Rovers fan, DRSG Committee and anger management failure Rob Johnson writes another top 10 of disappointment and frustrating signings…
I was criticised in some corners for the ‘top ten Rovers villains’ article for focusing on negatives rather than positives. Those naysayers have obviously never heard football writer Nick Hornby’s quote ‘the natural state of the football fan is bitter disappointment, no matter what the score’. With that in mind we bring you a list of players that arrived at Rovers with big expectations only to end up being bobbins. So in no particular order:
- Mirsad Bubalovic 1999
1 Game 0 Goals
Mirsad arrived in the summer of 1999 in a blaze of indifference. People had to sit up and take notice (or stand up and take notice as it would have been then. RIP Belle Vue) when stadium announcer Dave Parker delivered what must go down as one of the all time ill advised proclamations by introducing Bubalovic as ‘the finest player to ever grace Belle Vue’. By default this would instantly put the little known Croatian striker ahead of Alick Jeffrey, Paul Gascoigne and erm… Darren Esdaille. No goals and 3 months later Bubalovic was shipped off to Altrincham before eventually retiring. He tragically died in a car crash in 2010.
- Darren Byfield 2008-09
16 Games 0 Goals
Journeyman striker Darren Byfield arrived at Rovers following our glorious playoff victory over Leeds United on the back of a solid season with Bristol City in which they had reached the Championship playoff final themselves. Byfield had a decent record with Millwall, Gillingham and Rotherham and had been Bristol City’s top scorer the season before albeit with only 8 goals. The fact that he had once captained England on one of my championship manager games only added to my personal excitement.
With an air of inevitably Byfield looked like he could play for a thousand years and never score and after a brief loan spell with Oldham, Byfield was released after one season, 16 appearances and 0 goals.
Indeed Byfields only contribution was the addition of his wife Jamelia to the stands bringing a touch of rare glamour to the Keepmoat crowd.
- Abdul Razak 2015
9 Games 0 Goals
Razak was brought in during the January transfer window of the 2014-15 season as the final piece of the jigsaw to help cement our place in the play offs. Signing Razak was a drawn out affair either because of problems securing international clearance or because Razak kept going in two footed on airport security and giving his passport away to opposition travellers. Rovers manager Paul Dickov assured us that Razak would be ‘worth the wait’.
Razak eventually arrived in time to feature in the valentine’s day thrashing of Yeovil and looked pretty good by all accounts. He also came on three days later for the 2-1 victory against Oldham. International footballer (!) Razak would taste victory only once more in Rovers colours and after being subbed off inside half an hour against Coventry to prevent being sent off Razak was promptly released after just 9 games.
- Gary Williams 1999-2000
16 Games 2 Goals
Williams earned a move up the football ladder after hitting 24 goals in 24 games for Accrington Stanley and was signed for Rovers by Ian Snodin over a pint and a table full of betting slips (probably). Williams managed to do what Byfield and Bubalovic couldn’t by actually scoring a couple, but after 16 games he was sold back to Accrington for £20,000 less than the £50,000 that Rovers shelled out for him. Imagine that lonely trudge back into the Accrington changing rooms and having to face the tea lady who had signed his leaving card only weeks before. Football can be a cruel game…
- Adriano Rigoglioso 2003-2006
33 Games 1 Goal
After promotion to the football league Rovers set about signing the cream of the crop from the conference bringing in Gregg Blundell, Michael McIndoe and Rigoglioso.
Rigo had consistently forged a reputation as a goal scoring midfielder during his time at Morecambe and came with good pedigree having been at Liverpool in his youth.
Unfortunately it all came unstuck for Rigoglioso at Rovers as he managed just 8 starts over two and a half years and only one solitary goal in the Football League Trophy. The goal itself was an absolute belter but unfortunately only 1375 people were there to see it and there is no footage of it available anywhere.
Rigo did a Gary Williams by returning to Morecambe and he never got another chance in the football league again.
- Billy Sharp (second spell)
12 games 4 goals
This is not an attempt at controversy as I think I speak for everyone when I say that Billy Sharp will always be a Rovers legend but there is no denying that his loan spell in our relegation season of 2013-14 ended in bitter disappointment.
Billy arrived as our would be saviour after Rovers have suffered an appalling Christmas period that saw us in the relegation zone. Things started off as expected as Sharp scored the equalizer in his first game back with the tiniest of touches at Blackpool. In his second game Sharp was heavily involved in a 3-0 victory against Charlton in which he won a penalty. Billy then received an uncharacteristic red card away at Brighton but came back strong with goals in consecutive games in home victories against Huddersfield and Watford. He had time for one more moment of glory in a Rovers shirt as he scored in a 2-1 victory against Leeds and Elland Road.
That win left Rovers needing just one more win from the remaining 7 games with the stage set for Sharp to continue his Rovers fairy tale. Alas Rovers managed just one point and Sharps form declined so badly that he didn’t even make it on the pitch for our last stand, away at Leicester until the last five minutes.
4 goals in 12 games isn’t a disaster but nobody wanted to see Billy’s Rovers career end like that.
- Carl Alford
17 Games 1 Goals
After scoring an incredible 42 goals in 39 games for Stevenage, Rovers fans were thrilled when Alford was signed for £50,000 in May 2000. Unfortunately Alford’s goal scoring touch completely abandoned him in spectacular fashion. Despite scoring just once Alford was constantly preferred over the popular Ian Duerdan which resulted in Rovers fans turning on then manager Steve Wignall. Alford looked unfit and uninterested during his entire time at Rovers and nobody was sad to hear of his departure to Yeovil Town apart from local takeaways.
Alford retired having scored only once at Belle Vue. Against Rovers obviously.
- Any player involved in ‘The Experiment’
It is impossible to choose just one mercenary from Rovers darkest hour so I have decided to go for all of them. Here is a full list of players that Rovers brought in under evil Sith lord Willie McKay:
El Hadji Diouf
Despite having 223 international caps between them they could not prevent Rovers from sliding into league 1 like a turd down the toilet bowl. They all promptly left that Summer and The Experiment caused a rift between Rovers fans that has never properly healed. ‘Disappointing’ doesn’t really being to cover it.
- Marc De Val Fernandez 2013-2014
16 Games 0 Goals
Real Madrid to Doncaster Rovers is not a particularly common career move but that is how things turned out for defensive midfielder Marc De Val via a spell with Olimpic Xativa. Rovers fans were understandably excited about the signing of a Spanish centre midfielder and hopes of having signed the next Xavi only increased when footage appeared of De Val scoring a free kick in a reserve game. That was as good as it got for De Val with 16 lacklustre appearances and no goals. Trust Rovers to find the only Spanish centre midfielder with no real technique.
- Justin Jackson 2001-2003
43 Games 5 Goals
For many if not all Rovers fans, if you had asked who their ideal realistic signing would be back in 2001 the answer would have unanimous. Justin Jackson was undoubtedly the most feared striker outside of the football league hitting 47 goals in two seasons for Morecambe and Rushden & Diamonds. When word filtered through on a Tuesday afternoon that Rovers had signed Jackson and he would start that night against Boston the mood on the travelling coaches was buoyant. This continued as Rovers went 2-0 up only to draw in dramatic fashion following two stoppage time goals from Daryl ‘tears’ Clare. Jackson had played well but missed the big chance that came his way. His opening game would turn out to be a microcosm for his entire spell at Belle Vue.
Plagued by rumours of off field controversy Jackson scored just 5 goals in 43 games for Rovers and was eventually forgotten due to the form of Paul Barnes. Along with Alford and Williams it was Jackson who contributed the most to Belle Vue being known as a ‘strikers graveyard’.