Before I crack on with what passes for a column in these parts, here are some words cribbed from Rovers fans on the internet. “This running round like a headless chicken just doesn’t cut it. I’ll drive him to his next club”… “He must’ve become a professional footballer through the Make-A-Wish foundation”… “Take any money offered and run, get someone who wants to play for the Rovers”. Continue reading Marquis the sad? On a mystifying precedent
In the last year or so, I have ceased to be a man of ritual. Saturday afternoons are not always the time of the match. Not for me. But that doesn’t mean I’ve taken leave. I may be on a train or at a desk, in a pub or perhaps a gallery, but no matter what the main distraction, come 2pm my hand inevitably fumbles for my phone. Who’s starting? But I’ve realised lately I don’t fully ingest what I find – meaning minutes later I have to look once again to check the full line-up. That’s because in truth I’m only scanning the starting XI for one name; that of James Coppinger. Continue reading A tribute to James Coppinger: on 600 Doncaster Rovers appearances
No transfer rumours for us. No detailed analysis of walk-in-the-park pre-season friendlies. Instead we decided to spend the summer getting our teeth into something more meaty. So, in episode nine of the podular STAND podcast we try and pin down The Definitive Doncaster Rovers XI of the 21st Century. Not the Best XI to have represented Rovers since the year 2000, but the players who most encapsulate what Rovers are about, and have been about in those seventeen years. Continue reading The Definitive Doncaster Rovers XI of the 21st Century
Records, they say, are made to be broken: I write this on a weekend when Wayne Rooney has equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s goal tally for Manchester United. Rooney will soon break that record, I’m sure, but in these days of sporting specialisation no-one will match one particular record with a strong Doncaster Rovers connection. I refer to the events of Monday 15 September 1975, when one man became the only one to play in a County Championship cricket match and a Football League fixture on the same day. Continue reading Chris Balderstone, the last great footballing cricketer
It’s quite easy, particularly in the hyperbolic world of modern football, to oversell something, to exagerate it’s standing or importance. However, even with that in mind, it is no exageration to call Jamie Coppinger’s departure from Doncaster on Friday night (hopefully temporarily we must add), the end of an era. Coppinger has been with Rovers since 2004, when they were beginning life in the third tier off the back of consecutive promotions, and has been central to everything the club has achieved since.
Across eight and a bit seasons Coppinger has played at two home grounds, under four managers – Dave Penney, Sean O’Driscoll, Dean Saunders, and briefly Mickey Walker – and in a hell of a lot of different kits, but, we wondered, how many different players has played alongside? So we checked, and the answer, from competitive fixtures alone, is 137 who you will find listed below.
|Mark Albrighton||Quinton Fortune||Ross McCormack||Stephen Roberts|
|Alun Armstrong||Leo Fortune-West||Sean McDaid||Tim Ryan|
|Mamadou Bagayoko||Steve Foster||Phil McGuire||Dino Seremet|
|Habib Bamogo||George Friend||Michael McIndoe||Jason Shackell|
|Giles Barnes||Peter Gilbert||Jermaine McSporran||Billy Sharp|
|James Baxendale||Simon Gillett||Simon Marples||Dean Shiels|
|Kyle Bennett||Herold Goulon||Shelton Martis||Ben Smith|
|Chris Beardsley||Paul Green||Ryan Mason||Dennis Souza|
|Chris Beech||Gordon Greer||Joseph Mills||John Spicer|
|Habib Beye||Anthony Griffith||Matt Mills||Tommy Spurr|
|Robbie Blake||Lewis Guy||David Morley||Brian Stock|
|Alan Blayney||James Harper||Franck Moussa||Theo Streete|
|Gregg Blundell||James Hayter||David Mulligan||Neil Sullivan|
|Steve Brooker||David Healy||Jordan Mutch||David Syers|
|Chris Brown||Paul Heffernan||Richard Naylor||Gareth Taylor|
|Darren Byfield||Sam Hird||Craig Nelthorpe||Wayne Thomas|
|Jan Budtz||Kevin Horlock||James O’Connor||Sean Thornton|
|David Button||Adam Hughes||Richard Offiong||Franny Tierney|
|Danny Cadamateri||James Husband||Sam Oji||Michael Timlin|
|Andy Campbell||Carl Ikeme||John Oster||Ian Turner|
|James Chambers||Herita Ilunga||Jon Parkin||Jos Van Nieuwstadt|
|Pascal Chimbonda||Michael Ingham||Billy Paynter||Liam Wakefield|
|David Cotterill||Guy Ipoua||Freddie Piquionne||Elliott Ward|
|Michelle Di Piedi||Ben Jackson||Jon-Paul Pittman||Andy Warrington|
|El-Hadji Diouf||Simon Johnson||Uros Predic||Byron Webster|
|John Doolan||Rob Jones||Jamie Price||Richie Wellens|
|Mustapha Dumbuya||Stuart Jones||Jason Price||David Wheater|
|Bruce Dyer||Paul Keegan||Nic Priet||Mark Wilson|
|Stuart Elliott||Matt Kilgallon||Paul Quinn||Gary Woods|
|Jay Emmanuel-Thomas||Chris Kirkland||Ricky Ravenhill||Martin Woods|
|Jason Euell||Milan Lalkovic||Barry Richardson||Harry Worley|
|Wade Fairhurst||Graeme Lee||Adriano Rigoglioso||Alan Wright|
|Nick Fenton||Adam Lockwood||Fabian Robert|
|Jonathan Forte||Mark McCammon||Gareth Roberts|
|Marc-Antoine Fortune||Jamie McCombe||Neil Roberts|
The list is certainly an eclectic group of footballing professionals, from twenty seperate nations. It also includes players from very different Rovers eras, from Franny Tierney and ‘Dangerous’ Dave Morley through to Pascal Chimbonda and Habib Beye, plus a few names we had completely forgotten about (take a bow Phil McGuire). In addition to those above there are also several other team-mates whom Coppinger didn’t quite share match time with including the likes of Liam Green, Robbie Clarke, Jon Maloney and Adam Brown. Ultimately it just serves to underline what a servant Coppinger has been to the club, and why all will wish him well during his spell at Nottingham Forest.
James Hayter has gone. Released at the end of the season, he this week joined Yeovil Town amidst generally wistful clattering from Rovers fans; tweets and forum posts wishing him well and commenting on how he’ll always be remembered for THAT goal. Because James Hayter didn’t score a goal at Wembley against Leeds, he scored THAT goal. His place in Rovers’ folklore seemingly defined by randomly deployed capitalisation.
There are some footballers whose spell at one club, or perhaps even their entire career can be defined by a single goal. Roy Essendoh is one. Theo Streete another. Whatever else they have gone on to achieve in the professional – or in Theo’s case semi-professional – game, their respective careers peaked in one unexpected goal, an FA Cup Quarter-Final winner, the last goal at Belle Vue. James Hayter does not belong in this group. And so let us not wedge him ungraciously into the same pigeon-hole, because his five years at Rovers were far from a fleeting moment.
The chief issue I have with folk saying “he’ll always be remembered for THAT goal”, is that his play-off winner is only third on my own list of goals to remember James Hayter by. When it comes to the play-off final, I remember the occasion and the significance before I remember the goal. Indeed, had I not watched it multiple times since then I’d have struggled to describe Hayter’s winner. I knew Stock crossed it, but only because it was a corner and Stock took corners, and I knew Hayter headed it home, but in the euphoria of reaching the second tier I’d have been hard pressed to have offered any greater detail than that. No, instead I remember two other Hayter goals with more fondness and much greater clarity.
I have only ever seen one bicycle kick scored by a Rovers player; James Hayter scored it. At home and struggling to break down the League leaders Leyton Orient in November 2007, Sean O’Driscoll threw on Jason Price at the break and Rovers romped home to a glorious 4-2 victory. Hayter’s goal put Rovers 3-2 ahead; a scramble in the South Stand penalty area saw Paul Green drill a shot goalwards, it bounced back off the Orient ‘keeper and in a split second Hayter managed to react to execute a perfect overhead bicycle-kick to send the ball into the roof of the net. It’s perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing overhead you’ll ever see, and it’s scored from just four yards out, but the speed of reaction to recognise the opportunity and then execute the volley perfectly is genuinely stunning, and perhaps encapsulates Hayter’s opportunism as a forward. Before Billy Sharp arrived he was our opportune fox in the box, with an intelligence to find a half second or half chance, and the strength and composure to turn that into a goal.
I have never seen a braver player than James Hayter in a Rovers shirt. I have seen harder men (Colin Sutherland), I have seen players who displayed significant physicality (Mark Albrighton, Darren Moore), but there have been none braver than Hayter. He will throw his head at absolutely anything; awkward bouncing balls in a penalty area that you’d struggle to get a toe at, become, in the eyes of James Hayter and he alone, heading opportunities.
The standard line amongst our group in the stands should Hayter ever miss the target with his feet is “He should have put his head on it”, and it’s often meant with greater sincerity than we perhaps let on. He is capable of the sort of headers only previously scored in comic strips; thunderous, unstoppable, flying horizontally to meet the ball, Exocets beyond the capability or even the comprehension of us mere mortals. His finest demonstration of this skill came not at Wembley, but at Victoria Park. Rovers broke forward, from the right edge of the area James Coppinger stood up a cross, and Hayter, charging at full-speed somehow made up ten yards during his flight to hurl himself inhumanely at the ball. No care for the looming boot of the Hartlepool centre-half, all that existed in Hayter’s mind was his head, a football and a goal. No other Rovers player in my time watching could have scored that goal.
In five years with Rovers Hayter was rarely the main man, the majority of his 170 appearances coming in the shadows of Paul Heffernan or Billy Sharp, but when given half a chance, be it in the box, or in the team, he rarely failed to deliver. He brought determination, an intensity, and as mentioned, bravery which we would truly have struggled to find in any other Championship striker over the past four years, all assets which helped him become the first Rovers player to pick up the second tier Player of the Month Award in November 2010.
Perhaps now was the right time for Hayter to move on, time for a new challenge, time to be closer to family, and so I join those in wishing James Hayter well for the future. But remember that Yeovil have signed a thirty-three year-old striker rather than a four-year-old goal, and so let us not define five years of commitment and service by a single header, no matter how satisfying or well taken. Hayter may have scored THAT goal, but he gave Rovers much, much more.
The two personal Hayter highlights I’ve picked out above can be found in the video below; his bicycle-kick against Leyton Orient 33 seconds in, and his Roy-of-the-Rovers-esque diving header against Hartlepool after 1min 23 seconds.
After some thorough research the fanzine has discovered that unfortunately Mustapha Dumbuya did not feature for Sierra Leone in the African Cup of Nations 1st round match against Sao Tome & Principe at the weekend. The match, played in Freetown on Saturday, finished 4-2 to Sierra Leone, giving them a 5-4 win on aggregate, but further details on the game had been hard to come by following a media blackout of the match.
Journalists in Freetown had been told by the local government that they would have to pay to enter the stadium and cover the fixture; as such the Leone media duly elected to boycott the fixture meaning that the only information available to the wider world is the timing of the goals. However, thanks to a couple of friendly enquiries, and the wonder of Twitter, we’ve been able to ascertain from someone present at the match that unfortunately Mustapha Dumbuya did not make his long awaited debut for Sierra Leone.
From the bench or the stands Dumbuya will have seen the Islanders of Sao Tome & principe take a surprise lead after just thirty seconds of the game through Jair Nunes. However the Leone Stars hit back with four first half goals in a twenty-three minute spell; Kei Kamura and Ibrahim Bangura both scoring a brace to secure a 5-3 aggregate advantage at the break. Sao Tome pulled another goal back after the break through Jose da Silva Varela to set up a nervy end to the game, not helped when Kamara had a goal ruled out for offside with twenty minutes to go, but eventually Sierra Leone held on to secure a passage to the 2nd round.
Thanks to Steve of Mirko Bolesan for his help.
Hopefully, Dumbuya’s willingness to travel to Freetown and keeness to be involved in the international set-up will see him feature in Sierra Leone’s future internationals.
It looks like fanzine favourite Mustapha Dumbuya will finally achieve his aim of representing his country having been called up to the Sierra Leone squad for the country’s current bout of African Nations’ Cup qualifying games.
Dumbuya was named in the Sierra Leone squad for all three of the nation’s June fixtures – against the Cape Verde Islands, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe – but having fallen ill on return from a recent holiday Dumbuya has unfortunately had to miss the first two fixtures. It was beginning to feel as though things were conspiring to prevent the full-back making an international appearance; back in February Dumbuya received his first call-up to the Leone Stars’ squad, again for a game with Sao Tome and Principe, but unfortunately the Sierra Leone FA mistakenly sent his papers to Crystal Palace where he had recently been on loan and so he was unable to make his flight out to join the squad.
Thankfully though it seems Dumbuya finally will run out for his country in Freetown, as he gets set to join the squad ahead of this Saturday’s return fixture with the brilliantly nicknamed ‘Falcons and True Parrots’. Speaking to the Rovers Offical website Dumbuya said “It feels amazing. To be representing your country makes you feel really proud, I just can’t wait to get out there and play.”
A somewhat surprise bit of early summer transfer news as Sam Hird leaves Rovers for League Two Chesterfield, signing a two-year deal with the Spirites. Doncaster-born Hird has played over 150 games for Rovers since his initial loan spell from Leeds United back in 2007, the vast majority of them in the second tier. Hird got his break in the Rovers side towards the end of the 2007-08 season courtesy of injuries to Gordon Greer, Adam Lockwood and Stephen Roberts and never looked back, keeping captain Lockwood out of the side for the 2008 play-off final.
Capable of playing in defence or in a holding midfield Sam had been nicknamed ‘der Kaiser’ by the fanzine, after an impressive performance at Vicarage Road on the opening day of the 2009-10 season in which he not only marshalled the back-line but pinged passes about for fun. A very capable and talented player, at times last season he looked Rovers best asset and so his decision to drop to the fourth tier is a perplexing one given he clearly has the potential to play much higher.
You can’t fault Hird for seeking a solid future elsewhere, and we of course wish him well, but the move also highlights Rovers’ own incapacity in relation to transfers at present. Unable to offer deals to players they wish to keep unless existing players are purchased and taken elsewhere the club is currently marooned by the side of the transfer road and flashing a bit of leg (or Jamie Coppinger) in the hope that a perspective suitor will come and get us moving again. This could prove to be just the start of interesting summer.
“Senegal and Doncaster Rovers striker El Hadji Diouf lit up the National Sports Stadium yesterday when he performed the famous “Zorai Butter” dance after scoring for the Friends of Benjani…” begins this match report from Benjani Mwaruwari’s testimonial match. An impressive feat at any time for a goal celebration to take the headlines from a game, even more so when you consider the game ended 7-4, and to Diouf’s opponents, Zimbabwe Warriors.
In what must have been some spectacle Benjani Mwawurawi scored for both sides, and the former Portsmouth player’s 7 year-old son (yes, seven), also called Benjani, scored two for the Warriors in the final 13 minutes. But the stand-out facet of this game for me was a goal from my new favourite footballer; take a bow the brilliantly named Knowledge Musona.