the Keepmoat Stadium illustrates how many of the runners in the promotion race have acquired new riders along the way.
Notts County, expected to make a strong challenge this season, sacked Keith Curle on Sunday and put Chris Kiwomya in caretaker charge of the team for this week’s games against Stevenage and Crewe Alexandra.
Curle was dismissed after less than 12 months in charge at Meadow Lane with Notts lying five points outside the play-off zone.
Chief executive Jim Rodwell said: “I thought the recent performances were quite stale. We felt Keith had taken it as far as he could do. Our home form this season has been nothing short of fairly awful.
“I don’t think we have to get into the play-offs. We’re going to try and do it but I live in the real world.”
At Swindon, Paulo Di Canio says he is working “day to day” following a takeover at the County Ground.
New owners are expected to be ratified by the Football League today but Di Canio says he won’t talk about his own future until boardroom issues have been resolved.
“If you ask me the future, I can’t tell you because we don’t have a normal situation,” Di Canio said this week.
Swindon were put up for sale in a bid to avoid administration and although a local consortium has agreed a deal, it has yet to be approved. With the club needing instant funds, they sold winger Matt Ritchie to Bournemouth for £500,000 – a deal which Di Canio insists he knew nothing about.
Di Canio attempted to sign three players on transfer deadline day – Marlon Pack from Cheltenham and Charlton duo Bradley Wright-Phillips and Danny Green – but the moves were blocked by the Football League because Swindon’s takeover was not complete.
MK Dons who made the play-offs in the last three seasons, looked like the best visiting team to play at Prenton Park when they defeated Tranmere 1-0 in November. But their form subsided as injuries and suspensions kicked in.
After a 3-0 home defeat to Bournemouth last weekend in which Merseyside-born striker Ryan Lowe was sent off, they slipped 13 points behind Tranmere and Doncaster – although they still have games in hand.
“I’m not letting go, trust me, said the Dons’ Merseyside-born manager Karl Robinson. “We’ve had a ridiculous year, with sendings off and big injuries and we have had a makeshift side for most of this season. Until it is mathematically impossible, I will still believe.”
Bournemouth changed the manager in October when Eddie Howe replaced Paul Groves. Just as significantly the club is enjoying the benefits of substantial cash injections from Russian investor Maxim Demin.
They spent £800,000 on transfer fees for Brett Pitman, Ryan Fraser and Matt Ritchie during the January transfer window and Demin is helping the club to sustain a hefty wage bill.
Coventry City, punching below their weight before Mark Robins took over as manager in September, have steadily climbed the table.
Moore said: “Bournemouth and Coventry are coming with a wet sail. They have momentum. Bournemouth should be there. The level of spending there is Championship finances.”
Moore suspects the top six will be decided in a blanket finish. “I think it will go right to the last game of the season. I don’t think we will know the answers until 5pm on April 27, and that goes for the automatic places on the play-off spots.
“I think it will go right to the wire because everyone is capable of beating anyone.
“We have to play a lot of the top teams: Sheffield United, Doncaster, MK Dons, Swindon and Bournemouth. A lot of it will be down to what we do and it’s better that way.”