Doncaster Rovers boss gives the inside track on his deadline day moves for Sunderland strikers

Doncaster Rovers boss Richie Wellens has claimed that Sunderland filing their paperwork eight minutes late was the key reason behind Aiden O'Brien's failed deadline day move.

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 1:16 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd September 2021, 1:16 pm

Rovers had started the day hoping to sign Will Grigg, but the striker would eventually sign for Rotherham.

Wellens then turned his attention to O'Brien, and believed the deal was done.

“We had a meeting in the morning and we planned what we would do and what time we’d do it at,” he told the Doncaster Free Press.

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Sunderland striker Aiden O'Brien

“Probably around two o’clock, our offer went in for Will Grigg. It was rejected.

“We went in with another offer that got accepted which matched another club’s offer.

Then it was just about us trying to convince the player. I’d obviously spoken to him on numerous occasions and he was willing to come.

“It was just that a little bit previous he’d had a conversation with Rotherham who only came in for him that day and he decided to go to Rotherham.

“We moved onto a couple more that didn’t really progress financially the way we wanted it to happen.

“And then we found out Aiden O’Brien was available. He’d been right at the top of our list from the very start but the conversations we’d had were that he was never available.

“He was then available at about six o’clock. By nine o’clock I’d spoken to the player and he’d agreed to come. I’d spoken to Sunderland and we’d agreed a deal.

“By nine o’clock, my thinking was that the deal was done and my job was done because I’d convinced the player to come,” he added.

“It was down to the two clubs to get the paperwork done and that is where it went on far too long. The biggest mistake in the end was that Sunderland put it through eight minutes too late.

“Our paperwork went through seven minutes early so that was the biggest problem.

“If we’d have found out at seven o’clock that Aiden O’Brien wouldn’t have got done, then I could have moved onto other things.

“The fact it was so late meant we couldn’t get anyone in on deadline day.

“At nine o’clock, I still had two other options to go to. They weren’t ideal in terms of being inexperienced but they still have ability.

“But the fact that at nine o’clock we’d agreed and at ten o’clock we’d got all the paperwork, the player had the paperwork ready to sign and people were getting on with it, I have no need to go and look elsewhere.

“I genuinely believed at that point that the deal was going through."

Doncaster Rovers were in the end unable to add a new striker, leaving Wellens to assess the free agent market in the day ahead.

“At quarter to 11, I’m obviously panicking and making other phonecalls about players who have at that point decided to stay at their clubs and there’s nothing else that we could have done about that," he said.

“I wasn’t in a good place when I was driving back to the hotel at 12 o’clock.

“But when you wake up the next morning, I can’t let that disappointment spread to the players.”

The two clubs failed in an appeal to the EFL to approve the move.

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Sunderland AFC coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription to our new sports-only package here .

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor