10 Legends have been short-listed by the Black Bank over a period spanning 69 years, only one can feature on the Legends Banner (more HERE). DRSG Committee member Lee Croft takes a closer look at each candidate and what they achieved whilst at Doncaster Rovers:
Albert Jenkins (1879-1886)
Probably the most famous name connected with Doncaster Rovers in the 19th Century. Albert Jenkins has the honour of being claimed as the founder of Doncaster Rovers. After getting together a makeshift team from the Railway works to play against the Deaf and Dumb school, Jenkins XI found themselves 4-0 down at half time. Somehow they managed to pull it level to 4-4 in the second half, and the story goes that after the game the group of rail workers made their way back to town and stopped at the Hall Cross on South Parade for a breather. It was that moment where Jenkins and his co-workers decided to keep playing football, and chose the name Doncaster Rovers. For that feat alone (never mind being secretary for the club) he has earned his place forever in Rovers folklore.
Walter Langton (1887-1905)
Ahh, good old Walter. The biggest Rovers related mystery of our history (only just beating the signing of Lee Fowler). Despite 18 seasons with the club, Langton is only credited with less than 50 league appearances for the club, the main reason for this is that most of his Rovers career was spent when the club wasn’t part of the Football League and spent its early years playing friendlies before joining the Midland League. Unfortunately none of the appearance or player data was recorded (or at least archived) for these seasons, meaning 16 of Langton’s 18 seasons remain unknown on how many times he played. It is estimated that in total he played around 500 games for the rovers. One thing that isn’t up for debate however is his title of being the longest serving player in Doncaster Rovers history.
Alonzo Drake (1902-03)
Drake joined the Rovers in 1902 in the latter half of our inaugural season as a member of the Football League. He played in the last 13 games of the season scoring 6 goals which saw him go into the next season as a regular. Sadly though the club couldn’t build on the success of the previous season and we’re voted out of the league in favour of Bradford City. Drake was subsequently transferred to Sheffield United. However his legendary status isn’t from being arguably our best player during our first stint in the Football League, as Drake would soon rise in county cricket and 6 years later broke into the Yorkshire first team. His 5 year stint in the Yorkshire side would see him prove to be as good as cricket as he was a footballer, scoring 4800 runs and taking 480 wickets, which included taking 5 wickets and conceding no runs in 1914. Drake is perhaps the only one on the list whose ‘legendary’ status was probably earned after he left DRFC. But for many years following, any discussion around DRFC would often include the young Alonzo Drake.
Tom Keetley (1923-29)
180 goals in 231 matches says it all really. Not only our record goalscorer but also one of the highest goal-to-game ratio ever recorded. 9th in English and Scotland Football with an average of 0.75. Prolific doesn’t do justice to Tom Keetley, a natural finisher? Not quite right. A Goal Machine? Probably doesn’t fit the bill perfectly, but it’s the closest I can find. Keetley also held the record for scoring 6 goals in one match against Ashington. Three of his brothers also played for the club, but only Tom is ever remembered. He was sold to Notts County in 1929 for £750. Just over £4 per goal the club made from him. The transfer record of English football at that time was £10,890, taking in mind Rovers were plying their trade in the Third Division, that wasn’t a bad return at all.
Fred Emery 1924-36
Another strong contender with stats on his side. Emery was and remains (for now) the all time record league appearance holder for Doncaster. Notching up 417 games in his 12 years with the club. After joining the club in 1924 and making a handful of appearances in the 1924/25 season, the 1925/26 season would see him become a regular playing in 38 of the 42 league matches. A few seasons later in 1928-29 he started and played every single game in the season, a feat he would repeat in the 1933/34 season. Considering this was achieved at the age of 34, he was a fans favourite and after hanging up his boots in 1936 he took on the role as manager, with only the second world war forcing him to leave.
George Gladwin 1930-37
Gladwin joined the club in 1930 when the club released most of its players (due to being unable to fund their summer wages) and was originally intended to be a ‘cheaper’ option. Despite this however Gladwin nailed a place in the side and went on to make over 200 appearances for the club. He was part of the DRFC squad that won promotion from the Third Division as Champions in 1934-35. The first title Doncaster Rovers would win after nearly 60 in existent. Gladwin left the club in 1937 for Manchester United, where he stayed for 6 years. Despite this, the only honour he achieved in his career was the league win with the Rovers.
Syd Bycroft 1936-51
I don’t think anyone needs me to explain how Syd’s career went. Probably the most known pre-war Rovers player and definitely legend. A 15 year career that saw him play over 500 times for the club. Sadly he didn’t pass Emery’s record due to the Football League being suspended during World War 2 (at which Bycroft remained at the club playing in the wartime league). The most famous moment of Bycroft’s career was going up against Tommy Lawton of Notts County, with Lawton later recalling to Michael Parkinson that in between kicking lumps out of each other, Bycroft had sold him a set of car tyres. If that wasn’t enough to earn him legendary status, Bycroft was also described by Parkinson of having a tackle like “a beartrap”.
Clarrie Jordan 1940-48
Another one whose stats speak for themselves. Over 60 goals in a hundred games for the Rovers in the wartime league would see Clarrie Jordan earn himself a place in the 1946/47 Third Division North season. With the rest of the country recovering from the war, Clarrie and the Rovers hit the ground running to have arguably our most successful season ever. Jordan’s 42 goals that season helped the Rovers achieve the highest ever points total in a 2 points system with 22 games, as well as earn Jordan a place in Rovers’ history as the most goals scored in one season.
Bert Tindill 1944-58
As with Jordan, Tindill was also credited of playing and helping to fire Rovers to the 1946/47 Third Division Title. He featured in the opening 9 games, and scoring 7 from the right wing made him look a hot prospect. However he was dropped as Jack Kirkaldie was picked over him for the Right Wing position for the rest of the season. 2 years later however, and under manager Peter Doherty, Tindill would become a familiar face in the squad as Doherty’s Rovers won promotion back to the Second Division in 1949 and stayed there for the next 8 seasons. Tindill left the club in 1958 having played alongside legends Doherty, Bycroft, Alick Jeffrey, Clarrie Jordan and with 402 appearances to his name, 366 of them coming under Doherty’s reign makes it hard not to include him in any list of Rovers legends.
Ken Hardwick 1945-57
Like the two before him, Hardwick joined the Rovers at the close of the war and made his debut in the wartime leagues. He was part of the squad during that record breaking season but didn’t become a full regular until the 1948-49 season, once again under Doherty. During what is often referred to as the golden age, Ken Hardwick was the ever reliant man between the sticks. It was a golden age for keepers at DRFC in those days, as his understudy and back up keeper was none other than Harry Gregg who would eventually replace Hardwick as Rovers number 1 before becoming the most expensive keeper at the time. Hardwick left however with 308 appearances and 2 promotions whilst a DRFC player.
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