During Doncaster Rovers’ 1998-99 season, as the club resurrected itself in non-league the matchday programme was put together by a group of very committed supporters. Within that group, contributing to an excellent publication, was long-serving popular STAND contributor John Coyle, who penned a series on the men who have managed the club since re-entering the Football League in 1923. John has very kindly let us reproduce this series here on the popular STAND website, and today we reach the seventh episode, the brief reigns of Jack Crayston and Jackie Bestall.
In May 1958 Doncaster Rovers, who had just been relegated to the new Division Three, announced they would be looking for a new manager. Several names were considered, including Dugald Livingstone of Fulham and George Swindin, the boss of Midland League Champions, Peterborough United. The latter was offered the job but turned it down, preferring to try to help the Posh into the Football League. Eventually Jack Crayston, formerly manager of Arsenal, was chosen for the difficult task of leading Rovers back to Division Two.
Crayston was a Lancastrian, born in October 1910, who had played for Barrow and Bradford Park Avenue before joining Arsenal in 1934. A graceful but steely wing-half, Crayston won eight England caps as well as two League Championship medals and a FA Cup winners medal. In 1945 he was appointed assistant manager at Highbury and in 1956 he succeeded the late Tom Whittaker as manager. After two rather moderate seasons Crayston resigned in May 1958 and thus he was available when Rovers needed a manager.
Crayston took over the remnants of Doherty’s old team, with only a couple of new signings. After a defeat on opening day, Rovers won three in a row but a disastrous run from mid-September, when they took only three points from 16 games, saw them firmly in the lower reaches of Division Three. Away from home, Rovers form was dreadful, with only one win and three draws from 23 games. Crayston, a softly spoken, gentlemanly figure was perhaps not the man to rouse the players from their collective torpor and in March 1959 he effectively moved aside. Derek Bestall, son of Jackie, resigned as Rovers secretary in order to become a pub licensee and Crayston took over his duties. At the same time Jackie Bestall (pictured), who had returned to the club in 1958 as Chief Scout, became more involved with the first team. After Rovers’ relegation to Division Four was confirmed, the arrangement was formalised with Crayston being given the old fashioned title of ‘secretary-manager’ and Bestall being given the new-fangled one of ‘team manager’.
The summer of 1959 saw a large-scale clear-out and Bestall brought in some experienced players to fill the gaps. These included three new forwards, Lol Chappell, Tony Leighton and Albert Broadbent. However, Rovers fared little better than they had done in Division Three and at one stage seemed likely to have to apply for re-election. A revival during February and March 1960, which featured a seven match unbeaten run, saw Rovers climb to 17th place. It was respectability but it was still a massive comedown for a club that had been in Division Two only two years earlier.
Bestall and the Board turned their attention towards a Youth Policy in a bid to revive the club’s fortunes in the future, but the here and now continued to cause problems. After successive defeats in the three opening matches of the 1960-61 season, the Board decided to appoint a player manager, and Bestall reverted to his old scouting role. As for Jack Crayston, in March 1961 he resigned as Rovers secretary and left the game of football. He became a newsagent in the Walsall area and died in December 1992, aged 82. And Jackie Bestall- well, we have not heard the last of him.
JACK CRAYSTON’S RECORD
First match: 23rd August 1958 v Tranmere Rovers (away) lost 0-3.
Last match: 25th April 1959 v Southampton (away) drew 1-1.
Football League Record.
Played 46, Won 14, Drew 5, Lost 27, Winning percentage: 30.7%.
JACKIE BESTALL’S RECORD
First match: 22nd August 1959 v Torquay United (away) lost 1-2.
Last match: 27th April 1960 v Crystal Palace (home) lost 1-5.
Football League Record.
Played 49, Won 16, Drew 10, Lost 23, Winning percentage: 32.6%.
by John Coyle