They say you should never meet your heroes, but in March this year, editor Glen Wilson was able to do just that for issue 69 of popular STAND, and was far from disappointed. Barry Miller was Rovers’ club captain whilst the side was exiled in non-league just over a decade ago. Still living in Doncaster, he is now back with Rovers once again as the club chaplain, and remains one of the nicest men you will ever meet. Continue reading Miller Time – Barry Miller Interview
Another day, another piece of gold plucked from the pages of popular STAND as we continue our showcase of some of the best content from the fanzine last season. John Coyle has been writing for popular STAND since the very first issue back in 1998; a true font of Rovers knowledge, a gentleman, and, lucky for us (and you), a very engaging writer as well. In issue 68 he looked back at the career at Rovers’ forgotten international, the great Charlie Richards. Continue reading Charles Richards – The Forgotten International
Time for the second part of our look back at the best of popular STAND from 2013-14. Back at the start of the season Rovers took over the running of Doncaster Rugby League Club, or ‘The Dons’ as they’re known in these parts. In issue 69 of the fanzine Kerrang! magazine editor James McMahon put fingers to keyboard for the fanzine to write this touching piece on football, rugby league and family bonds. Continue reading A Thing About Rugby
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 Peat joins the fanzine team to look at social stratification and Doncastrian football fans.
Karl Marx has no place in football. He tried once, replacing Ludwig Wittgenstein in Monty Python’s Philosophers’ Football Match, but did nothing to advance the game. As he retired to the dressing room he decided to write about football stratification in Doncaster instead, and he only went and nailed it. Continue reading Just a Pub Team
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.
In popular STAND this season we serialised Ray Jest‘s detailed account of the 1973-74 season. Unfortunately, due to print deadlines and copy space we omitted to bring you the concluding part, and so to address that issue we now present the feature in full. Sit back, light up a Woodbine and crack open a Party Seven, here is Ray’s account of Rovers’ 1973-74 season.
The end of the 1972-73 season had seen the dismantling of the Rovers Junior team and a sad farewell to Malcolm Cook who had been at the club less than 18 months. The beginning of the 1973-74 season was no less controversial with the departure of the Rovers Chairman following what must have been one of the shortest AGM’s in club history. The actual AGM lasted just 7 minutes after which time the press were excluded. After the press had left the meeting a Rovers shareholder read out a prepared statement calling for the resignation of Mr. Ben Bailey (Chairman) and the removal from the board of Mr. Hubert Bates. Mr. Bailey told the meeting that due note would be taken of the shareholders comments.
In an interview with the Doncaster Evenings Post’s Joe Slater, Mr. Bailey said that his decision to resign in no way followed the shareholders statement and that he had been thinking of resigning for some time now that he was living in Scarborough. Mr. Bailey had joined the Rovers board in 1965 and had taken over as Chairman from Mr. F J Wilson in 1970 following three years as Vice Chairman. His resignation shocked the Board of Directors and was totally unexpected.
On footballing matters Rovers were hoping to sign Peter Woods from Southend United for a fee estimated to be around £8,000. Also on the radar were Peter Higgins a left winger with Bristol Rovers, and Keith Pritchard from Wolverhampton Wanderers who had been released on a free transfer, whilst Rovers had been asked to name their price by a third division club for Archie Irvine who had still not reached an agreement over a new contract.
A major signing who would figure significantly in the coming seasons was Brendan O’Callaghan with Mr. Setters beating off competition from Leeds United, Rotherham and Bradford City to gain his signature. On the downside Rovers transferred Ian Branfoot to Lincoln City for £8,000. A fan favourite, Branfoot had been in dispute over his contract and negotiations had reached an impasse.
Ray Ternent was a player coming in and had visited the ground with his wife although there were also two second division clubs vying for his signature. He eventually signed for Rovers for a fee of £8,000. Both Peter Wood and Peter Higgins had signed up along with Brendan O’Callaghan and another new boy Alan Murray. One of the former youth team players had also signed a professional contract, his name Terry Curran.
Rovers had given free transfers to Glen Johnson, Brian Joy, Brian Usher, Stephen Briggs, Chris Rabjohn and Harold Wilcockson. For reference, Johnson had joined Aldershot, Joy had joined Exeter City, Usher and Briggs had gone to Southern League club Yeovil and Northampton were talking to Rabjohn.
Rovers’ pre season friendlies would again feature both Leeds United and Stoke City. For some reason the Stoke City game was played behind ‘closed doors’ and resulted in a 4-1 defeat. The Stoke team featured Jimmy Greenough and Geoff Hurst amongst other names although Gordon Banks whose future was in some doubt was only a spectator at the game. Rovers’ goal was scored by new midfield man Alan Murray.
Next it was the turn of Yorkshire Leagues Hatfield Main to face up to Rovers, and Rovers duly ran out 3-1 winners. In their next game Rovers faced the Midlands League side Sutton Town and although they won 1-0 they did little to impress and were out maneuvered on many occasions during the match. A headed goal from a free kick scored by Uzelac eventually saved Rovers blushes.
The match did nothing to deter 9,067 spectators from turning out to watch Rovers take on Leeds United and what a difference in performances. Although they lost 2-0, Rovers received high praise from the Leeds manager Don Revie. Goals from Mick Jones and Trevor Cherry sealed the win for Leeds. After the game Mr. Setters said “We were playing against some of the best players in the world and I think we did extremely well”.
Mike Sinclair writing in the local paper highlighted some of the players who he thought would make the difference this season for the Rovers, pinpointing in particular Brendan O’Callaghan, Alan Murray, Terry Curran and Ray Ternent. In the same article Mr. Setters when asked about the changes to the playing staff said “several of the players had been here for some time and I felt a change would be good for the club”.
In a further interview with Michael Morgan from the Express headlined ‘Things are growing better for Setters’ the manager stated that the Rovers, job was “looked upon as a graveyard for managers but I couldn’t see it, the club had come in for a lot of criticism and a lot of it they had brought upon themselves”.
He went on to say “I told [the board] that I knew I was the 13th manager in 13 years but that I wasn’t superstitious – only ambitious. I knew when I arrived it would take two years to organise the club, we were just a football club then, now we are a professional football club. We’ve got one of the best set ups in the Fourth division, and it’s better than some in the 3rd division and 2nd division as well”.
“The public are just waiting to support a successful club, the trouble at the moment is they have been let down badly in the past by promises that were not fulfilled. I need patience and time from the fans; it could still be 5 years before Doncaster are successful. That’s why I am making no promises – promises I may not be able to keep”.
The interview was prophetic in as much as Mr. Setters never did deliver success on a large scale. In a season that again saw Rovers flirt with the dreaded Re-election zone they would very rarely be out of the bottom four or five clubs, always watching over their shoulders for other teams results.
The season got off to a mediocre start when Stockport County visited Belle Vue for the first league game of the campaign. The match resulted in a 1-1 draw; Rovers taking the lead after 25 minutes through Peter Higgins. The only noticeable thing from then on until Stockport equalised in the 80th minute was a half time bomb scare, although it only seemed to have an explosive effect on the visitors. One positive from the result was that at least Rovers were up and running in the points, unlike the previous seasons disastrous start.
In the League Cup Rovers were drawn away to 2nd Division Notts County and it looked a book maker’s dream home win. It didn’t turn out that way though as Rovers shocked their illustrious neighbours with an attacking style of play that had County back peddling for long periods of the first half. County, striving to get back on terms after Kitchen’s shock 7th minute strike, stretched Book in the Rovers goal on several occasions but the Rovers defence held out.
At half time Rovers led 1-0 and within 2 minutes of the re-start they were 2-0 up with a goal from Elwiss. County finally broke through in the 54th minute to reduce the arrears but 8 minutes later Kitchen popped up to re-gain Rovers’ two goal lead. County again scored just one minute later and then when they equalised on 76 minutes it looked all on a win for the 2nd Division side, but in the 90th minute Kitchen scored Rovers’ 4th goal and his 3rd to secure the win for his team. Peter Kitchen had his hat trick and it was English football’s first of the season. A fantastic cup tie had seen Rovers at their best, if they could carry this form into the league they would surely be a force to be reckoned with.
After the game Mr. Setters said “Rovers biggest fight was with themselves and was connected to self confidence. I’ve been telling them now for weeks that they are too good for the fourth division. My big problem now is motivating them for our league game at Bradford this weekend”.
A shock also came in the shape of Gateshead and a request for the League Secretary Russell Louden to cancel all future fixtures for the club until further notice. Financial difficulties had forced the club to release all their players. Exactly 43 years ago Gateshead had played their first Football League game against Doncaster. They lost 2-1 but a crowd of 17,000 had attended the game.
On the Saturday following their great Cup win over Notts County Rovers travelled to Valley Parade to play Yorkshire neighbours Bradford City. Brendan O’Callaghan made his league debut for the Rovers and proved a handful for the City defence. Peter Higgins put Rovers in front on 37 minutes. The only other thing of note concerning Rovers in this half was a penalty save by Book from City forward Ingham. After defending well for almost all the second half, and just as it looked as if Rovers would hold out for the win City equalised in the 83rd minute. It ended 1-1 and Rovers found themselves in an unusual mid table position, with 2 points from 2 games.
3,313 fans turned up for the next game at Belle Vue against Torquay United, and, as always seems to happen, a decent crowd saw Rovers capitulate by a single goal, scored after 27 mins. To say it was an unimpressive display would only just about touch the edges.
Brighter news came as 17 year old Rovers Apprentices Robert McLuckie and Stephen Reed were both picked for training at Lilleshall with the England Youth Team. “Obviously this is a good thing for the club and gives the players a boost too,” said Manager Maurice Setters.
Rovers were at Belle Vue again for their next League game this time against the “Old Enemy” Barnsley. In a controversial game two players were sent off, Archie Irvine for Rovers and Kenny Brown for Barnsley, after squaring up to each other in the 77th minute. It is not certain whether any blows were exchanged but it was sufficient enough a confrontation for the Referee to send both for the obligatory “Early Bath”. Doncaster won the game 1-0, thanks to a goal scored in the 80th minute by Brendan O’Callaghan, his first league for the club. The win meant Rovers now sat in 11th place in the table and their fans made much of the fact that defeat ensured Barnsley were rock bottom.
On the injury front John Haselden, who had taken a knock in the pre-season game against Stoke City pulled up in a reserve game at York with a recurrence of the same injury, wiping out any lasting hopes of a quick return to the first team.
Back to the action, and if you were a football fan wanting goals at the start of this season then Rovers had to be the team to watch. Over the next five games involving the club there were no less than 25 goals, unfortunately not all to Doncaster’s benefit. First was a trip to Griffin Park, the home of Brentford, from which Rovers came home on the back of a 2-0 defeat. Another away trip followed, this time to London Road and Peterborough United. Again it brought defeat but this time a heavy one; 5-1 the reply coming from Alan Murray with a penalty 3 minutes from time.
Returning home to Belle Vue, Rovers next opponents were Workington Town. This time it was Doncaster scoring five goals, but only after Workington had taken a shock lead. Kitchen had equalised for Rovers on 29 minutes only for Workington to go in front again just one minute later. Just before the interval Kitchen scored his second and in the second half O’Callaghan with a brace and a fifth from Higgins secured a Rovers win.
Following that victory Rovers travelled to Gillingham and the Priestfield Stadium on a high. It turned out to be a disaster as Rovers were once again on the end of a 5-1 routing. Rovers only goal was scored by Kitchen in the 53rd minute and at 2-1 down hopes of a revival were high, but they fell apart under countless attacks and succumbed to the better team. At Belle Vue though it appeared that Rovers were establishing their home ground as something of a fortress, and they gained some revenge on Peterborough United in a 3-1 win. Goals from Elwiss, Kitchen and Ternent sealing the victory. The game also featured a rare booking for a manager; Maurice Setters cautioned in the 17th minute for something he said to the linesman.
Reading were Rovers next visitors and would prove a stern test for Setters’ men. Riding high in 2nd position Reading were having a good season and were proving to be one of the form sides. However, Doncaster matched their opponents stride for stride and were unlucky on several occasions not to go in front. Death the Reading keeper was by far the busiest man on the field pulling of saves from Kitchen and Murray. And right at the end of the game Death pulled of a save from Murray that had goal written all over it but he managed to tip it around the post. So it ended goalless, Rovers worthy of the point that lifted them into 15th and kept Reading in 2nd spot behind only Bury on goal average.
In the League Cup, following their impressive victory over Notts County Rovers were set to face another set of Magpies in the next round, as they were drawn away to Newcastle United. Malcolm McDonald, Bobby Moncur, Terry McDermott and all. It was a mouthwatering tie and Rovers travelled up to St James Park full of optimism and hope.
Unfortunately the game was over before half time, two defensive mistakes in the 33rd and 37th minutes allowed McDonald to score twice. Strikers of that quality need no second invitation to score goals and he duly claimed his hat trick in the 73rd minute. Two more goals from Keith Robson and one from Clark put seal to a disappointing evening for Rovers. But give credit also where it is due, even at 4, 5 and 6 goals down Rovers still tried to take the game to Newcastle. And the one bonus from the game was that Rovers share of the gate netted them £7,247 pounds.
There wasn’t to be much cheer on the return to League action though as Doncaster were beaten 3-0 at Chester in a dismal display that’s best forgotten. The next three games wouldn’t get much better as Rovers gained just one point. In front of just 1,676 faithful fans they drew 2-2 with Hartlepool United at Belle Vue. The game saw the return to the Rovers side of former Welsh international Graham Moore after injury. Peter Kitchen had put Rovers in front after 37 minutes, and Steve Uzelac had given Rovers the lead for the second time on 56 minutes after Hartlepool had equalised just two minute after Kitchen’s goal.
The next game saw Rovers travel to Oakwell to face Barnsley. The first half ended 0-0 with Rovers running rings around their South Yorkshire neighbours, but being unable to turn their superiority into goals. However, the second half saw Barnsley dominate affairs and unlike Rovers, they made the most of their chances when they occurred. The game finished 2-0 to Barnsley and Rovers had dropped to 19th in the division.
Rovers now travelled up to Feethams for a game against Darlington and once again Rovers dominated play but lacked the “Killer touch” in front of goal. At the end the game was decided on a 53rd minute penalty and Rovers run of unimpressive results continued.
A trip to Somerton Park the home of Newport County followed, but this time it was the Welshmen who came out on top. The game that exploded from the start with County scoring in the second minute, then fizzed out until the 43rd minute when Newport scored a second goal, only for Steve Uzelac to pull a goal back in the 44th minute and the Newport to score again in the 45th minute. 3-1 was how it finished.
19th in the division and in the opinion of many fans the season was going no different than the two which had preceded it. That said, a slight upturn in fortunes saw Rovers take 3 out of the next 4 points. A 1-1 draw at Belle Vue against Bury with O’Callaghan giving Rovers a 52nd minute lead only for Bury to equalise in the 70th minute was followed by a 2-1 victory over Exeter City at their St James Park ground. Rover’s goals coming from Murray and O’Callaghan turning round Exeter’s14th minute lead. Still it was not an easy game and Rovers had to survive a 59th minute penalty which gratefully Wallace of Exeter blasted against the crossbar.
In the FA Cup Rovers were paired with Lincoln City at Belle Vue and ran out 1-0 winners thanks to an Alan Murray penalty to set up a 2nd round tie with Tranmere. Before Rovers hosted Tranmere in the FA Cup there was a little matter of a League game at Crewe Alexandra. At half time at Gresty Road, with the score a respectable 0-0, it looked as if Rovers might get away with at least a point. But in the second half Doncaster pressed the self destruct button and collapsed. Two own goals from Wignall and Brooke, along with a 47th minute penalty were just part of the reason that Rovers travelled back to South Yorkshire on the wrong end of a 4-0 hiding.
2,444 faithful fans turned up the following week to watch the 2nd round Cup tie with Tranmere Rovers and most left well satisfied with a 3-0 victory. Goals from Kitchen on 13 minutes, and Woods after 17 minutes put Rovers in control and a goal from O’Callaghan five minutes from time sealed the victory. The third round draw with all the First Division clubs now in the hat was eagerly awaited and Rovers and their fans were not to be disappointed. The club were drawn away to face the mighty Liverpool in a repeat of the 1969 tie which Liverpool had won 2-0.
It was back to the League now though for Rovers and many could be forgiven if they thought that the Liverpool game was on the minds of many of the players as just one point was earned from the next four games. A 2-1 defeat to Gillingham at Belle Vue with Kitchen scoring on the stroke of half time to pull Rovers back into the game was followed by successive away defeats. In a local derby at Scunthorpe’s Old Showground Doncaster were beaten by 2-1 even though Kitchen gave them a 4th minute lead. And then, at Plainmoor the home of Torquay United they capitulated by 3-0.The only bright spot was a game against Bradford City at Belle Vue where Rovers took a point in a 2-2 draw. Goals from Murray and Elwiss securing the point although it should really have been two as Murray missed a second half penalty.
The run of results meant that Rovers were rock bottom of the Football League, with 91 places separating them from their next opponents Liverpool in the FA Cup 3rd round. Newspapers of course make headlines from the slightest things, and the fact that Kevin Keegan was a “Donny” lad did not miss their radar. There were interviews and features aplenty, from the time he stood on the terraces at Belle Vue and watched Rovers, to the fact that he was “overlooked” by Rovers and had to start his career at Scunthorpe.
Keegan’s first hero in football at the age of ten had been Willie Nimmo a Rovers stalwart between the posts. Then later at the age of twelve the great man Alick Jeffrey had taken centre stage in Keegan’s eyes. The Liverpool player’s one regret in life was that he had never played on the Belle Vue pitch, and his interview with the papers was done at Belle Vue with barbed wire along the top of the walls surrounding the ground. A picture of Keegan outside Bell Vue was titled “Kevin Keegan and his favourite old haunt “Donny”.
Keegan’s was not the only interview however, although a slightly lesser known player also got his 15 minutes of fame. That player was Steve Wignall, Liverpool born and bred. A centre back who as a youth player had been on Liverpool’s books, whose dad was a life time Liverpool fan and whose “digs” in Doncaster were opposite the house in Waverley Avenue where Keegan and his family once lived. It would be Wignall’s job to mark Keegan in the match.
At 3 o’clock when the game kicked off there was no indication of what a great game it would be, in fact when Liverpool scored after four minutes Rovers fans could have been forgiven for thinking the worst. It was inevitably that man Keegan who got the goal from a cross by Ian Callaghan, a great header to beat Kim Book.
Instead the Rovers rolled up their purple shirt sleeves and gave Liverpool the fright of their lives. Before Liverpool had scored Mike Elwiss had a great chance to put Rovers one up and fluffed his shot. But two minutes later Peter Kitchen stabbed a weak shot towards Liverpool’s goal and inexplicably it seemed that Ray Clemence let the ball slide under his body for Rovers equaliser.
The game was only six minutes old and the score was already 1-1. From then on the game ebbed and flowed, both teams playing good passing football and Rovers belying their league position. Then in the 19th minute came something that silenced the Anfield crowd, but not the Rovers following. Brendan O’Callaghan gave Rovers the lead with a superb goal, and suddenly dreams began to come true and Rovers went at their illustrious opponents ready for the kill. Kitchen left in the clear scooped his shot over the bar.
Half time arrived with the score at 2-1 to the Rovers and how many fans wished they could be a fly on the wall of the Liverpool dressing room. Rovers had matched them pass for pass in a fantastic first half. It was going to take a goal of great quality to get Liverpool back into this game and it was that man Keegan again, from a Callaghan cross again, that scored another great header to bring it back to 2-2.
From here you would expect that the First Division side would run out easy winners but, it was not to be. Those fans who where there will never forget the dying minutes as Kitchen controlled the ball lobbed over Clemence and hit the bar only for Alex Lindsay to clear the bouncing ball of the line. Rovers travelled home to South Yorkshire with the whole of the football world singing their praises.
The replay at Belle Vue the following Tuesday kicked off in the afternoon due to the Miners strike at the Electricity cuts. It is an old adage in football that against the top teams you get one chance, and Rovers had had theirs on the Saturday. Although Rovers tried, they fought and chased every ball, but in the end class told. Goals from Heighway after 15 minutes and Cormack after 61 minutes won the game for Liverpool. But it was not for want of trying that Rovers were defeated, their efforts in front of 22,499 fans were to be commended and even as Liverpool were 2-0 up Rovers seemed to redouble their efforts. They ran themselves into the ground for the cause but the luck was not with them, even when Elwiss thought he had gained some reward for Rovers efforts by stabbing the ball into the net, his joy was curtailed by the linesman’s flag for offside.
Bill Shankly the Liverpool manager said “Now we can go on and win the cup. We had this kind of experience against Stockport in 1965 and went on to beat Leeds at Wembley.” Still, Kevin Keegan got his wish “to play on the hallowed turf of Belle Vue”.
Despite the euphoria of their cup exploits Rovers were still struggling at the bottom of the fourth division and a return to League football with a home game against Brentford did nothing to alleviate their position as the Londoners went home with a 2-1 victory. Rovers were now at the foot of the table, 5 points behind the fifth bottom club, although with a game in hand, and things did not look good.
A trip to Edgley Park gained Rovers a point in a drab, dull 0-0 draw with Stockport County. Back at Belle Vue Rovers then gained two well earned points in a 2-0 win over Colchester; goals from Ternent after 58 minutes and Kitchen after 62 minutes securing the win, although Rovers remained rooted to the foot of the table.
Rovers’ next game again at Belle Vue was a South Yorkshire derby againt Rotherham United. The attendance of 5,957 was swelled by the presence of one man, a certain Mr. Bill Shankly who was there to run the rule over Rovers player Mike Elwiss. As it turned out Rotherham won the game 2-1. Mr. Shankly who had left the ground with 15 minutes to go missed the only bit of magic from Elwiss. With just two minutes to go Elwiss on the right of the penalty area controlled the ball turned on a sixpence and hit a rising drive towards goal from 12 yards. It looked a goal all the way but Rotherham keeper Jim McDonagh sprang from nowhere to palm the ball over the bar. The next morning’s headlines pronounced that there would be a bid from Anfield for Elwiss. It was never forthcoming.
Rovers now were perilously close to the infamy of finishing at the bottom of the league for the first time in their history and three further defeats in succession did nothing to help. Another home defeat, this time 2-1 to Chester City, was followed by a 3-1 loss at Workington Town’s Borough Park then a dismal 5-0 at Readings Elm Park. With 30 games gone Rovers were rock bottom, 5 points adrift of the next club Stockport County, but with two or three games in hand of the next five teams. That gap would be closed in the next game, another home derby, this time against Scunthorpe as Rovers beat the Iron with a penalty from Murray. It was another sub standard performance but it was enough to earn the victory and bring Rovers within three points of their fellow strugglers.
As Rovers fans waited for news of a bid from Liverpool for Elwiss it took everyone by surprise when Preston North End had stepped in to take the forward to Deepdale for a fee of £70,000. Bobby Charlton, then Preston’s manager, stated “I have admired Elwiss for some time now; I saw a lot of football even when I was playing and this is one lad who really impressed me” Elwiss moved from one relegation battle to another with Preston struggling against relegation from Division two; a battle they ultimately failed to win.
So Rovers would have to continue their fight without the services of one of their best players. A point against Darlington at Belle Vue in a 0-0 draw was followed by a 3-0 loss at Hartlepool United. However, Doncaster were to give their fans something to cheer as they now went on a four match unbeaten run, starting with a satisfying local derby win over Rotherham at Millmoor; goals from Higgins and Murray sealing a 2-1 win. The victory though was offset by the sending off of Steve Wignall after 57 minutes. It was a bad tempered match as some derby games turn out to be and referee Mr. Kevin McNally booked 5 players besides sending Wignall for an early bath.
Back at Belle Vue Rovers saw of Newport County by 2-0 with goals from Higgins and Curran, before two goalless draws followed. At home to Mansfield Town Rovers ran the show but could not find the finish to win the game, and then another 0-0 away at Swansea City moved Rovers above Workington at the foot if the table. It was to be a short-lived rise as the following week a 3-0 reversal at Colchester United’s Layer Road saw Rovers bottom again.
A 1-0 win over Exeter City through an Archie Irvine penalty moved Rovers up level with Stockport County on points, but they remained behind them on goal difference, especially after a 3-1 Good Friday defeat at Bury’s Gigg Lane.
Doncaster then had to face Lincoln City twice in two days. In the first game at Sincil Bank it looked as if Rovers were going to get well and truly beaten. Lincoln scored one goal and hit the bar twice in the first 4 minutes, and although Rovers equalized through O’Callaghan in the ninth minute, after just 13 minutes Rovers were 3-1 down. For once Rovers enthusiasm would pay dividends; their never say die endeavors’ harried Lincoln into mistakes and after former Rovers player Ian Branfoot had handled in the penalty area, Kitchen tucked away the penalty to reduce the deficit. Then with just two minutes to go Lincoln failed to clear their lines and Higgins shot through a crowded penalty area to give Rovers a share of the spoils.
The following day at Belle Vue with Rovers desperate to build on the come-back at Sincil Bank they came out all guns blazing and goals from Woods and O’Callaghan sent the 2,385 attending supporters home with a nice Easter present. The win lifted Rovers to the dizzy heights of 21st in the table and hopes were high that they could now draw clear of the ee-election zone.
Unfortunately it was not to be, the euphoria of the 2-0 home win against Lincoln was cast sadly aside as Rovers succumbed 2-0 at Belle Vue to Crewe Alexandra, a defeat which dropped Rovers one place down the table, beneath Crewe. Next in town were Northampton, fifth in the table and still chasing promotion, though on the evidence of this game at Bellle Vue it would have been hard to pick which team was at the top or bottom of the league. Rovers matched their opponents all over the pitch and goals from O’Callaghan and Curran gave them a much needed win lifting them to 21st place, just one point behind Darlington on 37 points.
Four days later Rovers travelled to the County Ground for the return match, alas they could not repeat the result or the performance and were beaten 3-1 by the Cobbblers; Rovers’ goal coming from Brookes. The final game of the season saw Rovers travel to Field Mill and again fall to defeat, beaten 2-0 by The Stags to end the season on a low note and leave Rovers in 22nd place and at the mercy of re-election.
Although re-election almost always saw the league clubs re-elected to the League it was still a worrying time, with there being no automatic promotion from non-league, dropping from Division Four often spelt the end for many teams. This season though Rovers would be spared – as too were the two teams below them, Workington and Stockport County – and could fight another day, but it would be almost three quarters though the next season before Rovers fans had anything like a smile back on their faces.
But that is for another season and another day.
On Wednesday Rovers travel to face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in the League Cup 3rd round. Twelve years ago, Rovers came within a minute of knocking Arsene Wenger’s side out of the same competition at the quarter final stage. In issue 52 of the fanzine, produced in April 2011, editor Glen Wilson looked back on that game and wondered… what if?
A cold December night at Belle Vue. A League Cup Quarter Final between Doncaster Rovers and Arsenal. Arsene Wenger’s cosmopolitan collective are up against it, a world away from the marble halls of Highbury they’re having a torrid night, and haven’t fancied it much since Robin van Persie tried to control a ball on the edge of the box and was hit with all the force of a Welsh mountain, or as we know him, Stephen Roberts. Now, as the match enters injury-time at the end of extra-time, they find themselves 2-1 down to the northern lower-league upstarts after Philippe Senderos’ disastrous (yet hilarious) deliberation on the goal-line allowed Paul Green to put Rovers ahead for a second time. They need a goal, and yet the ball is all the way over in the far corner of the field at Paul Heffernan’s feet. What hope have they got?
What Happened Next
Instead of falling in a crumpled heap over the ball, or toe-punting it over the Rossington End fence into ASDA, Heffernan tries to play clever and knock the ball off the nearest defender for a corner. Unfortunately, he misses his target. The ball rolls to another member of the Gunners’ back-line and Arsenal are soon on the break in front of a Main Stand packed with Doncastrians desperately checking the position of the big hand. Emmanuel Eboué exchanges passes on half-way before escaping down the wing. Approaching the area Eboué puts in a low cross which bounces agonisingly behind the reach of Roberts’ trailing leg and reaches Gilberto Silva. Leaning back, the World Cup winner manages to hook the ball past Jan Budtz and into the bottom corner to level the scores. The final whistle sounds just moments afterwards and, with Rovers clearly deflated, the Gunners win the resulting penalty shoot-out 3-1.
Arsenal go on to lose in the League Cup semi-finals to Wigan, but still end their season on something of a high by reaching the Champions League final. Despite taking the lead against Barcelona in Paris, they lose 2-1. But their place at European football’s top table is secure for another year as they pip rivals Tottenham to fourth place on the final day of the Premier League season.
Rovers meanwhile go back to reality with a bump, beaten 4-0 by Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day in their next League One outing, followed by a bruising 1-0 defeat at Millmoor on New Year’s Eve. Mercifully some sense of form is regained and Doncaster rally to finish in eighth place, though despite presiding over two promotions and the League Cup run which saw Rovers defeat Manchester City and Aston Villa before taking Arsenal close, Dave Penney’s reign as manager lasts less than a month into the new season.
But it might not have been that way…
What if Heffernan had just booted the ball into Asda Car Park?
With Rovers leading 2-1 and injury time fast approaching in the Carling Cup Quarter Final, Nick Fenton intercepts a throw-in and pokes the ball towards Paul Heffernan who duly dribbles it toward the corner flag. With the Pop Stand urging him to waste valuable time by hoofing the ball into the car-park of the adjacent supermarket he does just that, flicking it up neatly before volleying it high over the Rossington End fence. Eventually a replacement ball reaches Manuel Almunia, but his goal-kick is nodded back upfield by a towering Stephen Roberts header, and with the ball back in Almunia’s area Phil Dowd blows for full-time.
Belle Vue erupts, for the first time in their history Rovers have reached a Cup semi-final, and a joyous pitch invasion ensues with winning goalscorer Paul Green carried shoulder high from the field. In a bizarre post-match interview Arsene Wenger claims not to have seen any of the match at all, insisting he’ll not accept the result until he has watched the whole game back later. Dave Penney is also yet to give comment, but that’s because he’s still jumping up and down in the technical area with a look of disbelief permanently etched across his face. In his absence Chairman John Ryan handles the press, and media, and goes on to do so right through Christmas… and January… and the Spring.
And so to the semi-final and a two legged tie with Premier League newcomers Wigan Athletic. Over 6,000 Rovers fans make the trip to the JJB Stadium, and the club’s support is swelled even further by glory-hunting locals who, on their first trip to the stadium for a match that isn’t Rugby League, presume the people in red and white hoops to be the players and fans of Wigan. The unrest in amongst the home support extends onto the team and incredibly Rovers take the lead as former Latic, Neil Roberts scrambles in a goal from a set-piece. Wigan equalise through Paul Scharner with quarter of an hour still to play, but Rovers, thanks largely to heroics from goalkeeper Jan Budtz – who at one point saves a point blank effort from Jason Roberts with his oversized quiff – hold on to end the first leg with a 1-1 draw.
For the return match Belle Vue is a sell out and, despite the presence of television cameras, Rovers fans can be spotted, as they were for the Division Three promotion game, in the nearby trees, on the roof of ASDA, and on ladders borrowed from the houses of Belle Vue and leant against the fence behind the Pop Side. The guttural roar from the terraces is deafening, the match is tense and fraught, and ultimately settled by one goal scored in the final minute. Michael McIndoe getting to the left byline, whips in a cross which flashes across the six-yard box and cannons into the roof of the net off the arse of Leo Fortune-West, the forward having bent down to tie his shoelace. Belle Vue erupts, another pitch invasion and another victory, Rovers are in the Carling Cup Final.
For a month Cup Final fever grips the town. The ASDA adjacent to Belle Vue unveils a bronze football statue, cited in the exact place in their car-park which Heffernan’s hoofed clearance against Arsenal landed. Sadly though the supermarket is forced to remove the monument within a week after it trips half a dozen unaware Doncastrian pensioners, and a further twenty-three adult males suffer broken toes having been unable to resist the urge to try and boot the ball across the tarmac.
Sean Thornton seizes the opportunity to resurrect his rapping career, launching Doncaster Rovers’ Cup Final single, a reworking of a Sir Mixalot classic, I Like Jan Budtz and I Cannot Lie in honour of the keeper’s heroics at the JJB Stadium and in the earlier penalty shoot-out against Manchester City. The record goes platinum, but even manufacturing it with novelty metals can’t help shift that many of them and it peaks at 67 in the charts. Rovers’ progress to the final is not completely without disappointment though as the added exposure of the cup run sees McIndoe leave the club for Premier League Portsmouth in the January transfer window.
Come the day of the final and over 30,000 Rovers fans (well, 15,000 fans and 15,000 hangers on) travel to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, but it is a disastrous day for the team as Manchester United cruise to a 7-0 victory with Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney each grabbing a hat-trick; Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the other. The only bright point for Rovers fans comes late in the game when Fortune-West, on as a substitute inadvertently wipes out the preening Ronaldo whilst appealing for a throw-in.
After their big day Doncaster return to the comparatively humdrum world of League One where, with minds distracted by the Cup dates and lacking the pace and skill of McIndoe on the left, their form has slipped to leave them looking nervously over their shoulders at relegation. However, the team rallies in the coming months to finish 15th. In the summer Dave Penney moves north to replace new England manager Steve McLaren at Middlesbrough and takes Paul Green with him to the Riverside. Keen to capitalise on the extra fans which followed the club’s Carling Cup progress John Ryan goes after a big name manager to succeed Penney and brings Doncaster-born Kevin Keegan to the club.
Keegan makes a couple of big name signings, bringing in both Billy Sharp and Andy Keogh from neighbours Scunthorpe and Rovers look to be on course for promotion. However, the club loses its grip on second place in the closing weeks of the season and after a defeat at Yeovil in the penultimate match Keegan goes into a bizarre rant about Bristol City manager Gary Johnson on Radio Sheffield claiming that “they’ve still got to go to play Rotherham and get something, and I tell you what I would love it, love it if we beat them.” City do get something against Rotherham… promotion and Rovers crash out in the play-off semi-finals to Blackpool.
As for Arsenal, the humiliating reports of their Cup exit to Doncaster go global and they subsequently fail to capture the signing of Emanuel Adebayor, who instead signs for fourth place Tottenham. Without the presence of the Togolese forward Arsenal can only finish the season in fifth place and to add insult to injury Tottenham secure the fourth Champions League spot thanks to the goals of Adebayor. Such a disappointing end to the Gunners’ final season at Highbury means the pressure is on Arsene Wenger going into the following season. When, in 2006-07, Arsenal fail to reach the UEFA Cup knock-out stages after defeats away to Besiktas and Bayer Leverkusen the writing is on the wall for the under pressure manager, and Wenger is duly sacked in December… a year to the day after that defeat at Belle Vue.
Earlier this week we were admonished on twitter by fanzine reader and Yeovil fan Seb White who was none too impressed with a reference in Issue 60 to the “hot air boasts” of Glovers manager Gary Johnson. There is, we replied, much more where that comes from; most notably a whole double page feature penned by our now editor of popular STAND from back in February 2004. So here is that very article, which initially appeared in issue 25 of the fanzine, where Glen Wilson celebrates Great Things Gary Johnson Has Done.
Great Things Gary Johnson Has Done
Back in mid-January The Observer carried an article about the current lack of English managers in football. Accompanying this piece was a table of ‘the highest rated English managers outside the top flight’, and amongst the eighteen names listed was that of Gary Johnson. Here is a man who has attracted a lot of attention recently, firstly for Yeovil’s promotion and secondly, as anyone who watched the BBC’s coverage of Yeovil versus Liverpool in the FA Cup 3rd round would have noticed, for Latvia’s qualification for Euro 2004.
Apparently, the current Yeovil boss got the Latvians to stop playing their ‘traditional Soviet way’ and instead encouraged them to play ‘the Gary Johnson way’ thus completely changing the fortunes of the Baltic nation. But just how much of an impact did Johnson make on Latvia? Well, I thought I’d check.
When Johnson took over in the summer of 1999 Latvia were sitting in third place in their Euro 2000 qualifying group. Johnson’s arrival had an instant effect… they finished fourth. However, Johnson would show his true worth when he took control of Latvia’s 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign from the start. Before returning to England in April 2001 the Londoner had guided Latvia to a fantastic fourth place in group 6, with four points earned through an away win and a home draw against noted football superpower San Marino.
A fantastic and successful two years, but obviously its harsh to judge Johnson’s reign solely on Latvia’s qualification record. Instead the best measure of his success surely comes through FIFA’s World rankings. Johnson it seemed helped to propel Latvia a whopping 39 places in FIFA’s pecking order as he expertly steered them from 55th, to 94th. The facts speak for themselves. What a man. How anyone can fail to give Gary Johnson full credit for Latvia’s qualification for Euro 2004 two years after he had left is beyond me. Always in awe of true genius at popular STAND we felt we should pay tribute to Johnson’s other achievements.
Winning the Eurovision Song Contest
Johnson’s influence on the rise of all things Latvian had already come to prominence in 2002, when he single-handedly took the Baltic nation to Eurovision glory. “Well when I got involved they weren’t having much luck, they had some talented individuals like, but y’know they were still trying to sing songs the Soviet way,” Johnson told the press. “However I had a look at things and I’d seen this girl Marija Naumova singing in a Gershwin tribute thing so I brought her in on a free and then got them to approach Eurovision the Gary Johnson Way and obviously its paid off”. Johnson claims to have also implemented the name change that saw Naumova compete in the contest as Marija N. “It were just a bit more catchy y’know and that’s the Gary Johnson Way,” said the Londoner who is also believed to have written Marija N’s song ‘I Wanna’. “It’s a great result for this country,” commented Johnson at the time, “and I’m glad to have been involved.”
Finding Saddam Hussein
Having abandoned their search for seemingly mythical Weapons of Mass Destruction (or ‘Colin Sutherland’s as we know them), the Allied forces in Iraq had instead resorted to playing a nine month long game of Hide and Seek with former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. With time fast approaching Saddam’s turn to count and still no sign of the dictator things were looking bleak for the British and American governments, that is, until Gary Johnson took control. “They’d been looking around for months with no luck, but they were still trying to do things the Army way. So I went in there, got the lads together, shook things up a bit and we started doing things the Gary Johnson way, or Operation Red Dawn as we called it,” Johnson told reporters. “Anyway, they took my new approach on board like and within a couple of days he’d turned up in a hole in the ground beneath a farm-house ten miles south of Tikrit. I was getting messages throughout the search about how things were going like, so it’s obviously a great result for the boys to be fair.”
Inventing the Internet
In the mid 1990s civilization took one giant leap forward as the world-wide web finally took off; the result of many decades of research, the Internet took communication to a new level. Many prominent figures tried to take credit for its invention, notably American politician Al Gore, however the man at the forefront of a technological revolution was none other than Yeovil manager Gary Johnson. “They’d spent decades on research towards the internet, but they’d got bogged down doing things the scientific way and to be honest it was time they took a new approach,” says Johnson. “So I went in there and got them working the Gary Johnson way and y’know the results speak for themselves. Obviously the information super highway is a great result for those lads, so I’m made up for them.”
At the start of the 1970s, as the Beatles went their separate ways, John Lennon was looking to write a song with real meaning. Suffering from writer’s block he was struggling to put pen to paper; Gary Johnson takes up the story. “He’d been in the group so long he was still trying to do things the Beatles Way and obviously it weren’t getting him anywhere, so I’ve gone over there and I’ve taken John aside and said obviously y’know, things aren’t working out here lets take stock and try a different approach. So then I’ve got him doing things the Gary Johnson way. We’ve brought in The Plastic Ono Band and those lads have done a great job, and then I come up with this concept of there being no heaven, y’know, above us only sky and we’ve just gone from there.”
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.
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.