Family Fortunes

TWO second-generation football managers will patrol the dugouts when Argyle meet Doncaster Rovers on Saturday...

...and their famous fathers are no strangers to one another, either. 

In 1974, Alex Ferguson became manager of East Stirlingshire – his first managerial appointment – and recruited George Adams to be his first signing, for a fee of £100. 

Four years later, with George having retired because of injury, Ferguson brought Adams in again, this time to be pivotal in the youth department at Ferguson’s latest club, Aberdeen. George worked with Ferguson for eight years, learning many of the ways of the man later to be acknowledged as Manchester United’s greatest ever boss – perhaps Britain’s best ever, too. 

Now, Adams and Ferguson junior are the men in the dugouts, and doing well for themselves, too. Derek, son of George, will take up his usual spot in the home technical area at Home Park, with Sir Alex’s son Darren 15 yards to his left, in the opponent’s zone. 

The opponents – Darren’s current team – will be Doncaster Rovers, who with a win on Tuesday night, leapt to Sky Bet League Two’s top spot. It was a place Derek’s Argyle occupied for many weeks – and they want it back. 

“It’s a good opportunity for us to get back to the top,” said Derek. “The win will do that, and put us back where we’ve been for 12 weeks of the season already. 

“It’s a big game. It’s two very good sides in the division, and we’re looking at it as an opportunity to get to the top again.”

Darren Ferguson took over at Doncaster in October 2015, but despite the club’s relegation from League One, he has revived their fortunes thus far this season. 

Before arriving at the Keepmoat Stadium, Darren had two stints at Peterborough either side of a spell at Preston North End. It seemed inevitable that following a career playing for Wolverhampton and Wrexham, as well as some early games for his father at Old Trafford, that he would become a manager, given his father’s status. 

Given their respective father’s background, Derek and Darren are well known to one another, and both have taken some inspiration from Sir Alex. 

“[Darren’s] a couple of years older than me,” said Derek. “I know Darren and a few others at the club. It’s good that Gavin Strachan is there – I played with him at Motherwell in my time. 

“When you are steeped in the tradition [Darren] has come from, he was also going to get into management. He did a very good job a couple of times at Peterborough. He’s a wee bit different to [Sir Alex]. Darren has his own style and is his own man. There is no doubt he has sought advice, but Darren goes about things the way he wants to. 

“You look at all the managers you work under – you look at everybody in football – and you try and take a bit from everyone. Sir Alex Ferguson was one that everyone looked up to when he was hugely successful at Aberdeen, then at Manchester United.”

Doncaster have got to the summit with four consecutive wins, and their record of 42 goals scored in 19 League Two games is easily the best in the division. 

Defensively, though, they are fragile. Only four of those 19 games have seen Rovers keep a clean sheet; none since October 15. 

Both sides of Doncaster’s game were to the fore on Saturday. They raced into a 3-0 lead at Stevenage, but were made to work for their victory, eventually winning the game 4-3. 

Argyle’s strong away record has been built partly through the Pilgrims’ counter-attacking ability, and if Doncaster come to Home Park intent on pushing forward, Derek feels that could be of benefit to his team.  

“They’ve gone out and tried to play high-risk football, and they’ve been able to win games with scoring goals,” said Derek, of Rovers. “They’ve conceded a lot of goals along the way, and been able to get some positive results. Both sides are on 12 wins – two good sides. 

“It looks like it might be quite open. Doncaster set out to be expansive, but we’re very good at opening teams up when that happens. This season they have shown that there are goals in the team, but they have also shown that they can concede throughout the game as well.”