All posts by Alan Patching

Why is everyone talking like a footballer?

In the unlikely event I’d be invited to take part in Room 101, the first object I’d want to be locked away for eternity is the decline of the English language. The nation that spawned the genius of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Dylan Thomas shouldn’t have to suffer any of its population inserting the word ‘like’ three times into one sentence.   Continue reading Why is everyone talking like a footballer?

Armchair Supporters R Us

Alas, the World Cup is over. Sadly. Wearily. We awake from the bright lights and beauty of a glorious holiday, and stare out of the plane window at the grey runway tarmac of reality that is supporting our local club. All James and no ‘Hamez’. Mundane. Dull. You need a pick-up. To help ease you into your everyday lives we have decided to pick out five of the best received pieces from last season’s fanzine, and share then with you here, to fill the void of the lost 9pm kick-offs. You’re welcome.

We start with this piece from issue 65 of popular STAND, as Jack the Miner envisages the not too inconceivable notion of a man shopping for a football team to support. Continue reading Armchair Supporters R Us

Jack the Miner’s Coalface: Selective Memory

History is written by the victors and re-written in internet forums

Future issues of popular STAND fanzine will be awash with James Coppinger tributes as he approaches his appearance record. And rightly so. He’s been a mainstay of the re-born DRFC and at the very heart of the champagne moments we’ve witnessed in a glorious period for the club.

Of course, he’s not alone. One other player has put in a shift and has played shoulder to shoulder with Copps in all of those key games. He has helped create history.

Any guesses as to who I have in mind?

Continue reading Jack the Miner’s Coalface: Selective Memory

The Secret Double Life of Paul Dickov

With issue 68 of popular STAND looming large on the horizon here’s a treat from issue 67, which went to print at the end of November. Jack The Miner thought he’d seen Paul Dickov somewhere before, and then, it clicked and the Rovers manager’s true identity was revealed.

Continue reading The Secret Double Life of Paul Dickov

Tea & Biscuits with Sean O’Drsicoll & Dean Saunders

Former Rovers managers Sean O’Driscoll and Dean Saunders come face to face today as Bristol City and Wolverhampton Wanderers meet in the Championship. In issue 62 of popular STAND Jack The Miner imagined a meeting of the two in order to settle the debate over which was indeed the better manager.

Sean O’Driscoll’s 2007/08 promotion winners or Dean Saunders’ promotion-in-waiting side of 2012/13? Which is best?

We’re not talking about what these sides might become in the future but their qualities within the nine months of the promotion season itself. We asked Sean and Dean to settle the issue.

Just after New Years, in a secret location – a hotel lounge somewhere in South Yorkshire – the two men meet and shake hands.

SO’D: Good morning Dean
DS: Hiya Sean. New cagoule?
SO’D: Yes. A pack of three for £19.99. Three different colours. Map pocket too. Have to say I wish I’d bought two packs. Chances like that don’t come along very often. I should have just gone mad.

Sean orders a cup of tea. Dean asks for a Champagne Daiquiri. There is a short delay when Dean asks for one of those small paper umbrellas.

DS: I know you’ll talk about performance and players taking responsibility Sean but it’s a results business. And my lads have got points winning nailed.
SO’D: That’s odd. I’ve seen your boys at home several times this season and not seen them win once.
DS: It doesn’t matter where you pick up the points. We will go up automatically. We won’t need the play-offs like you guys. You averaged 1.73 points per game. We’re on 1.92 points per game.

Dean leans back in his chair and asks for a fresh cherry for his cocktail.

SO’D: Maybe, but we did things with a bit of class. Look at our defence. We had international defenders in Sullivan and Roberts in their prime. Perhaps the best defender in the league in James O’Connor and the huge potential in Matt Mills. Whereas you have…let’s say, solid dependable performers.
DS: I might take the younger O’Connor from you and Sullivan too but, frankly, I ‘m not sure I’d change anything else at the back. Your superstar defence conceded 0.89 goals a game. My lads have conceded 0.92 per game. There’s nothing in it.
SO’D:
Roberts and O’Connor were more of an attacking force than Spurr and Quinn.
DS: Maybe, but we’ve got Rob Jones contributing at set pieces. I don’t recall your defenders chipping in too much. And we score from corners and set pieces. Your side never did that.

Sean unzips his cagoule and investigates the plate of biscuits. He ignores the chocolate digestives, Bourbons and Jammy Dodgers and selects a Rich Tea.

SO’D: You forget we did it creatively from open play. We were creative. Incisive. We had the engine of Paul Green, the quality of Richie Wellens and Brian Stock and the occasional genius of Jamie Coppinger.
DS: Is that the Paul Green you left out because you preferred Mark Wilson?

Sean shuffles in his seat and stirs his tea.

SO’D: It’s all about the right player at the right time. We had an exciting midfield whatever the line up.
DS: Yes, I heard about playing forty consecutive passes before the ball eventually ended up back with Sullivan. Anyway, my midfield can excite too. Look at Cotterill and Bennett.
SO’D: Take Cotterill out of your team and it doesn’t function. We were never heavily reliant upon one player. We didn’t even need Heffernan in the play-off final. We had Coppinger, Stock, Price and Wellens. Players that would get supporters off their seats. With respect, you’ve only got Cotterill that can do that.
DS: But we have firepower up front.
SO’D: Firepower to compare with Heffernan and Hayter?
DS: We average 1.5 goals per game. Everyone chips in. Your side averaged 1.41goals a game. We score more. We defend just as well and win more points. I rest my case.
SO’D: So how come a table topping side like yours is playing in front of dwindling crowds? The fans might enjoy looking at the league table but they don’t want to pay to watch your side.
DS: The crowds are affected by other factors. It’s not just entertainment value. When you were in charge you couldn’t hold a lead despite your ball holding abilities. When you went behind the game was over. My side don’t give it away once we are in front and we’ve come from behind more times in one season than your teams ever did, boyo. Fans like a bit of fight in a side.

Dean orders a pink gin.

DS: Did I tell you I was friends with Mark Lawrenson?
SO’D: On a number of occasions…You know Dean, all these statistics are very well but one important fact is that I finished the job. I got my side out of this league. Read the history books. It’s there. Your job is only half-done. 20 games left. The pitches are still heavy. Suspensions will start to mount and the opposition know all about you now. Rovers history won’t be kind to you if you don’t get your side over the finishing line for some reason.

At this stage we brought in Dave Penney as a neutral observer. What did he think about the two sides?

DaveP: To be fair it’s a tough choice.
DS: Dave, why do you always say that?
DaveP: Say what?
DS: To be fair…
DaveP: I didn’t know I did. No-one has mentioned it before, to be fair…One side could be attractive to watch but brittle. The other isn’t easy on the eye but it doesn’t lie down and die. Both are effective, to be fair.
SO’D: You’re right Dean, he does say that a lot doesn’t he?
DS: He does.
DaveP: I reckon if Saunders Rovers visited O’Driscoll Rovers as the away side they might nick it. I can see Sean’s team getting bogged down in midfield and bouncing off the Saunders back four. If Dean’s side were the home team they’d not win. They just don’t function at home. You wouldn’t keep Heffernan out for two games running and there’d be at least one spark of magic from Stock, Coppinger or Price to make it all square on aggregate. It’d go to penalties to be fair.

Dean finishes off his pink gin and puts the little umbrella in his pocket to take home. Everyone shakes hands. Sean zips up his cagoule.

DS: So, still looking for work?
SO’D: Biding my time Dean, biding my time. If the Norwegian at Wolves doesn’t work out I’d really like the Wolves job. And you? You seeing it through at Rovers?
DS: Oh, sure, yeah. I’ve got no medals on my management C.V. yet. Can’t see a bigger club coming in for me…to be fair.

Both men wander off chuckling to themselves leaving Dave Penney to pick up the bar bill.

From the Archives: What Next? A Fluffy Muff and a Matching Hat?

The leaves are turning, the nights are drawing in. As winter approaches, some of the current Rovers squad could be tempted to add a few extra layers, but as this piece from the fanzine archives, initially published in Issue 30 (April 2005) by Jack the Miner attests, that’s not how things are done in DN4.

 What Next? A Fluffy Muff and a Matching Hat?

I cannot be the only Rovers fan dismayed to see Adriano Rigoglioso wearing gloves against Brentford recently.

God knows it’s bad enough living with the fact that Carl Alford was allowed to wear the sacred jersey but I never thought I’d see the day a Rovers player would wear gloves.

Real Madrid players might have been pictured wearing scarves recently but a Rovers player in gloves? Gloves? Rovers? Gloves at Rovers? One of the players in gloves? A Rovers player?

Argentinians in Alice bands wear gloves. Italians with their own line in male cosmetics and perfumery wear gloves. Rovers players do not.

I never saw Les Chappell in tights. I don’t recall seeing Alan Little in ear muffs. If Gary Brabin ever wore a brushed nylon body-warmer under his shirt I must have missed it.

When Colin Sutherland punched Colin West’s lights out at Nene Park we wouldn’t have heard the smack in Row Z if he’d been wearing a pair of sheepskin mittens.

Dean ‘The Rock’ Walling was from the sunny island of St.Kitts but was man enough not to need gloves on a cold Yorkshire evening. Ian Snodin would have been Fergie-purple with rage if The Rock had trotted out in gloves.

What kind of message does it send out to the opposition? You set off from your nice footballer’s house in a leafy suburb on your way to fortress Belle Vue. You’ve heard the stadium is windswept and decrepit and that the Main Stand crowd can almost touch you as you leg it down the touchline. The language is industrial. The place stinks of fags, and fried onions. The executive boxes are second-hand portakabins. Doncaster have one of the best home records in the League. They’ve dragged themselves out of the bowels of the Conference and they are getting better and better, year on year. You run out. It’s freezing. You can see Asda on your left, the portakabins on the right. The air is full of noise and burger fumes. Out come Rovers. The number 3 looks like an axe murderer. The guy Doolan looks like a night-club bouncer. Leo Fortune-West towers over you and fixes you with a hard stare. You want to go home. What kind of hell is this? Maybe it’s time to think about a nice office job.

And then you see the Rovers Number 10. He’s wearing gloves… and suddenly the sun comes out in your head and all of your birthdays have come at once. Donny have got someone wearing gloves. Oh yes. Everything is going to be peachy.

You might ask if it does it really matter? According to ex-Ireland international Tony Cascarino it does,

“Playing against a centre half in gloves? I loved it. A rugged man-mountain defender with a pair of gloves on? Not so tough after all. I felt it gave me an edge and I would feel confident I could outmuscle him”

If you dig deep enough you will find someone to defend the glove-wearing footballer such as this letter to the Times headed ‘No kid gloves’

 Sir – During the current cold snap I have noticed that the old chestnut of footballers wearing gloves has come up again. It’s been suggested that those who do decide to protect their pinkies from the elements are sending out the wrong signals and that they are not up for the battle.

However, as a Crystal Palace supporter, I can distinctly  remember our centre-forward in the early Sixties, Cliff Holton, wearing gloves, and yellow ones at that. He played with distinction as a forward and half-back for the Arsenal for 11 years before becoming a bit of a journeyman. Sadly now deceased, he was a big man and highly intelligent. Whether playing in defence or attack he was very uncompromising and a prolific goal-scorer.

You would suggest at your peril that his desire to keep his hands warm was some sort of indication that he was wanting in some way.

Iain Gordon
Banstead, Surrey

Well Iain, Cliff Holton might have been “a big man and highly intelligent”but so is Leo Fortune-West and Leopold does not wear gloves.

I’m Sorry – and I say this with due respect to my Home Counties coal mining brothers – but if the only defender of glove wearers comes from Surrey I think I can rest my case.

JTM

Front cover of Issue 30 of the fanzine

“Yes, I have got coloured blood – it’s red”

In the latest issue of the print fanzine we were delighted to include a fascinating article by Jack the Miner on the late great Charlie Williams. So great was it that we felt it deserved a much wider audience than our issue 59 circulation, and so we’re delighted to reproduce it here on the website for the enjoyment of all.

“Yes, I have got coloured blood – it’s red”

Five young men head for Blackpool for a short summer break. Four of them knock at the door of a boarding house with a ‘Vacancies’ sign in the window. Their friend waits at the gate with their luggage. The door opens.

“Hello, do you have room for us all for two nights?”
“Yes”
says the owner and beckons them in before looking up and noticing the lone friend by the gate.
“Is that gentleman part of your party?” asks the owner.
“Yes, he is” they reply.
The owner scratches his head and says “I’m sorry. I was mistaken. We don’t have any rooms. I’m afraid I can’t help you.”

The friends turn on their heels and troop down the path. It’s been a long day. It’s a scene that’s been played out again and again. The friends are crestfallen but are determined to continue with their search. As they approach their solitary associate he tells them,

 “This’ll keep ‘appenin every time they see me. You lads sort yourselves out. I’ll look after meself. I’ll be allrate.”

It’s the 1950’s. The tired, disconsolate bunch of mates are a bunch of footballers from Doncaster Rovers and Sheffield Wednesday. The young chap standing over the suitcases is Charlie Williams. There was no question of leaving Charlie to his own devices and they gave up their search and the party returned home.

On a later trip to Blackpool they were faced with a long day of similar responses. Faced with a boarding house landlady who was dithering over her decision… “it’s not me it’s the reaction of the other guests”… Charlie stepped into the kitchen, slipped on an apron and put on a comic turn whilst doing the washing up and had the old girl in stitches. She let them stay and they were regular visitors thereafter.

This prejudice Charlie found as an adult seems to have been at odds with his early life in West Yorkshire. His father was the only black man for miles and was welcomed into the community. He worked hard and had the respect due to a man who had come from Barbados to fight in World War II. As a child, Charlie was well treated in school by the staff and by adults in general, something he later put down to being a ‘lovable rarity’. Moving to Upton to live with family, after his father’s death, Charlie was still largely free of the racism evident in other parts of the country. “My colour didn’t matter down the pit. We had no time for daft things like that… Colliers are a breed of their own. They’ve a wonderful sense of humour – they have to have.”

The 50’s saw a marked shift in attitude towards immigration and the black community already present in the UK. Charlie was increasingly aware of this, especially when he started dating Audrey, a white girl who later became his wife, but reckoned he had an ability to sniff trouble coming and avoid it. But there was no means of escape on the football pitch.

He reckoned in the early days with Rovers, the away crowd would let out a huge gasp every time he walked onto the playing field, a sign of the huge shock it was to see a player of colour on the field.  “I’ll kill you, you black b*****d.” said one Number 9. Opposition supporters were predictably and equally vicious but Charlie reckoned it spurred him on, noting that “if I’d played for their side I’d have been a grand lad.” One of his team mates told me that these days there’d be stewards, police and the FA taking action on the abuse thrown Charlie’s way… “He used to say it didn’t bother him but it did. It had to. Some of the lads might have put the odd naughty challenge in to any player who’d said too much by way of revenge but by and large he got his own back by his performance. I think people forget he was on the books at Rovers for twelve years and played alongside Harry Gregg Len Graham, Bert Tindall and Alick Jeffrey. He got up the opposition’s noses by doing his job well. It annoys me that people think of him as a famous comedian who happened to play for Doncaster Rovers. He was a good player in what might be the best side Rovers ever had”.

In 1962 he was offered a well paid, player-coach job in Sydney but when the Australian immigration office realised he was black they blocked his application. A national press campaign resulted in a change of heart from the Australians. Charlie said no… “to hell with that….you refused me and that’s it”.

None of these footballing experiences seems to have made him bitter. He recalled that “we’d call each other names during the match but afterwards you would shake hands and be friends. Some fans would even come up and say sorry”. And he remained phlegmatic about prejudice in general, noting that black Africans and West Indians would look down their noses at him because he was mixed race… “The whole colour prejudice thing is so mixed up, so daft, that you’ve got to laugh at it.” That absence of anger, refusal to politicise the colour issue and some of his colour related comedy material drew criticism from some quarters but time seems to have mellowed the way he is viewed.

Lenny Henry – who Charlie said he’d like to play him if a film was ever made about his life story – said “Charlie Williams was perfect for the time he appeared. It was a brilliant thing, this black Yorkshireman who played football with Doncaster Rovers, who’d had the wartime experience of white Yorkshire people, who talked like them, who thought like them, but who just happened to be black… and Charlie exploited this to the full.” And referring to the sometimes un-PC material he used, Henry said: “I went through a period of thinking it was all bad, but I just think it was the times and you did what you had to do to get by. I think you did what you had to do to survive in a predominantly white world.’”

The last time I saw Charlie he was a white haired old gentleman struggling to take his seat at Belle Vue but finding enough strength to rise to his feet to acknowledge the ovation from those around him and on the terrace below where everyone had turned to applaud him. Having taken the abuse in his early life, risen above it and handled it with dignity and humour it was nice to see him received so warmly, and quite poignant that he was able look out onto the pitch and see that the many black players on both sides were treated with the respect denied him in his own playing days.

From the Archive: Jack The Miner’s Diary

(from Issue 23, August 2003)

Just before Rovers took the throw in that led to Franny Tierney’s winner at Stoke our lass said to me ‘I hope they choose the lucky ball’ and I thought ‘only a girl would say that’. Now when I’m watching the video of the game, as soon as those two balls roll along the touchline I think to myself ‘come on, choose the lucky ball’. And we always do. Every single wonderful, glorious, fantastic, brilliant time.

When the goal went in my Conference life flashed in front of me. For a split second I saw the wasters like Carden and Alford, the useless like Halliday and Newell but then I saw the genuine individuals who helped us rebuild and take us towards the moment when Franny’s goal went in. People like Lee Warren, Simon Shaw and young Kirkie. And then the games flashed by me… Goodwin’s penalty at home to Kidderminster to break our Conference duck… Alford’s two fingers at Stevenage… Snod screaming in Ignacio Ibarra’s ear for the last 30 minutes at Southend in the Cup… the cup replay at Rushden and Duerden wiping the smugness off their faces a few weeks later… the 5-4 against Dover… Newell’s miss.

Strangely I recall nothing from the days of the Wignall reign where we seemed to meander aimlessly until Dave and Mickey arrived to put some backbone, direction and professionalism into the side. And I thought for the two Snods who brought pride, passion and hope back to the club. History will show that Wignall brought us his smart haircut and Stephen Halliday.

The overriding memory of the day is one of feeling great pride for the fans and the team. I hate to dwell on anything negative but perhaps I can make a brief mention of the shaved headed moron who thought it was OK, and funny, to pee in the sinks at the Britannia Stadium rather than wait in the queue. Why do we have to share our team and our planet with this socially retarded lowlife?

Off in the distance I can still hear the whinging along the Welsh border. Perhaps I can remind them that Rovers had to overcome the disadvantage of losing home territory in the second leg and had the disadvantage of being forced to take penalties at the home supporters end in the shoot-out. May I also suggest that Chester’s fans ask their promising young manager about his tactics in both games before they use the word ‘injustice’ on another Rovers message board.

Losing Beech and therefore the Ryan/Foster axis for the final didn’t exactly make things any easier in the final. Yet the side overcame these obstacles. It would have been nice to have seen Dave Penney and the side get some credit for the season and the guts they showed in the play offs but, by the time I’d read the papers and seen the video of the game on Sky, even I was under the impression that John Ryan had spent £4million assembling this team.

So, onto this season. There are plenty of pluses. Green and ravenhill are a year older. And when did we last have a pool of forwards as strong as this one? Fortune-West, Barnes, Blundell, Gill, Jackson, Whitman, Burton. Blundell has been seriously impressive since he arrived at the club. His attitude has been fantastic. H e scored on debut, set up Whitman’s equaliser in the first leg of the semi, scored a penalty in the shoot-out and it was his fantastic ball that let Barnsey put Tierney in for the winner in the final. He helped take us up and no-one seemed to notice.

I doubt we will prosper this season. Our poor record against the better sides in the Conference last season and our ongoing inability to break down stubbornly negative teams suggests we have to be realistic. It could be late March before we have enough points to relax but there is enough youthful enthusiasm, talent and experience to help us survive. For me, the time being, survival will be enough. I’ve tasted the Conference and I don’t want to go back. I hope I never see Kevin McIntyre, Daryl Clare, Mark Wright, Hayes, Margate’s dancing nut of a manager, Graham Westley and the hill at Nailsworth ever again.

And one last thing. I was wrong about Paul Barnes. I said last season it would take another year to establish himself as a true hero. I must have had too much coal dust in my brain. He is a Rovers legend in his own playing lifetime.

A.P.