Tag Archives: Black Bank

Rovers Review: LIFE AS A ROVER by Lee Croft

With 15 games (in all competitions) gone, Lee Croft looks back at the Rovers season to date:

With just 5 draws and 4 losses in the opening 11 games this season you would think you’d be on a safe bet to state that it’s been an uneventful opening 2 months for the Rovers, the reality of the situation is completely the opposite.

For the first time in 3 years – and in the first time during Dickov’s tenure – we had a close season of no takeover talk and backroom unrest. The effect of this was plain to see with some quality additions to the squad (namely Thorsten Stuckman and Andy Williams) and after our pre-season victory over Sunderland (a result, which in hindsight is no great surprise) it looked like we were going into this season with promotion high on our list of priorities.

The opening game against Bury was typical of a curtain opener. A very close game with some gritty football where in truth Bury had the best of the chances. That being said it was always heading to a 0-0 draw until Forrester accidentally lobbed the Bury keeper when attempting to kick the ball back to him and the Rovers took a shock lead in injury time. After failing to get the ref to disallow the goal, Dickov ordered the Rovers to stand aside and let Bury walk the ball into our goal. After the game Dickov said that his intention was only ever to do the ‘right thing’ for the game, but you would be stupid to not think that he thought – even if for half a second – what if we just steal the three points from here?

As it happened that isn’t how it played out, and bizarrely one of the greatest moments of sportsmanship in Dickov’s career would be the opposition literally walking the ball through our 11 players and into an open goal. With as much respect to Paul Dickov as possible – it is probably the best representation of Dickov’s time here as manager.

During that opening game we looked a little stumped in the final third and whilst some build up play was much better than last year, we lacked that killing instinct and that look of desperation to win. In the beautiful line of vision that is hindsight, all the signs of what was to follow were present. When the best performance in a Rovers shirt came from the fans in the new Black Bank we should have guessed that it would be a long season ahead.

A few days later Leeds would come to the Keepmoat in a League Cup 1st round tie and were in complete control of the game and leading 1-0. A Rovers penalty converted by Williams and a red card for Leeds would sway the odds in our favour and after 120 minutes had been played our players must have walked off the field disappointed they couldn’t put a single chance away after wave and wave of attack on the Leeds goal. Luckily we managed to come out on top in the shootout and the Rovers fans would finally see a win (or at least a victory – in sorts) over Leeds in the Keepmoat Stadium at the 7th attempt.

The next game at Wigan seemed to pick up where we left off and what was a credible performance which saw the Rovers create some great chances, yet again failed to produce a goal during open play and somehow, Wigan survived enough to walk away with a point. The scoreline would be the same against Southend days later at the Keepmoat – although that performance was more reflective of the previous season with the team looking lost on the ball and generally failing to create any clear cut chances.

A trip to Port Vale would finally deliver the blow we were waiting for as Rovers were sunk 3-0 by an average Vale side. Despite the glimpses of quality seen in our games against Leeds and Wigan – this performance was far too similar to what had been become a typical Dickov performance. With pressure mounting Dickov did manage to rally the troops and held off high flying Ipswich to a 1-1 draw in 90 minutes in a 2nd round League Cup tie at the Moat, only to conceded 3 goals in extra time. However Dickov would be able to clinch his first victory at the Keepmoat a couple of days later as the Rovers won 2-0 against Fleetwood. Whilst you can only beat what is in front of you, the performance was less than impressive and a better side may have found us out – but Dickov got his 3 points and in true Dickov fashion he managed to pull a result out just when he needed one.

Following the victory, and despite fans crying on Social Media “Our Season Starts Now” – we were back to our old tricks when the first day of the September the Rovers and Burton Albion played out what can only be described as the most boring game in the history of football. It finished 0-0 and Dickov’s men would sneak through on penalties. Thankfully less than 3000 people turned up and within minutes of the win people were back on Social Media calling for Dickov’s head.

Personally I felt his job was safe – not that I believe these who believe there is a conspiracy in the boardroom of DRFC to see our club play at the cheapest level possible – but because of how early it was in the season. Obviously our performances were typical of the previous two seasons but given how heavily they backed Dickov in the summer, I felt they would give him more time to turn it around.

Turns out that wasn’t in the script, as days after our next loss at Gillingham (who were top of the league) Dickov was given his marching orders. The Gillingham game itself was one of typical controversy – Rovers should have had a penalty and the Gillingham goal a goal line scramble judged to have crossed the line. Those two incidents aside and it was another boring game. But perhaps it’s fitting that the result that ultimately cost Dickov his job would come at the hands of the team whose dreams he crushed in his playing days where scoring arguably the biggest goal of Manchester City’s history when equalising late on in the play-off final at the old Empire Stadium (or Wembley as you people refer to it).

Rob Jones would be selected as the new caretaker manager and it was clear from the off-set that the Rovers would not rush into appointing a new manager – Jones would be given more than enough time to turn our form around put himself in the strongest position to take on the job full time. Sadly it seems this task is beyond the Corporal as we lost 2-0 to a Wallsall side whose performance wouldn’t look out of place in League 2 (although that statement looks a bit silly now considering their form have bounced them into the top 2).

When Oldham visited the Keepmoat a week later, they too had just sacked their manager and whilst the final score was another draw (surprise) the Rovers were the better side and perhaps should have found a winner. Make no mistake – Oldham looked lost and it seemed we could take some comfort in seeing David Dunn’s task seemed a lot harder than our own.

As September drew to a close, we would have to travel to Bramall Lane to take on Sheffield United in a South Yorkshire derby where there isn’t really a rivalry, but always a bitterly contested affair. Jones’ men looked to be holding our own and despite going behind we got back on level terms when Cameron Stewart scored from his free kick (remember them?). Sadly though a second from Sheff U and a red card for MacKenzie ended any chance of a comeback and Billy Sharp’s second half goal would add insult to injury.

Swindon would be the next team to come to the Keepmoat keen to inflict a second consecutive defeat – but after a run of 3 straight three defeats it would always be an evenly contested game. After a drab first half it was Swindon who struck first and it looked to stay that way, in the last 20 minutes however the game turned on its head as Keshi Anderson scored his first for the Rovers and Williams gave us the lead from the spot – Jones first win looked in the bag before Jonathan Obika levelled late on to give Swindon something to take back down South and take away any realistic chance of Jones being named manager permanently.

Despite sitting in the relegation zone, and in the hunt for a new manager we had somehow managed to go a run of 12 games in all competitions without losing inside 90 minutes at the Keepmoat Stadium – the longest run of games since the stadium opened back in 2007. But given recent performances it looked to be under real threat of ending on game 13 when Barnsley made the short journey to the Keepmoat. Kehsi Anderson was the man of the moment again as he gave us a 1-0 lead going into half-time, but a second half performance that saw the Rovers on the back-foot looked to be heading one way and when Barnsley grabbed an equaliser the Rovers were hanging on for a point.

But given the way football is, we know more than anyone that performances don’t equal points and the Rovers showed fighting spirit to find a winner in the dying moments through Richard Chaplow – one  of Dickov’s signings who spent most of the opening games filling in for Wellens as the missing man in the Rovers midfield. But Chaplows strike showed enough class to beat the Barnsley keeper and erupt the Rovers faithful behind the goal. No matter what league you are in, no matter where you are in the table, no matter who your manager is; there is nothing sweeter than a last minute winner against your rivals. A moment of pure euphoria, grabbing anyone near you and jumping on them as you see the away end quickly emptying.

It’s the sort of result that can not only unite the fan-base and bring an end to constant debating on social media and internet forums (or what’s left of them anyway) – but they can kick start a season.

Before the Barnsley game, the club made it clear that they wish to appoint a manager before our next league game at home to Bradford. It looks as if Rob Jones short spell as Rovers Boss will end as it started, with a 2-0 defeat away from home to opposition we really should be doing better against. Whilst the JPT isn’t high on our list of priorities, losing to York City with arguably our strongest 11 sums up Jones’ tenure; same old same old.

On the whole, it’s been a disappointing opening quarter of the season and whilst the positive is that things can only improve from here – we have to question how much longer this poor stint can continue before we write off yet another season? The win against Barnsley was a great win but after the result against York it’s clear this corner we are turning could quickly become a U-turn. Personally I want a new manager who can come in and not only teach this squad to grind out results, but also make us play like a team that wants to win, I want hunger, passion and that little bit of desperation in the players mentality. I’m confident we can improve and save our season, but I’m not sure if that’s just myself living in hope…

Rovers VS Barnsley

With Doncaster Rovers set to play against local rivals Barnsley this Safturday, the DRSG’s very own Rob Johnson returns to preview the game:

I hate to say it but I have Barnsley in my blood. Not because I once accidentally shared a needle with John Hendrie in the bins behind Asda, but because my Dad and all his family are Barnsley born and bred. Wombwell to be precise.

As a result of this, family occasions are often a tense affair as Rovers, Wednesday and Blades are represented around the table amidst the red wall of Barnsley fans. It is mostly friendly but there is always an air of menace whenever the two teams meet and passive aggressive texts and facebook messages are fired across from all sides…

Rovers and Barnsley is more of a derby than either side like to let on. We both like to flatter ourselves that Wednesday or Leeds is the more important fixture when the truth is neither of those clubs care less about us. This is because like us, Barnsley have spent nearly the entirety of their existence being absolutely dogshit. Barnsley’s hopes of being a dominating force in English football sank with the Titanic in 1912 following their solitary FA cup victory and Rovers have been relegated many more times than they have won trophies. This makes us and Barnsley unlikely bedfellows. In a hotbed of football surrounded by traditionally bigger and more successful clubs Rovers and Barnsley (and Rotherham for that matter) should take solace in the fact that there are others like us. Instead we utterly despise each other and take every opportunity to pour scorn on one another.

Looking at Barnsley is like holding a mirror up to our own club and having to face the unglamorous, mostly terrible football as well as the pretty much standard status as a lower league club for both sides, probably forever. If Leeds are the Dorian Gray of Yorkshire football, Rovers and Barnsley are the grotesque portrait rotting in Dean Windass‘ shed.

With this in mind Barnsley are probably the last team Rovers will want to face right now. Firmly in the relegation zone with only one win to our name is not quite a crisis but a heavy home defeat to our South Yorkshire rivals would probably push Rovers over the edge. Barnsley have been up and down so far this season but resounding recent victories over Swindon and Gillingham do not bode well for Rovers and with Jones, Mackenzie and McCullough still missing it would appear Rovers are there for the taking.

Lining up for Barnsley of course will be Reece Wabara. A man who once sought me out on Twitter and blocked me for describing him as woeful in a match report for Popular Stand. I was actually delighted to see Wabara go but in light of Rovers bold move to do away with right backs seemingly forever it shames me to say I wish he had stayed. Hopefully he will have one his nightmares on Saturday and we might get something.

Match Prediction 1-1

It is indicative of Rovers decline that we should probably be playing for a draw against Barnsley on Saturday. With three centre backs missing and our current form being awful it will take a battling performance to secure a point. I think if things finally go our way we are capable of it. Anderson to score.

Doncaster Rovers VS Fleetwood – Match Report

A retrospective look at Rovers first league win of the season.
Stray Observations

  •  Leeds aside it has been all doom and gloom for Rovers this season , finally we have a win to celebrate, and a good performance to boot.
  • All the pre match talk was of Richie Wellens handing in a transfer request. While the reasons for this surprising turn of events are still unclear, what is obvious from the Fleetwood victory is Rovers are a quicker and more fluid team without Wellens in it. The second goal was a case in point as Rovers counter attacked quickly to punish Fleetwood. This was to be the story of the first half as only tactical fouls stopped Rovers from hitting the visitors on the break time and time again.
  • While Wellens could still be a valuable squad player this season, his seemingly impending transfer is a relief for those of us who believe he is no longer good enough to start every game. If he does leave replacements must be sought in this area but this could be a blessing in disguise.
  • Wellens fellow veteran James Coppinger has also come in for some stick from a minority of the Rovers fans this season but he answered those critics with an impressive performance. It was not just a rare headed goal but also a brilliant ball to Williams that led to Curtis Main adding a second. It was an energetic and complete performance from Copps and he will hope for more of the same with his surely now inevitable record breaking appearance looming large.
  • 4876 is a poor crowd and is indeed the lowest ever recorded at the Keepmoat for a league game. It is worrying what depths attendances might reach when the cold weather kicks in. Another reason why home victories like this are so important.
  • Cameron Stewart made a complete mess of the one excellent opportunity that came his way but on paper he looks a decent signing, albeit in a position that Rovers don’t really need strengthening.

Winners

Andy Williams – Whilst Copps received the official man of the match accolade it was Williams who most impressed with a complete strikers performance. All that was missing was the goal that his battling display deserved. As well as the excellent assist for Curtis Main’s goal, Williams was a handful throughout and seems to be improving with every game.

Curtis Main – Boy did he need that… hopefully Main’s goal and another strong performance will be the catalyst for him finally fulfilling his potential and not another false dawn.

Rovers youngsters – The continued success of our youth team players has been the biggest positive of an underwhelming start to the season. Middleton had his best game yet against Fleetwood – neat and tidy in possession whilst also constantly giving the visitors midfield no time on the ball. Lund too, overcame a couple of nervy moments and a nasty looking ball in the face to once again show that he is a prospect. Whilst it is troubling that we have to rely on products of the youth system so much, it is still encouraging to see them making the step up.

Rovers Defence – A clean sheet the entire back five can be proud of. Stuckmann again pulled off a couple of quality saves, Butler and Mackenzie look to be easily our strongest centre back pairing and Aaron Taylor Sinclair was brilliant both going forward and at the back. If we do eventually sign a specialist right back and a reserve centre back, we have the makings of a strong defensive unit.

 

Losers

The South Stand – Whilst it was lovely to see Rovers actually score some goals, they are yet to score in front of their own fans (Harry Forrester’s freak goal aside).

Richie Wellens – No matter his reasons for handing in a transfer request, Wellens stock has never been lower after Rovers put in comfortably their best performance of the season without him. Like Middleton, Chaplow was functional without being spectacular in the centre of the park but against most clubs in league one that is all you need. Thanks for the memories Richie.

Trevor Kettle – While it was disappointing to see Andy Williams go down holding his face following a tangle of legs with Fleetwood right back Conor McLaughlin, there is no doubt that McLaughlin should have been sent off for his retaliatory knee in Williams back. Kettle spotted it but then only issued a booking. An incorrect and totally inexplicable decision.

Conclusion – A much needed win for both Dickov and Rovers. Tuesdays game against Burton takes on a bit of extra significance now as it is vital Rovers build on this win to kickstart their season. For now though a win, a clean sheet and a good performance has gone a long way to improving Dickov’s faltering reputation.

BURY MATCH REVIEW BY ROB JOHNSON

Rovers kick off their season in the most bizarre fashion imaginable.

 

Ahh the first game of the season. Before your star striker becomes injured. Before the fans are calling for the managers head. Before the first pie and peas (and gravy) has been served. Before the players stride onto the hallowed turf and before the roar of the crowd. It is these moments that football is all about…

Off the back of an encouraging pre season campaign Rovers started brightly against Bury with Forrester creating space on the left with a trademark jinking run only to fire tamely into Bury keeper Christian Walton’s arms on five minutes. Minutes later Andy Butler (who I had backed to score first at 28/1) headed a dangerous corner down into the ground but couldn’t beat Walton. Rovers continued to look bright as a promising counter attack was only halted when Curtis Main found the ball at his feet, stopped dead and looked like a man who had never seen a football before in his life until a Bury midfielder put him out of his misery and pinched the ball off his toes.

On 18 minutes Forrester found himself clear of the Bury defence only to shank his cross into the opposition fans before promptly falling over. It would end up being a strange afternoon for young Harold.

Bury came into the game on 20 minutes when first Chaplow then Butler missed a tackle on the right hand side which led to Leon Clarke whizzing a shot just past Stuckmann’s left hand post. Stuckmann made two other smart stops minutes apart from each other as Bury marauded down the left wing with McCullough completely absent in his role at right back.

Rovers best chance came and went in the 26th minute when Coppinger fed Main at the edge of the box only for him to snatch his left footed shot well wide. It was scrappy, end to end stuff until the 39th minute when Williams beat Walton to a long ball but then chose to shoot from a ridiculous angle which inevitably hit the side netting.

Bury had the final say of the first half when Rovers were again carved open on the left wing only for Leon Clarke to blaze the cutback miles over and in acres of space.

Bury also had the best of the opening exchanges of the second half, twice coming close before Clarke hit the post with Tom Pope causing all sorts of problems for the Rovers defence. Rovers had perhaps their best chance of the second half soon after this as Coppinger’s low cross was narrowly missed by an onrushing Andy Williams.

With three quarters of the game gone Stuckmann was once again called into action as Bury’s attack strolled through Rovers static defence (bringing to mind Glen Wilson’s ‘barbershop poles stuck in the ground’ metaphor) and Clarke rolled the ball to the edge of the area only for Stuckmann to appear from nowhere to stop a certain goal.

Rovers had two strong penalty appeals turned down with ten minutes to go and that seemed like it would be the end of the action. Until everything suddenly went mental!

 

Bury put the ball out for Nathan Cameron to receive treatment only for Forrester to accidentally lob Walton and put Rovers 1-0 up. Following a brief melee and to their eternal credit the Rovers players allowed Leon Clarke to smash the ball home from one yard with a fine finish.

 

Stray observations:

  • To be a full back in modern football you need to be strong in both defence and attack. McCullough can barely do either. He was woefully out of position all game and offered nothing going forward. We need a specialist right back, preferably in time for the Leeds game.
  • For a team with genuine top six ambitions, Wellens should be a squad player, not somebody to build a team around it was disconcerting to see him play 90 minutes.
  • Never under any circumstances should Curtis Main start ahead of Nathan Tyson. Main was arguably more of a hindrance than a help for the reds today.
  • On a positive note the Black Bank was an unqualified success. The challenge now is to improve with every game. Shouldn’t be hard considering our next opposition.
  • Taking aside the sportsmanship argument for a second. Had we not allowed Bury to score it would have been a completely undeserved victory and would have tarnished our reputation as a football club forever. It simply wasn’t worth it.
  • When you are bringing on Cedric Evina and a man with 3 appearances to his name off the bench (Harry Middleton) to try and win a game it shows an alarming lack of squad depth.

 

Man of the Match – Forrester was brilliant for the first hour before fading but we would have lost comfortably had it not been for Stuckmann. Hopefully not a sentence I have to write too often this season.

Rovers Season Preview by Lee Croft

Following the in-depth and fantastic DRSG League 1 Pre-Season Review, who better to write the season preview for the Rovers than DRSG Chair and general sad act Lee Croft:

It is that time of year again; getting the Rovers shirt out for the first time since that all inclusive holiday to Salu, picking up your Season Ticket and making plans with your mates for which pub to meet in on Saturday. Yes, the football season is back.

Last season was a very mediocre one by recent standards, and even the best of rose tinted glasses couldn’t blur our disappointing league finish. But it wasn’t all that bad, there was some stand out points and as many fantastic performances as there was dreadful.

Paul Dickov showed he can build a strong resolute side, and this was evident in how we only lost twice when we had taken the lead. The issue however was that on too many occasions just the opposite happened, we would fall behind and struggle to get back into the game and the opposition made easy work of finishing us off. The games against Bristol, Walsall and Fleetwood away spring to mind, as well as Oldham, Port Vale and Bradford at home.

I have to admit, that I like Paul Dickov, and I want him to do well. In each of the threads that appeared on Social Media and Fans Forums after losses questioning whether Dickov should go, I was firmly Team Dickov in the first half of the season. But I hate to say that towards the latter end of the season even I was struggling to defend the inconsistency.

Dickov blamed the inconsistency to not having enough players of a winning mentality, the players who know how to win games and challenge for promotion. One thing we also know about Dickov is that he talks a good game, but on the pitch it was a different story. So far, however the signs have all been positive with the players brought into the squad fitting exactly into that criteria.

The addition of Thorster Stuckman has been nothing short of encouraging so far, with solid performances in pre-season and a CV showing his experience. To bolster the defence in front of the BFG we have also seen Gary MacKenzie and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, the return of Rob Jones to fitness will also seem at times like a new signing.

Going forward we have recruited going forward as well, Richard Chaplow is another player we managed to swoop and surprised many with the midfielder looking to drop a level to play for the Rovers. Bennett leaving may have left us short of options on the wing, but Dany N’Guessan will hopefully plug that gap. When we look back on previous seasons, it’s not uncommon for Rovers fans to recall how we were missing that “20 goals a season striker”, well Dickov was quick to silence that excuse by recruiting Andy Williams who was more than impressive in front of goal last season.

Of course at this stage it would be easy to look at the squad and come to the conclusion that on paper it does appear a little thin, you could argue that Wellens, Tyson and Coppinger may not have much left in the tank, or the younger players such as Lund or Middleton may be relied on too much. But with the transfer window open for another 4 weeks, there is still time for a couple more transfers and even a couple of loan signings which would help strengthen our position as promotion candidates.

With the exception of Sheffield United who will be early favourites for promotion with Nigel Adkins leading the way, it is pretty much an open field in terms of who will follow them. Millwall and Wigan may be fancied, but as we learned last season bouncing back from relegation can often be tough. Looking at our squad and the rest of League One, it is safe to expect that we should be at least challenging this season.

The signs this season have been very positive, the signings have been refreshingly of a higher standard and it seems that Dickov may finally be ready to repay the faith and patience shown in him, he will know this is probably his last chance to prove his doubters wrong. I for one would love to see this happen and hearing the Black Bank chanting his name like a hero should be high on his priorities for this season.

So there we go, literally only hours til kick off. The only thing left to do now is get some sleep, wake up and go through the morning ritual of humming Rovers songs whilst having a shave, worshipping the framed shirts around your house, find yourself at the Keepmoat, grab a pint, join the Black Bank, get those scarves and flags out and most importantly, believe!

My final position prediction: 2nd.

Rovers Legends: Sharp VS Tierney by Lee Croft

2 Legends currently leading the Doncaster Rovers Legends Banner Vote (over on the Black Bank site), Lee Croft examines their legendary status a little further…

The biggest goal in our 136 Year history VS the best goal in our history, that it arguably the choice fans will make when deciding the sixth and final former Rover to appear on the upcoming Legends Banner next season: The goal that came from heaven or the goal that saved us from hell?

Despite playing for Scunthorpe United before and Leeds United afterwards, many Rovers fans still hold a special place in their hearts for ‘King’ Billy Sharp. The bare torso celebration at Glanford Park, the corner flag turned weight lifting taunt vs QPR at home, the ‘fat lad from Sheffield’ tee and even the tongue out, arms in the air at Bramall Lane; Sharp created many magical memories for Rovers supporters, his celebrations were just as enthusiastic as his goals. He was a natural entertainer and lead from the front during his 2 and a half year spell with us.

Of course, there is also the one that will never be forgotten, less than a week after losing his new born son (Luey Jacob Sharp) Billy asked not only to play in the home game against high flyers Middlesbrough, but also asked manager Dean Saunders if he couple wear the Captain’s armband. A back heel by Diouf chipped the ball over the Boro defence looked as if it was a stretch too far for Billy Sharp, but he chased after it and despite the oncoming Keeper from the Boro goal and the tight angle against him, Sharp hit it with his left foot on the volley which looped over the goalie and rocketed into the net. He ran off towards the West Stand, kicking the advertising hoardings whilst revealing a heartfelt message under his shirt. Dubbed ‘The Goal from Heaven’, this was perhaps the best way Sharp could cope with his grief, by doing what he knew best – scoring fantastic goals.

In my memory, Sharp is by far the most popular player with the fans. The most chanted, the most celebrated, the most talked about. If he wins the vote then I believe it is a fitting cause for such a player to represent the most recent era in Rovers times. You would think there is no reason why Sharp shouldn’t win. The fact he is currently second is probably nothing beyond his control, but just being unfortunate to be in the same category as ‘Sir’ Francis Tierney.

Francis Tierney is the only man in the entire country who can say he has scored the goal that instantly won his team promotion. Before 10th May 2003, no team in England had ever won promotion via a Golden Goal and no team has done so afterwards. Being the man who has that honour bestows you a place in history for years and years to come. That goal by Tierney was by no means spectacular, Blundell (donning a bandage on his head) found Barnes on the edge of the box who stabbed at the ball with his foot and it somehow trickled through the defence for Tierney to tap it in from 7 yards. It was messy yet efficient, but what it meant for the club can’t be put into words.

When asked about how he felt when the ball came towards him, Tierney told BBC Radio Sheffield that his “legs turned to jelly”, his celebration a standard turning around and running towards the fans with his finger in the air, a scene which soon transformed into pandemonium when it sunk in to the fans and players that the game was over, Doncaster Rovers were promoted back into the Football League. ‘Franny’ was knighted by the Rovers faithful instantly, and on his next appearance in the Red and White hoops, Tierney was met by the Pop Stand at Belle Vue bowing in worship and chanting “Sir Francis Tierney”. Even now Tierney is humble about it, recalling it on Facebook as “Just a tap in.”

For many fans that goal is regarded bigger than the Lee header at Cardiff, the Hayter winner at Wembley or even Copps’ tap in at Brentford. It provided a moment in time that will be shared for generations as the goal that brought salvation to Doncaster. But will it also provide Tierney the votes he needs to keep ahead of Sharp and win his place on our banner? That much is still up to you.

King Billy and Sir Francis are without doubt two Legends who will be remembered for different reasons, two that are rightly leading the vote. Who should you vote for? It’s probably not up to me to tell you, it’s one you need to figure out on your own. Me? I voted for Chris Brown. Obviously…

CAST YOUR VOTE FOR THE LATEST LEGEND BANNER POLL OVER ON THE BLACK BANK

 

 

 

COLIN CRAMB: A ROVERS LEGEND

Amidst the Black Bank Rovers Legends Banner Vote, DRSG Committee Member Rob Johnson puts forward the case for Colin Cramb, the man in the shadows…

Legend is a word that is thrown around a lot these days, particularly in football. Having a shit in the urinals at Nando’s makes you a legend in some people’s eyes.

What constitutes a footballing legend is obviously subjective. Some would say Mickey Norbury is a legend for his hat trick at Glanford Park despite playing only 27 games for Rovers. Others would say that Lee Warren definitely isn’t a legend despite clocking up nearly 200 games in the red and white hoops.

This brings us neatly on to the subject of the latest vote taking place on the Black Bank website to decide who should feature on the legends banner that is being produced for the Keepmoat next season. Warren himself is featured on the list as well some others from that era including Ian Duerdan, Graeme Jones, Darren Moore, Gary Brabin and others. With voting a few days in though, it appears that former Rovers manager Dave Penney is the likeliest winner. If it were up to me I would go for none of the above. The only choice for what was a mostly disappointing time for Rovers for me has to be Colin Cramb.

Every football fan has a player who captured their imagination. Their first love. The player who stirred excitement and passion that would eventually become obsession. Football fans the world over will tell you about Bergkamp, Zidane, Messi et al but for a chubby kid from Town Moor it was Colin Cramb who first caught my attention.

The 96/97 season was the first year my dad took me to Rovers when I looked beyond just the scoreline and Cramby was one of the main reasons for my interest. Every time Cramb got the ball it felt like something could happen. It felt like he scored in every game I attended that season and Cramb was a scorer of great goals as well as being prolific. It wasn’t just the goals that drew me to Cramb either. He was a real character. In the space of four games that season Cramby was sent off at Swansea, went in net during a 6-0 defeat against Chester City (and saved a penalty!), scored against our bitter rivals Scunthorpe and scored in a glorious 2-0 victory over top of the league Wigan Athletic. Whether scoring a hat trick at Hartlepool or having one of the worst disciplinary records of any Rovers player in a single season Cramby was a player who you couldn’t take your eyes off.

Dave Penney was a good player and a captain but he is surely receiving the majority of his votes for his time as Rovers manager rather than anything he did on the pitch. By that logic you would have to include SOD on any legends flag as well. No, this is a flag for the players who fans remember. The players that make you smile with recognition whenever their name is mentioned. The players who we will still be talking about in the pub in thirty years’ time. Colin Cramb played just 62 games for Rovers but for people of a certain generation he is the reason they became a Rovers fan. If that isn’t the definition of a legend then I don’t know what is.

VOTE FOR CRAMB (or your favourite legend) over on the Black Bank Site

BLACK BANK: Doncaster Rovers Legends Vote 1948-1960

Who features? You Decide 1879-1948

8 Legends have been short-listed by the Black Bank over a period spanning 12 years, however only one can feature on the Legends Banner (more on the Black Bank website). DRSG Committee member Lee Croft takes a closer look at each candidate and what they achieved whilst at Doncaster Rovers:

Charles Williams 1948-59

Along with Roy Brown of Stoke City, Williams was one of the first black players to play English Football after the war. He was born a Yorkshire man, lived a Yorkshire man, sounded like a Yorkshire man, but just happened to be black. During the war he played football for the Upton colliery team before being signed for Doncaster Rovers, as a natural Centre Back he would go on to make over 170 appearances for the club. He only managed to score once for the Rovers, but with that goal coming against Barnsley (the town where he was born and grew up) it made him a hit on the Belle Vue terraces. After leaving football Williams would go onto become a great comedian and one of the first black comedians to enjoy mainstream success. His routine often found himself making jokes at his own expense and misfortune, but his time at Doncaster Rovers is not to be laughed at. Williams was a cult-hero and legend to many.

 

Peter Doherty 1948-53

Doherty signed for the Rovers originally as a player-manager in April 1949 for a fee of £8000 from Huddersfield. Even club historian Tony Bluff describes the moment as a “momentous announcement”. He was often a man who would lead from the front and made it clear when he fired Rovers into the lead in their first game under his stewardship against Bradford City at Valley Parade. That would be a sign of things to come as he finished the season with 27 goals in 35 games and guided the Rovers to the Third Division North Championship; earning the Rovers promotion to the Second Division where they would stay for 8 years. For the next couple of seasons Doherty would feature (when not injured) before slowly hanging up his boots in 1953 and becoming manager full time. His record at the Rovers as player was most impressive with 55 goals in a 103 games. His legend status amongst fans would only be cemented further by the success the club continued to enjoy with him as manager, keeping the club in the 2nd Division for 8 years.

 

Len Graham 1949-58

Until recently Len Graham was the most internationally capped player whilst at the Rovers with his 14 caps for Northern Ireland during this 9 year period. This was beaten recently by none other than Dean Furman. What Deano can’t take away however, is Graham’s incredible record for the club as he went on to join the ‘Club 300’. Graham signed under Doherty’s reign and when Doherty was called upon to manage the Northern Ireland side, Graham would become a regular for the national team as well.  Following Doherty’s resignation and the club’s relegation to the Third Division in 1958, Len Graham left the Rovers and joined Torquay. However he would only make 20 more appearances before going back to Northern Ireland. Graham was an iconic figure for the club in the 50s, an ever present in Doherty’s team and considered one of the greats at DRFC.

 

Kit Lawlor 1950-54

Like Graham before him, Lawlor was recruited on one of Doherty’s regular trips to Ireland in pre-season tours where the squad often came back larger. Lawlor would become a regular feature in the Rovers line-up throughout his 5 seasons; he notched up 128 league appearances and chipped in with 46 goals. One of his greatest games for the club came at Anfield in August 1954 in the opening game of the season where the Rovers fought gallantly against Liverpool, twice Lawlor put the Rovers in front, with 6 minutes remaining and the Rovers leading 2-1 it would be heartbreak for Lawlor and co and Tony Rowley scored twice to give himself a hatrick, give Liverpool the 3 points and steal the limelight from underneath Lawlor’s feet. It may have been a surprise for many Rovers fans when Lawlor left the club in December to head back for Ireland, however the gap was soon filled as the space left by Lawlor was soon snapped up by 15 year old Alick Jeffrey.

 

Brian Makepeace 1951-61

It’s a rarity in football for a captain to be a full-back, but Brian Makepeace was the exception. Signing for the club at just 20 years old, local boy Brian would soon rise to lead his home-town club, playing over 350 games for the Rovers throughout Division 2 and the fall into Division 3 from 1958. He is one of the few outfield players to have played so many games for the club without scoring a single league goal. Makepeace’s legacy however reaches far beyond his own era as in 2006 the final ever game to be played on the turf of Belle Vue was Makepeace’s testimonial featuring a fans XI playing against a DRFC XI.

 

Harry Gregg 1952-57

The ‘Hero of Munich’ is well known to Manchester United fans, one of the key performers under Matt Busby and survivor and rescuer of many during the Munich air disaster. But what isn’t as well documented is Gregg’s career prior to becoming a Busby babe. As with many players during the period, Gregg was recruited by Doherty and comes from across the Irish Sea. Originally an understudy for Hardwick, Gregg would force his way into the first team and in 1954 made a breakthrough to the Northern Ireland national side (in which Doherty was a manager). It is said that Doherty had first seen Gregg play when he was 14 in 1946, and not long after being made manager of the club Doherty made it one of his ambitions to get him to sign. It was also one of Doherty’s last acts of manager to sanction the transfer of Gregg to Manchester United for £23,000. The highest fee ever paid for a goal-keeper at the time. Looking back, you could say we were robbed!

 

Ron Walker 1952-61

An interesting selection, there is no doubt that during his time with the club Walker became popular and well-remembered, but things didn’t get off to the best starts for him. In his first season he scored 4 goals in his 21 appearances, sadly however in all 4 games Rovers failed to win and only managed a draw in 1. He would have to wait until his 3 goals the following season would follow the same stat as the Rovers drew 2-2 three times against Everton, Oldham and Stoke. He would have to wait until the 26th March 1956 before finally scoring in a game where the Rovers won, which was a 2-1 home win against West Ham United. Alick Jeffrey scoring the other (who else?). Staying with the club throughout the fall from the second to the fourth division and Walker would see himself top goal scorer in both relegation seasons (although only scoring 9, it wasn’t that an impressive feat). When Walker finally left the club in 1961 with nearly 300 league and cup appearances under his belt, it signalled the end of an era for Doncaster Rovers, along with Makepeace he was one of the last stalwarts of the 50s to leave the club. A great servant and a true legend.

 

Alick Jeffrey 1954-57 & 1963-68

There is perhaps little I can add to the Jeffrey story that isn’t already common knowledge. Even on his first game Alick stole the headlines as he became the youngest player to have played for the Rovers. He quickly became a scorer of some magnificent goals and had the world at his feet. There was no doubt Jeffrey would be a great of the game, it is rumoured that Doherty convincing the teenage to join the Rovers over Matt Busby’s Manchester United set a rift between the two managers that took some time to heal. But Busy did get his man in the end when Jeffrey agreed to sign for the Manchester outfit in 1956, only to break his leg playing for the England Under 23 team. Looking back Jeffrey had no regrets: If I hadn’t had broken my leg, I would have been on that plane [in Munich]. He would go on to sustain another leg break before finally making his comeback (with Skegness Town) and finally returned to the Rovers in the 60’s where he went on to play over 200 games for the club in all competitions in his second stint, scoring over a 100 goals. Many have looked back on Jeffrey as someone who could have been the greatest footballer of his generation. Whether he will be voted as the greatest legend of this era, is yet to be decided.

BLACK BANK: Doncaster Rovers Legends Vote 1879-1948

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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