This summer brought more takeover frenzy at the Keepmoat as John Ryan and Louis Tomlinson launched a bid to try and become joint owners of the club. The bid was unsuccessful with the Football Leagues regulations standing in their way. As a result John Ryan announced that he was ‘finished with football’, something that no doubt brought great dismay to all Doncaster Rovers fans.
The man who saved DRFC in 1998 from inevitable liquidation was announcing the end of one amazing ride which had seen us win 4 promotions, including 2 play off wins, claim the Johnstones Paint Trophy and have a giant killing run in the League Cup.
I’d tried several times to get into contact with John since the collapse but with no avail. The pain of the summer’s events had no doubt taken its toll. However when I finally got a chance to speak to our most successful chairman, through his daughter Claire I didn’t know how to approach it.
My whole Doncaster Rovers supporting life under John Ryan had for the most been a fulfilling experience. I’d argue that not many supporters in Britain had been treated to such highs that we’d had at the club and I wanted to relive that with the man who’d delivered it.
It was clear from the moment John picked up the phone that football still played a huge part in his life. The passion and romance John still displayed when he spoke about the club was still there. It was like speaking to any fan I’d come across. After all this was a supporter of the club first and a Chairman second.
I was keen to focus on the great times we had and not those that have stained the last two summers and John delivered in so many ways. His voice crackled with emotion when he talked of the achievements made and the sense of camaraderie at the club during its meteoric rise.
So we at the DRSG present to you, the most influential man in Doncaster Rovers history, John Ryan in his first interview since the summer!
1) You came back to the club in 1998 when the club had next to nothing in terms of equipment. Was there anything you had to send a lackey out to get last minute, as they never got taken into consideration till the last minute?
The club was knackered when I arrived back, the club needed money desperately, I had to give a bond to the Conference for a substantial sum, people didn’t realise what a situation we were in. We had to pick players up on the way down to Dover; I celebrated because we only lost 1-0. We had no shirts so I’d been in contact with Neil Warnock to borrow some off Sheffield United. As it was we found some of the East Riding Sacks shirts and wore those. The fans were terrific in those early days, helping fix up the Stadium to ensure we could play. Everyone wanted to contribute, a great sense of camaraderie and team spirit surged through the club.
2) How much truth is there in the rumour that you bought all the squad a Peters Crispy Cod following promotion one year? What would you recommend from the menu?
I always recommend Crispy Cod because it’s the finest Fish and Chip shop in the whole of England. I’m partial to Fish and Chips and I’ve tried them up and down the country, mainly at away venues where Rovers are playing. After the game where we’d won handsomely I delivered it to them, it was great fun. I know players shouldn’t eat Fish and Chips but I was more than happy for them to do it on a Saturday night after they’d thrashed a side then it’s fair enough with a pint of bitter to go with it. That was the ‘Pub team having a laugh’ mentality. My Bentley has seen plenty of Fish and Chips piled in the back, the last time being just last week. I was in Doncaster and found time to nip off for a Crispy Cod.
3) Your goals to game ratio at DRFC is worse than Mark Sales, Justin Jacksons and Neil Campbell’s, do you feel you could have delivered more on the pitch in our Conference promotion year?
No because my record if you look at it another way is: Played one, won one!
4) Off the fence now, Belle Vue or the Keepmoat Stadium?
Without any doubt, Belle Vue. Fantastic atmosphere, other than the Keepmoat for the Southend game it is unfortunately fairly soulless.
5) Who has been your favourite DRFC player to grace our turf during your time at the helm?
I think Coppinger. Closely followed by Wellens and Stock.
6) What has been your best moment at Doncaster Rovers?
Without doubt walking on the Wembley pitch having beaten Leeds, I was in dreamland. It couldn’t have been any better if we’d beaten Manchester United, it couldn’t have been any better than beating good old Leeds United!
7) What’s the worst you’ve been treated as a Chairman at an opposition ground?
Worst was at Boston United away when a load of purported Rovers fans, though I believe they were Donny Whites spent the whole game having a go at me and I was with my daughter so that left me feeling very, very annoyed. That was way back in the conference.
8) Have you ever signed a player on a whim without seeing them play?
I don’t think I have really. I always left that with my manager and his scouting network.
9) What’s been your favourite Rovers chant of all time?
‘Just a Pub team, having a laugh’ – it embodied the tremendous spirit going through the club in those years and a tremendous enthusiasm that somewhere along the way we seem to have lost.
10) Where do you honestly think we’ll finish this season?
My heart says playoffs, my head says…mid table.
11) Have you ever donned the Donny Dog outfit and masqueraded in disguise?
No hahaha. I can’t get in, its too small. Otherwise I probably would have done. I left that to Andy Liney!
12) What moment has made you laugh more than any other at football?
Andy Liney when he was mimicking the dance behind all the Vikettes. Definitely one from Andy Lineys time as Donny Dog, though I must add Claire does a fantastic job too
The questions on everyone’s lips:
13) What’s the worst film you’ve ever seen?
Without doubt that bloody film with the guy from Ali G, it was bloody awful, erm, I think its called Borat!
14) What is your favourite cheese?
15) Who’s the most famous person in your phone contacts?
I’ll give you three, Sir Alex Ferguson, Kevin Pieterson and Louis Tomlinson
16) Whats your signature dish. Do you make a mean Spag Bol?
My signature dish is definitely collecting Fish and Chips. I don’t cook so I don’t make a mean Spag Bol or a mean anything else.
17) What’s your biggest phobia?
Watching Leeds United win!
18) Boxers or briefs?
Hahaha too much info!
19) 1D or John Parr?
1D – I like John Parr but I must say 1D as I saw them in concert not long back and they were brilliant!
20) If Mustapha Dumbuya had a pony what would it be called?
Final question (its a thinker): If you could have a chance to play again in a testimonial game – who would you take on, under what manager and with what other 10 rovers players in your side?
I’d like to take on a Manchester United legends team, captained by Bryan Robson and managed by Sir Alex Ferguson
Manager: Sean O’Driscoll
So that brings us to the end of my brief encounter with John Ryan. The one thing clear throughout the interview was the passion displayed towards the club and the camaraderie shown by the fans and directors alike to build the club to what it is today. We chased a dream and cut teams down to size along the way.
If John Ryan never returns to the capacity as Chairman of the club he has achieved a legacy that will be unsurpassed. After years of being a team who were regularly joked about we suddenly began to laugh harder than those around us. The youth football pitches started to fill up with Doncaster Rovers shirts and the town proudly acknowledged there was a football team again.
So on behalf of the DRSG and the supporters of a club that was on the brink of extinction, thanks for giving this generation and the next somewhere to go dream every Saturday!
John Ryan was interviewed by Wesley Grimes on behalf of the Doncaster Rovers Supporters Group