Out of Love – On Finding it Hard to Follow Your Club

Valentines Day. I suppose that’s as good a day as any to realise you no longer feel the attraction you once did. On Valentines Day Matt and I sat at the back of the West Stand and held something of a mid-match confessional. Whilst below us Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who looks more like the proprietor of a fish and chip shop at an out of season seaside resort than a footballer, meandered through the Rovers defence as if picking his way through pensioners in a shopping centre, we sat and confided to one another that we weren’t really enjoying this any more.

As much as I would love to apologetically and gallantly proclaim “it’s not you, it’s me” at the plastic seats and breezeblocks of the Keepmoat, I’m fairly sure it is both of us. We’ve had some great times, the Rovers and me, but lately we seem to be straining in other directions, and I find it harder and harder to understand and relate to them. They’re not the same club I fell for all those years ago, and increasingly I feel that all that connects me with Rovers is a home-town and shared memories.

It’s not about losing games. Losing games I can take, losing games is part of football, and for long periods of our initial courtship losing games is all we knew. I don’t understand the mentality of those fans who demand a refund from their club after particularly humbling defeats. You were beaten 8-2 at Old Trafford and dropped to fourth, must be awful, come back when you’ve chucked away a 4-0 half-time lead to Telford at a half built Buck’s Head… and I’ll still think you’re crazy. No-one has a right to avoid being stuffed, it’s part of the package, if you think it shouldn’t be then you should be investing in a Harlem Globetrotters vest rather than a football ticket.

Instead it comes down to ethos, to direction and to aspiration. The togetherness, the ‘us-against-them’ element that framed my support from the moment Rovers and I first met at Belle Vue dissipated last season. After years of steady improvement and achieving against the odds the club got greedy, panicked, treated a loyal and honest man awfully, and embraced a flawed strategy presented my a magic beans salesman who turned out to be pedalling ordinary beans on which he’d desperately prit-sticked glitter.

I didn’t want to see my club used as an agent’s ‘experiment’, and still can’t believe anyone could warm to such a thing, no matter how it was spun. I didn’t need big names to get my arse on a red plastic seat, I just wanted to know my opinion, and those of people like me, actually mattered. But as the season went on and the lies continued – about partnerships and contracts and roles – in an effort to justify the means, it became clear that our opinions didn’t matter, unless they matched the views of the club. When reasoned debate is shot down as ungratefulness, when your concerns are singled out by fan leaders as nothing more than self-gratification, and when the club’s legal team are hovering over your opinions then it is very hard to maintain the love you once felt and get enthusiastic about backing your club.

The ruthless desperation with which the club attempted to remain in the Championship split the support like nothing before. It was a win by any means possible approach that many of us simply couldn’t relate to, an alienation not helped as the key supporters group appeared to stop listening to us and instead canvass for the chairman. A month back a friend posted on a Rovers messageboard about the split in support the ‘experiment’ had caused. Flying in the face of irony and with an unintentional zest for satire a ten page argument then ensued about whether the fan base was divided or not. But then online the token response to hinting at a feeling of disenfranchisement from the club is to be told by your fellow fans to “f**k off and support Leeds then”. Our forums don’t allow for greyness.

The club’s actions over the past year have led me to realise we are chasing very different  dreams, and that they could take or leave my involvement in their future, so long as someone else chucks their wallet in my place. Income. It all comes down to income. We need income to ‘compete’, we need income to be where we want us to be is the message. The hunt is always on for million pound investors who we can attempt to convert into supporters. Surely the way forward is to take the opposite approach and maintain and secure relations with fans who can one day become investors rather than pinning our hopes on investors who may one day become fans. Investors come and go, fans remain, if we’re looking for long-term parity then it seems obvious which demographic we should be aiming to please.

There seems to be a belief within the club that fans are only happy with success – that unless the club is striving upwards then we will not come back. Perhaps it is the fixation with the Premier League; unless you’re in that top 20 you’re irrelevant. Too often, ambition and success are blurred into one and the same. Earlier this summer I saw a messageboard thread criticising the club for not having ‘ambition’ during their stay in the second tier. The crux of the thread that the club weren’t prepared to spend money to try and ‘do a Blackpool’. Money that wasn’t there, except for in the personal fortune of board members. Why should they chuck their own money in when returns aren’t guaranteed? Why do supporters simply expect them to? Too often in the minds of many if you’re not spending money then apparently you don’t possess ambition, as if one signals the other.  “They were happy to just survive in the Championship” was one criticism, as if trying to remain in a division in which we’d only ever had one meaningful spell in 130 years was in some way regressive.

What I’ve never quite understood is why people are so desperate to reach the Premier League anyway? From Game 39, to reserve teams in the lower leagues to Premier II, since it’s inception those who populate and promote the Premier League have made it abundantly clear that they couldn’t give a shit about teams like ours, so why are we still striving to join them? Why do we so desperately want away games we can’t afford and kick-off times we can’t make?

What makes anyone think we’d be made to feel welcome in the top flight? Look at Wigan, there on merit and yet constantly hounded for having the temerity not to sell-out their ground to a local population who largely deserted them for the big clubs from Merseyside and Manchester years ago. In the way that many of our own fans blur ambition and success, supporters of Premier League clubs seem to blur history and honours boards. “You’ve got no history” we’d be told by fans who watched matches from their sofa, whilst we were making funeral marches to the ground.

Across the Pennines right now there are two clubs who represent polar extremes of what a football club can be; Manchester City and FC United of Manchester. One of those models is significantly more achievable than the other, and yet so many supporters, and the clubs themselves, seem to want to be like the former rather than the latter. Are Rovers chasing the wrong dreams? Maybe top flight football would give a brief boost to the town, but pride is forged on much more than winning games, pride can come from heroic failure – as we saw on our Carling Cup run – and pride can come from doing things right.

For as long as Rovers seem keen to be like City rather than like FCUM then I will find it increasingly hard to maintain my attachment. And so, whilst our relationship has been on the rocks, I have done what many a man has done over the years, and sought alternate pleasure. In the past few years I’ve played away, I’ve snuck off to watch and regularly follow not one, not two, but three other clubs – variety is the spice of life and all that. And what has struck me when watching Worcester City, Rossington Main and Doncaster Belles is that unlike when at Rovers, at each of these three I have genuinely felt like I’m wanted, like my presence means something to those clubs, a genuine gratefulness for my support more than my income.

Maybe I’m a romantic (although seemingly not monogamous), I don’t know. Increasingly people want success, and it would appear they’ll take it at any cost. As seen by the ‘experiment’ at Rovers, and the rebranding of Cardiff City, just the promise of success, no matter how flimsy, is enough to make many tuck their morals away in a drawer and tug their forelocks for the new lords of the manor. I just can’t relate to that. Of course people will say “well, that’s football”, but every time you say that a grass-roots club dies. Whilst many Cardiff City fans refused to renew their season tickets in the face of the club’s rebranding, of the many thousands who already had only 70 asked for a refund. Chucking away your heritage for an unproven and unfounded business plan to win over people thousands of miles away who’ve never heard of your club? Well, that’s football.

The thing is, as I’ve found on my trips to St Georges Lane, and Oxford Street, and when backing the Belles, that doesn’t have to be football. You can have success without relentlessly going on about the need for income to compete. In the past year Worcester, Rossington and the Belles have seen crowds increase significantly, and it has come from striving to engage with the community, of encouraging their population to be part of what they’re doing. And, as a result, I have found much greater enjoyment these past twelve months with them, and I felt a part of their triumphs much more than I felt part of Rovers’ wins.

The new season is now a month away, and for the first time in years I am finding it really hard to get excited about watching my team again. I ceased to have any more than a passing interest in football’s top flight years ago, and now Rovers are starting to slip into the same pigeon-hole in which I’ve long placed the Premier League, of being an unrelatable by-product of a sport I still love. The wounds of last season run deep, and though I inevitably will give it a go again, embracing that inner-Barnstoneworth fan inherent in us all to trudge to the Keepmoat as if painted by Lowry, I can’t ever envisage being as happy at Rovers as I once was. The honeymoon period is over, we’ll move forward in separate beds, and keep it together for the sake of the children.

Paul Raven’s Newsround 06.07.12

A week of comings and goings , well goings at least, to recap for Paul Raven in his Newsround this week. Also featured this week Dean Saunders auditions for the Big Top, and the Belles are in Euro action.

Walker Walks

Director of Football Mickey Walker has been released from his post as part of the restructuring of the club following relegation from the Championship. Though Walker was much-loved by supporters and had done a lot for Rovers, particularly in the club’s return from non-league, it is hard to argue with a business decision to remove a seemingly superfluous role

Lockwood Joins Bury

Former club captain Adam Lockwood has joined fellow League One side Bury having not been offered a new deal by Rovers. Lockwood, who joined the club from Yeovil back in 2006, has been a very loyal and solid member of the squad, making exactly 150 starts for the club. Although hampered by injury in recent seasons Lockwood has always made steady appearances when called upon, and is likely to be a great asset to the Shakers. Given how well Lockwood served Rovers over the years it annoys me that my first go-to memory of him is that header he missed at West Brom two seasons back. For all Lockwood’s attributes I’ll go to my grave wondering how that ball seemingly passed through his head when he only had to nod it home. Such is life, he’ll probably score an identical opportunity when he returns to the Keepmoat with Bury on 21st August.

Gillett Go

Simon Gillett, who featured in every league game for the Rovers last season, is set to move on, having not been offered a new contract by the club. Though the destination is yet unclear Gillett used his twitter account to wish his Rovers team-mates good luck at pre-season training this morning, and said he would be moving on to pastures new. The fanzine extends it’s best wishes to another loyal player who didn’t quite get the respect he sometimes deserved from Rovers fans, and also remains the only man I’ve ever seen trap a ball beneath his knee cap without bending his leg.

Saunders Speaks With Supporters

Manager Dean Saunders last night addressed the Supporters’ Club AGM, facing questions from the club’s fans. Saunders admitted that as yet the club had not received any offers for the contracted players, whilst he was unsure whether those who had not been offered a new contract would be at the club’s first pre-season training session today. Unsurprisingly Fabian Robert and Habib Beye look unlikely to be returning to the club, despite the latter still being contracted to Rovers. The meeting went on to take a bizarre twist as Saunders began performing circus skills to detract from awkward questions, when asked “What about players?” Saunders responded “I’m spinning plates at the moment, and I have five on the go at this point.” He went on to answer questions about Willie McKay’s involvement with an incredible juggling display.

Belles Trio in Euros Action

Doncaster Rovers Belles trio Mary Earps, Beth England and Jess Sigsworth have all been in action at the UEFA Women’s Under 19s Championships in Turkey this past week. Both England and Earps started England’s opening group game against Sweden, which was lost 1-0, with Sigsworth coming on for England, for England, after an hour. All three started the Lionesses’ second group game against Spain last night, but again England were defeated, losing 4-0 at the Titanic Stadium. Their team-mate Kasia Lipka, who was an unused substitute for both matches, will be hoping to get a run-out in the final group game, a dead-rubber, against Serbia.

Matchday Ticket Prices for 2012-13 Announced

Rovers in relatively sensible pricing structure shocker! The club this week announced matchday prices for the new season, with adult tickets for all matches available at £20 if bought in Category B advance.

Belles Ring Out at Euros

Three members of the Doncaster Rovers Belles squad tonight featured in their second match at the UEFA Women’s Under 19s Championships in Turkey. Sadly for the England trio of Mary Earps, Beth England and Jess Sigsworth (pictured above from left), their fixture against Spain ended in defeat, following on from an opening match loss to Sweden at the start of the week.

Goalkeeper Mary Earps, who had made a few telling saves to keep England in their fixture with Sweden, had no answer to the rampant Spanish strikeforce she faced tonight, as the Lionesses went down 4-0. Beth England started on the left-wing, as she had in the opening fixture, as she looked to feed team-mate Jess Sigsworth who also started this game, having come on for England, in both senses, against Sweden. Sadly, neither Sigsworth nor England were able to test their opponents in what proved a one-sided fixture.

A fourth member of the Belles squad, Kasia Lipka (pictured on the far right, above) has sat through each of the two fixtures on the bench, and will now be hopeful of getting a chance to show manager Mo Marley what she can do in their final group match against Serbia at the Titanic Stadium on Sunday.

Taking The Mickey

Rovers have announced today that local-legend and rumoured founder member Mickey Walker has been released from his contract at the club. Walker, now 67, has been relinquished from his role as part of restructuring at the club following relegation from the Championship, after twelve years with the club.

“This club has been part of my life since I was a boy because my Dad played for them,” Walker told the official club website, his father, also Mickey, having played for the club during the Second World War. “I feel very proud to have held the positions I have and been part of Rovers during such a great time in its history.”

Walker came to the club in 1999, working initially with the Snodin brothers, Ian and Glynn, as they tried to re-establish the club in the Conference. Walker took control of the Youth Team, overseeing the development of future first team talent such as Robert Gill, Paul Green and Ricky Ravenhill. Walker then stepped up to the role of Assistant Manager alongside Dave Penney, when he took over the reigns from the forgotten man, Steve Wignall, whoever he was.

With Walker working alongside Penney Rovers climbed out of the Conference, won Division 3 in their first season back in the league and went on a memorable Carling Cup run to the brink of the semi-finals at Belle Vue. Indeed, whenever I picture Walker in relation to Rovers I see him jumping with delight in the dug-out behind Penney during those Carling Cup matches. When Penney left the club in 2006 Walker took over as caretaker for two diametrically opposed matches; a come-back win at Port Vale in front of the S*y Sp***s cameras, and a horrendous home defeat to 10-man Gillingham.

With the arrival of Sean O’Driscoll, Walker was moved into the role of Director of Football, a role he has held ever since, save for a brief stint assisting Dean Saunders at the start of his time in charge.

Though Walker’s longevity of service and friendly approachable nature should of course be acknowledged and recognised, the move itself does appear an eminently sensible one. The Director of Football role has become increasingly irrelevant in recent years, and indeed Walker’s role in ushering Willie McKay into involvement at the club sadly cannot be ignored by many of us. I saw someone describe Walker’s departure as being s if the club had, had an organ removed, but such has been Walker’s role in the past few years then that organ would only ever really be an appendix.

Farewell then to a loyal club man who always had time and a kindly word for supporters, but I suspect in the long-term the loss of the role will not be mourned.

Paul Raven’s Newsround 29.06.12

An interesting week for Paul as he was able to get his teeth into some proper transfer news rather than the usual rumour-mongering. And speaking of transfers, if anyone is interested Paul Raven is available on a swap deal, ideally for another player who’s name sounds more like John Craven so we don’t have to keep explain the title of this feature to people.

Cotterill & Blake Join Rovers

Some significant transfer activity at Rovers this week as despite previous suggestions that the club would have to sell some of their contracted players before they could make new signings two new additions to the squad, David Cotterill and Robbie Blake, were unveiled on Wednesday afternoon. The capture of free-agent David Cotterill was most remarkable for the news that the Welsh winger is still just 24 years-old. “I’m pleased to have signed David because I think he broke Swansea’s transfer record once,” said Dean Saunders scrolling through Wikipedia.  Robbie Blake joins Rovers from Bolton Wanderers, reuniting the forward with Saunders, whom he played alongside up front for Bradford. At 36 years-old (or as one reader put it ‘older than God’s dog’) Blake appears to have been signed with the short-term in mind rather than the long-term. ” He’s got a pre-season with me and knows what I expect of him, he’ll be great in the dressing room,” said Saunders, with fans hopeful that Blake’s “great in the dressing room” doesn’t prove to be the new Lewis Guy “great in training” moniker.

James Hayter Joins Yeovil

Striker James Hayter has joined Yeovil Town on a two-year year deal after being released by Rovers at the end of last season. Here at popular STAND we have moved to ensure Hayter is remembered for more than just his play-off final goal, and it is certainly sad to see his five years at the club come to an end.

Belles Beaten By Liverpool

Disappointment for the Rovers Belles as they slipped to the foot of the FAWSL after being beaten 2-0 by previous bottom-side Liverpool at the Keepmoat Stadium last Saturday. Speaking to the Doncaster Star in the wake of the defeat manager John Buckley labelled the performance an embarrassment; “We weren’t good enough and the players should feel embarrassed. The players have got to be more brave when they are in possession of the ball. I told the girls after the game that I wanted them to go away and think about the game and come back on Tuesday. I don’t want them to blame the system but to have a good look at themselves.” The FAWSL season now enters a mid-season break, and Buckley is expected to look to bolster his squad during the gap in fixtures.

Rovers Sign Up Three Further Youth Players

Following on from the signings of Paddy Mullen & Jordan Ball last week Rovers have handed out further professional contracts to graduates of the club’s youth team. Jake McCormick, goalkeeper Jonathan Maxtead and Wakefield have all put pen to paper this past week, to take the total number of youth players joining the 1st team set-up to six; James Husband having signed some weeks ago.

R’sonists in Action This Saturday

If you can’t wait until the first pre-season game to wait to see unfit men in red and white hoops running around as if they barely know each other then fear not. Supporters’ side the Donny R’sonists host Ipswich Punch Drunk FC in an IFA League game tomorrow. The game is a midday kick-off at Rossington’s Ian Wilson Community Sports Village.

 

Hayters Gonna Hate

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.

FAWSL: Doncaster Rovers Belles 0-2 Liverpool

Disappointment for the Doncaster Rovers Belles on Saturday, as two great strikes from visitors Liverpool proved the difference between the two FAWSL sides. The 2-0 defeat drops the Belles back to the foot of the table as the League pauses for a mid-season break for international and Olympic fixtures

In front of a crowd of 600 at the Keepmoat both sides forced chances from corners in the opening five minutes. Liverpool were first to threaten as Michelle Evans’ dead ball delivery was only half-cleared, but Cheryl Foster’s driven shot flew just beyond the angle of the bar and post. At the other end a good ball into the far post found Leandra Little in space, but unfortunately the defender could only pull her shot wide of the goal.

The Belles were left to rue that chance just a few minutes later as Lynda Shepherd fired in a spectacular goal to open the scoring; the ball dropping for Shepherd almost thirty yards out and she struck an unstoppable first time half-volley right into the top corner of Mary Earps’ net.

Midway through the half came the Belles’ best chance to level the scores; Alyssa Lagonia, who looked most composed on the ball throughout, hitting an incredible 40 yard through ball to split the defence and release Aine O’Gorman in the left channel, but O’Gorman, cutting inside could only drive her shot against the under side of the bar and the visitors managed to clear.

Though the Belles seemed to be faring better in terms of possession and territory Liverpool remained a constant threat on the break and almost found a second goal as Foster’s cross from the right was prodded just the right side of her own goal-post by Lucy Sowerby. At the other end the Belles were starting to create opportunities as half-time approached, firstly as Millie Bright fired over, and then on the stroke of half-time as an attempted clearance cannoned back towards goal off O’Gorman, but Nicola Davies was able to make the save.

The second-half began in the midst of a heavy downpour which sent the crowd scurrying back up the seats for shelter, and those who turned their back on the game to escape the rain missed another fantastic strike from the visitors. Chloe Jones twenty-five yard strike flying into the roof of the net, but fortunately for the Belles the referee’s whistle had already sounded for a foul. The Belles almost took advantage of the let-off as O’Gorman looked to get onto a ball over the top of the Liverpool defence, however under pressure from the defence the Belles winger could only fire wide.

On the hour mark though Liverpool struck again, a decisive goal which seemed to take the wind from the Belles sails and effectively wrap up the win for the visitors. Katie Brussell cutting in from the right flank before curling an unstoppable strike beyond Earps to make it 2-0. Though there was little the Belles ‘keeper could do about the two goals she did manage to keep her side in the game in the closing half hour with a couple of key saves from Foster, Kelly Jones and Emily Gielnik.

The Belles struggled to find any momentum on which to launch an attack of their own; substitute Beth England yelling “Oh f**k off!” at an over-hit through-ball as it sailed past her head proving something of an effective summary of the Belles final half hour. Their only telling chance came in injury time as England found space to get in an effort on goal, but Davies was equal to it and managed to preserve the 2-0 win for her side.

Belles line-up (4-4-2); Mary Earps; Lucy Sowerby, Lyndsey Cunningham, Leandra Little, Naomi Chadwick; Alyssa Lagonia (Beth England), Katie Holtham, Kasia Lipka, Aine O’Gorman (Julie-Ann Russell); Jess Sigsworth (Tanya Oxtoby), Millie Bright

Paul Raven’s Newsround 22.06.12

Eyes down and look in, a much busier seven days for Paul Raven to recap in his Newsround this week, including familiar new owners, fixture fun, Belles back in action, non-transfer rumours, and a not-quite international.

Forum For the Future Sees Bramhall and Watson Back, But Not On Board

Rovers, in conjunction with the Viking Supporters’ Co-operative, held a Forum for the Future event at the Keepmoat Stadium on Monday. The popularity of the event meant that it had to be split into two sessions which unfortunately limited the ‘forum’ aspect of the event, but there were at least key announcements, most notably the confirmation that Dick Watson and Terry Bramhall are back involved in the club, not on the board, but as co-owners of the club with John Ryan. The Forum also saw some very positive announcements from new Chief Executive Gavin Baldwin which shows that on a commercial footing at least the club are keen to engage and embrace the feedback of supporters. The club’s new home kit was also unveiled at the forum, and can be viewed here.

2012-13 Fixtures Released

The 2012-13 Football League fixtures were released at the start of this week with few surprises; ie. Rovers will be away on opening day, Boxing Day and the final day of the season, travelling to Walsall, Oldham and Notts County respectively. The first home game of the season is a midweek match with Bury on 21st August, whilst the first home Saturday league game brings a reunion with Sean O’Driscoll as Crawley Town come to the Keepmoat on Saturday 24th August. Also there was some indication that the Football League have a sense of humour in the way of Rovers’ back to back away games with Portsmouth and Carlisle in November.

League Cup Date Moved

As mentioned in last week’s Newsround clubs had been given the opportunity to move their 1st round League Cup ties to the preceding weekend if both parties were in agreement. Happily, both Rovers and their opponents York City have agreed to such a switch and so the 1st round Capital One Cup tie with the Minstermen will now be played at the Keepmoat Stadium on Saturday 11th August. It’ll be the first time the two sides have met competitively since Rovers relegated York to the Conference in 2004.

Football On Your Doorstep: Belles host Liverpool

A big day for the Doncaster Rovers Belles at the Keepmoat Stadium tomorrow as they finally get to play their first home league game of the FA Women’s Super League season. After the postponement of their games with Arsenal and Everton in April the Belles have had to wait until the season was more than two months hold before tis home ‘opener’ against Liverpool. The Belles will be hoping to continue with the form that saw them register a 2-1 victory at Lincoln in their last FAWSL fixture. The match is a 2pm kick-off at the Keepmoat Stadium, tickets are £6 for adults, £3 for children.

Rovers Miss Out on Trio

Reports in various credible media outlets, and S*y Sp**ts, this week suggest that Rovers have missed out on three potential transfer targets. Rovers are reported to have bid for Stevenage defensive duo Jon Ashton and Mark Roberts, though perhaps understandably, having reached the League One play-offs last season the club are unwilling to part with their central defensive partnership. Also on Rovers radar was former Huddersfield winger Gary Roberts. Dean Saunders had reportedly been close to agreeing terms with Roberts, but he has now chosen to join Swindon instead, with the Robins able to offer much better terms (ie. more money).

Tigers Added to Pre-season Friendly Schedule

Rovers have this week confirmed an eighth pre-season friendly fixture with the news that Hull City will come to the Keepmoat Stadium on Tuesday 31st July. The match is scheduled as a 7:30pm kick-off; a full list of Rovers’ pre-season games can be viewed below.

Sat 14 July Cleethorpes Town Bradley Road 3:00pm
Tue 17 July Grimsby Town Blundell Park 7:30pm
Sat 21 July Bradford Park Avenue Horsfall Stadium 3:00pm
Tue 24 July Rotherham United New York Stadium 7:45pm
Sat 28 July Sheffield Wednesday Keepmoat Stadium 3:00pm
Tue 31 July Hull City Keepmoat Stadium 7:30pm
Sat 4 Aug Barnsley Keepmoat Stadium 3:00pm
Tue 7 Aug Gainsborough Trinity Northolme 7:45pm

Dumbuya Misses Out on International Debut

Fanzine favourite Mustapha Dumbuya is unfortunately still awaiting his first cap for Sierra Leone after sitting out the Leone Stars 4-2 win over Sao Tome & Principe as an unused substitute. Dumbuya, handed the number 11 shirt, had to watch on from the bench in Freetown as his side came from a goal down to secure a 5-4 aggregate victory in the African Cup of Nations 1st round tie.

The Mullen & Ball Show

Sadly not the launch of a new music hall comedy act (though there’s time yet), but good news at least as youth team players Paddy Mullen and Jordan Ball have this week signed pro contracts with the club. Both Doncaster-born Mullen and striker Ball were part of the Rovers youth side which triumphed in the Football League Alliance Trophy at Exeter last month.

Ex-Rovers Move On

Two big moves for ex-Rovers on Thursday this week, most notably as Paul Green decided to test Rovers’ fans attachment to him by joining Leeds United. Green, who has been in action for Ireland at the Euro 2012 Championships this past fortnight, was effectively a free agent, with his contract at Derby County up at the end of the month. Green has signed a two-year deal at Elland Road, with Neil Warnock taking a brief time-out from a tirade about match officials to say; “I’ve always thought [Green] was the kind of player who can create goals as well as score them. I’ve seen him grow since his days at Doncaster, I’m delighted to get him.” As hinted in the title Paul Green wasn’t the only Rover to be moving on to pastures new this week, nope the big news came further down the pyramid as celebrated Scandinavian spot-kick stopper Jan Budtz signed for Buxton.

R’sonists Sunk by Mariners

Supporters side Donny R’sonists travelled to the Far East last weekend, as they went to play their counterparts from Grimsby Town, the Internet Mariners. In far from summery conditions the bare XI of the R’sonists were eventually beaten 4-3 by their hosts, but can take solace from scoring the game’s three best goals, with three quality strikes from Alan Cullingworth, Matt Harriman and Harry Swain. Former fanzine correspondent Karl Smith also had a memorable afternoon, as he unfortunately turned Grimsby’s 3rd and 4th goals into his own net. The Mariners have reportedly made enquiries about Smith’s availability in the week after the game.

Dumbuya Misses Out on International Debut

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.

BREAKING: Rovers 2012-13 Fixtures Announced

The 2012-13 Football League fixtures are announced in the morning, but then you knew that. Tomorrow will not only be the day we get to discover when Rovers will play their 23 respective league opponents, but also one in which get to revel in just how much news agencies and official club websites can pad out what is in effect the publication of a list into a ‘news’ story. So whilst the press race to press ‘publish’ first thing in the morning the fanzine has decided to get the jump on them and enjoy a lie-in by publishing our fixture announcement piece tonight. Here you go…

The fixtures for the 2012-13 NPower Football League season have today been released with Doncaster Rovers set to begin life back in League One with a [daunting/promising/relatively easy] [trip to face/home tie against] [insert club]. This opening day clash will be the first time the two clubs have locked horns since [Rovers’ promotion/they met at Belle Vue/Rovers’ return to the League] in [insert month and year].

As with [last year/many of their recent seasons] Doncaster will end the season with a [tricky/potentially important/notable] fixture  [at the Keepmoat Stadium/away from home] against [Division newcomers/potential play-off candidates/familiar foes] [insert club].

Rovers are set to face a testing Christmas and New Year with several games in quick succession over the festive period, most notable of which is the local derby against [Scunthorpe/Sheffield United/Notts County] on [Boxing Day/New Years’ Day].

Fans [won’t have to wait long/will need to be patient] for the first of the season’s big South Yorkshire derbies against Sheffield United, which will take place at [Bramall Lane/the Keepmoat Stadium] on [insert date], whilst the season’s first M180 derby against Scunthorpe [is not until/comes a little sooner on] [insert date].

[September/October/November] looks set to be a particularly daunting month for Dean Saunders’ men as they host [insert names of highest profile opponents] at the Keepmoat Stadium, whilst also making difficult away trips to [insert names of at least two clubs that are some distance away].

Other notable dates see Rovers come face to face with former manager Sean O’Driscoll and his Crawley Town side on [insert date] at [the Keepmoat/Broadfield Stadium], whilst they will also renew rivalries with former Conference foes Stevenage on [insert date].

a football fanzine for the likes of Doncaster