Tag Archives: Doncaster Rovers

A Look Back on John Ryan Part 2: Staying on Track

Part One is available HERE

In the summer of 1999, John Ryan must have felt pretty proud. A year previous was a time of uncertainty but along with Aidan Phelan, Ian MacMahon and Peter Wetzel to name a few; John Ryan had helped to save Doncaster Rovers and keep the club alive, going from the pits of nothing to a sell out crowd at Belle Vue witnessing the club win the Endsleigh Challenge Trophy.

But the club were still in the Conference, and were still some way away from achieving Ryan’s first promise of getting the club back into the league. However, he put his money where his mouth is, and for a team that finished in the lower half of the Conference we continued to sign some pretty big names. Mark Atkins, a midfielder who lifted the Premier League Trophy with Blackburn Rovers 5 years previous signed for the club in what was considered by some as the coup of the century. Despite this, the club could only go on to retain the Challenge Trophy that season with a small improvement in their final league position than that of the season before.

Ian Snodin’s reign would be brought to an end and Steve Wignall was brought in. A former Doncaster player who had successful managerial spells at the newly formed Aldershot Town and later Colchester was seen as a fantastic appointment. However, with only one team being promoted each season it was becoming a difficult task and it wasn’t long before pressure began mounting on Wignall.

Off the pitch Ryan was also piling pressure on the Council for a new Stadium. Unlike Richardson he had no financial interest on the Belle Vue lease and felt he could only continue to fund the club for so much longer in the run down Belle Vue. Getting the club into a new stadium was probably more important for Ryan than getting them out of the Conference, and in a political move to force the Council’s hand Ryan resigned as Chairman in late 2001.

Before Ryan rejoined the board in 2003 after the council finally committed to the new stadium, there were times when it was rumoured that Ryan was considering withdrawing his financial support. As a result, the Supporters Club and Viking supporters Co-operative were footing the bill for the first team hotel stays when playing far away in late 2001 and early 2002. Although he didn’t return as Chairman straight away, Ryan did at least continue to financially support the club in 2002 and remained an active shareholder.

During this short time, Wignall was replaced by player Dave Penney as he made the step up to management. The Nationwide Conference also announced that 2 promotion places would be up for grabs with the introduction of the Conference Play Offs. As a club that was challenging in the top 5 of the Conference, this gave the club new hope that a return back into the Football League was on the horizon.

The 2002-03 season would become one of the most memorable season’s of Ryan’s tenure, as he played out a childhood dream when he played for the first team against Hereford in the final league game of the season. Winning 4-2 and a play-place confirmed, Ryan entered the guinness book of records when he made his professional debut at 52 years and 11 months.

And so, the Rovers would take part in the first ever Conference Play Offs, with a 2 legged tie against Chester City was all that remained between Doncaster Rovers and a date at Stoke to compete for a place in the Football League. The first leg at Belle Vue saw ex Rovers player Kevin MacIntyre pop up to silence the Rovers fans and in cruel footballing fashion a simple finger on the lips was the celebration. The tie wouldn’t end in all doom and gloom for the Vikings however, as Tristian Whitman popped up in injury time to score a fine effort with the outside of his foot to give the Rovers some hope going into the second leg at the Deva Stadium.

Half an hour on the clock and Wayne Hatswell, who scored probably the most famous own goal of the decade 1 year previous, put the hosts into the lead and that feeling of nerves that your season hangs in the balance of this game started to surface. Thankfully, Paul Barnes prodded home the equaliser that was perhaps the most ugliest goal ever scored, but the Rovers fans behind the goal celebrated as if it was the most important, and at that very moment in time, It was.

With the game tied at 1-1 and 2-2 on aggregate, the only way to separate Chester and the Rovers would be a penalty shootout. Patterson would take the first for the Rovers, only to see Brown in the Chester goal make a good save and set the pressure mounting on Penney’s boys. Warrington however was to earn himself hero status saving the first and last Chester penalty which saw Chester knocked out, and a trip to Stoke’s Brittannia Stadium on the cards for the Rovers, playing against Dagenham and Redbridge for a place in the Football League.

And so, on the 10th May 2003, over 10,000 Rovers fans descended to Stoke’s Britannia Stadium in the first ever Conference Play Off Final. There has rarely been a better sight than Paul Green scoring the first goal of the game in front of the travelling army and setting Doncaster on their way. 10 minutes into the second half and it was soon 2-0 thanks to a goal from big man Dave Morley. At 2-0 up things were looking good, but as JR once recalled, “We don’t do things the easy way” and Dagenham would come back into the game and level 2-2 after goals from Mark Stein and Tarkan Mustafa.

Prior to this game (and since) – no team had ever won promotion via a Golden Goal, but the Rovers were determined to break that habit and 10 minutes from the end of extra time the unlikely hero Francis Tierney popped up to slot home arguably the most important goal in Doncaster Rovers’ history. 5 years on since relegation to the conference and John Ryan had steered his club back into the league. Achieving the first of his promises.

Our 5 year stint in the Conference is often looked back upon by some as more enjoyable and a time when things were much less serious. Perhaps that is a virtue of always looking back at the ‘Golden Age’ because for John Ryan this period saw political struggles with the council, 3 different managers and promotion coming in the most nail-biting of circumstances. Nevertheless he kept his word and got Doncaster Rovers back into the league, a feat that would plate him in golden armour.

DRSG Statement: John Ryan

John Ryan – Doncaster Rovers Chairman

On behalf of our members and all Doncaster Rovers fans, the Doncaster Rovers Supporters Group would like to place on record its gratitude and thanks for the tremendous efforts of John Ryan during his time as a Shareholder, Board Member and Chairman of Doncaster Rovers.

They say that in football no man is bigger than the club, but we at the DRSG believe John Ryan came pretty close. He showed commitment and passion and connected with the fans in ways that Chairmen around the country could only dream of.  He will forever remain in the history of Doncaster Rovers.

John Ryan - Doncaster Rovers Chairman

John Ryan wore his heart on his sleeve, created hope when misery was inflicted and gave us a license to dream big, and we hope this new era at Doncaster Rovers will build on these values and continue the legacy that John Ryan has left at Doncaster Rovers.

We wish John all the best for the future, we are sure he will remain a fan and friend of the club and hopefully he will see the enjoyment and excitement that he has given to us for the best part of the last 2 decades.

Thank you John.

John Ryan – Doncaster Rovers Chairman

Thank You Sir JR

Following confirmation that John Ryan has ‘given’ his shares and loans back to the club, he ends his professional involvement in his childhood club after nearly 20 years.

Loved by the fans for his never say die attitude and wearing his heart on his sleeve. If John Ryan is calling this the end for his time as a DRFC shareholder, then he leaves the club in far better shape than when he first joined nearly two decades ago.

Lee Croft looks back on JR’s time with the club with 4 installments due in the next week.


Part One: The Ryan Revolution Begins

John Ryan first joined the club as a director with a small shareholding in 1992, the Chairman at the time was James Burke and financially Doncaster Rovers were struggling. In recent times both Aldershot and Maidstone United had collapsed and there was a fear amongst many lower league clubs that they could be next.

In October 1992 the board looked to issue 300,000 new shares, but at the AGM this was rejected by a majority, mainly in fear the the amount of new shares would mean it would become very easy for one individual to take control of the club. However in December that year a special convened general meeting approved the proposal as it emerged the club were in significant debt.

In March 1993 the club was taken to the High Court once again due to an unpaid balance due to the Inland Revenue, this was adjourned due to the Rovers being taken over by Dinard Trading Company. They acquired a 52% controlling interest in the club and were fronted by Ken Richardson, formerly of Bridlington Town. At the time it was evident his spell with Bridlington was a successful one where his investment had created a thriving club. With debts of over £360,000 and the fear of going out of business, the financial commitment from Richardson and Dinard was initially welcomed warmly by all those involved.

John Ryan wasn’t overly convinced and boardroom struggles eventually lead to him resigning later in 1993, selling his remaining shares to Richardson and Dinard. In an interview with Radio Sheffield in 2008, Ryan claims he was even banned from the club at one point by Ken Richardson. In the same interview he also recalls that some fans were accusing him of holding the club back by not selling to Richardson sooner.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Richardson was putting a lot of money into the club and continued to do so once Ryan walked away. His motivation for this would later turn out to be more than making a successful club. He wanted the council to build the Rovers a new stadium so he could cash in on the lease of Belle Vue, which was a prime piece of land considering its location and the regeneration ongoing in Doncaster at the time.

This became more evident when the council rejected his request the money suddenly slowed down (but didn’t vanish). After the Main Stand was set on fire in 1995, Ken Richardson was later arrested for organising the crime to force the council’s hand. Richardson’s financial support was completely withdrawn by 1997 and in the 97/98 season Doncaster Rovers recorded what would be officially the worst season a club has ever had in the Football League with the highest amount of losses.

Placed in administration, and relegated from the Football League, the club released most of its few professionals to ease the financial burden but still there were real fears that the club would cease to trade and become extinct. Westferry PLC, another Isle of Man based company (dubbed the Irish Consortium due to the financial arm being based in Dublin) bought the club (and the lease) for £4.5 Million and in doing so recruited Ian McMahon to act as CEO and were actively looking for a Non-Executive Chairman who was ideally a local businessmen who the town could get behind. Step forward John Ryan.

Starting the season without enough players to field a starting 11 and a bench, there were rumours that the team were picking players up along the motorway on route to our first game of the season at Dover. Losing 1-0, this season was always going to be about steadying the ship and consolidating.

Rovers legends Ian and Glyn Snodin were brought in to be manager and assistant respectively, even Neville Southall formerly of Everton got on board and there was real interest in the club again. The first home game of the season saw the Rovers welcome Southport, and the crowd at Belle Vue was a staggering 3663, the highest conference crowd of the night and almost 4 times more than the club were averaging the year before.

Ian Duerden would become the unlikely hero that season, netting a hatrick against Rushden & Diamonds (a result that would spur us on to safety) as well as scoring an audacious lob in 3-0 win against Farnborough at Belle Vue that saw the club lift the Endsleigh Challenge Trophy. Whilst a relatively small feat in the grand scheme of things, it was the first trophy the club had won in 40 years and after the misery endured before it the first trophy in the Ryan era would set the foundations of what was to come.

Ryan (along with fellow businessmen Peter Wetzel) finally bought the club from Westferry at the end of that season for a mere £40,000. Westferry however would retain the lease on Belle Vue which they considered the most valuable asset in the £4.5 Million purchase a year previously.

Following this, Ryan made 4 promises to the supporters: Firstly, he would get Doncaster back into the Football League, move us to a new stadium, get the club to a major cup final and get Doncaster back to the second tier of English football, a league we had not played in since John Ryan started watching us back in 1958. For many fans the first two seemed unrealistic, never mind a cup final and rising to the First Division (as it was known then).

But the people of Doncaster had a club again, with a local man in charge who represented local values. There was still work to do but there was a great sense of optimism in the air and the future seemed much brighter for Doncaster Rovers…



Whilst the outcome of the current season is still in the balance with the Vikings not too far off the play-offs, one thing is for certain; next season will be our 13th consecutive season in the Football League since that day in 2003 when Sir Francis Tierney slotted home the Promotion winning goal.

Here at the DRSG we do not ignore the view of many fans about the lack of atmosphere at the Keepmoat Stadium, and we have put this at the top of our agenda when meeting with the club through the fan panels. Today saw Doncaster Rovers launch their Season Ticket campaign and announce their prices for the 2015/16 season. Which can be seen here.

Having worked with the club and the fans we have played a vital role in advising the club to use this opportunity to also begin improving the match-day experience. Having taken our feedback on board,  the club have taken the decision to make the South Stand unreserved seating for next season, and have dropped it to a Category C in a move to allow fans who want to create an atmosphere to move into the South Stand and group together on match days and make our support heard!

What we have recognised throughout this is how much the club values the fantastic support it receives from you, our fellow fans. Being a handful of clubs to have never played in the top flight of English Football, and our greatest achievement of spending less than 10% of our history in the second division, we know that our fans don’t and never have supported us purely because of our success.

Its the local pride and passion that fills us all with joy watching our local heroes donning the Red and White hoops. The sense of togetherness we all share, whether we agree on all issues or not. We are bleed Red and White. This fantastic club is yours, mine and ours.

Be proud to stand up and say I support #MyLocalTeam


Here's to you, Mrs Robinson.


It’s with great sadness that I have learned that Mrs Robinson, of knitted dolls on the Main Stand fame, has passed away.

Shouty Bags - AKA Mrs Robinson - Legendary DRFC fan

For those not lucky enough to have seen her at her vitriolic best I shall, in my ineloquent way, try to share the experience.


Before my dad allowed me to progress to the Pop Side with the ‘bigger boys’ I was a Mainstand regular. Part of the attraction of remaining there with my dad and his mates was to hear the amazingly brutal and increasingly surreal  pronunciations of two little old ladies who were always decked out in Rovers Scarves and Knitted Dolls. It’d always start with something innocent like a shoutedGet a (whatever colour our opposition wore) shirt on ref” to “it’s kippers for tea, ref – kippers for tea!” if we were playing a team even vaguely connected to the seaside, and sometimes drifting into the downright surreal it’s cow pie for Desperate Dan”


Before making the move to the Rovers our very own Barry Miller incurred the wrath  of Mrs Robinson (fondly known by DRFC supporters as Shouty Bags) while turning our for Farnborough:


Barry’s first experience of Rovers fans, when playing for Farnborough, wasn’t as welcoming. “I remember going out the tunnel and there was this old woman shouting at us and swearing at us – Mrs Robinson – she had those little knitted dolls sat in front of her on the barrier. She used to swear at you and moan, and you thought flipping hell, and then I still came and signed for you.” – Courtesy of PopStand Fanzine 


So here’s to you Mrs Robinson, I just hope heaven FC has a better line up than the Rovers did in the early 90’s or I fear God is about to get a bollocking he’ll never forget.


Belle Vue, Doncaster ROvers



Footgolf comes to Doncaster this weekend.  One of the fastest growing hybrid sports has launched its centre of excellence in High Melton and the Doncaster Rovers Supporters Group has secured a fantastic deal for you to try it out!

Ever fancied yourself as a dead ball specialist?  Do you pull out of tackles faster than David Cotterill? Well nows your chance to prove your worth in the non-contact sport thats taking the nation by storm!

For just £1 (the price of a child to watch Rovers Vs. Leek in the Conference) you can try out the new facilities. Simply ring 0800 6899552 and quote ‘Doncaster Rovers Supporters Group’ when making your booking to get a trial of the course at this amazing price this weekend only.

High Melton
South Yorkshire

Opens: 9AM
Last Tee Off: 19:30

No football boots or blades to be worn on the course.

See what its all about here: http://youtu.be/451j2UhCI6Q

“It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards of FootGolf”
T. Offe

Membership update


Membership update:


Over 100 members (including one Mr Ryan) within 3 hours!


Doncaster Rovers Supporters Group Membership

Please keep spreading the word people, only be growing our membership will we be able to bring our influence onto the club and make DRFC a better club for ALL.

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The Ryan King – John Ryan DRFC – Louis Tomlinson

The Ryan King - John Ryan and Louis Tomlinson

The Ryan King

By Wesley Grimes

I was too young to properly remember 97-98. I have vague memories of being stood in the Main Stand with my Dad while he vollied vitriol at the directors box. The whole season was a blur. However one thing sticks in my mind. As we left the ground after the Colchester game my Dad informed me that would be the last time I ever saw a game at Belle Vue. I didn’t understand and wanted to stop whatever it was that made my Dad look so despondent.

The next few years saw something amazing happen at Rovers. A voice for the club came forward when the F.A., the Council and the people of Doncaster had turned their back on this embarrassment of a club. A larger than life character who banged the Rovers drum harder than anyone, who could talk for hours about the club just as passionately as any fan and who had an insatiable appetite for success, determined to put Doncaster Rovers back in the limelight. I’m talking about John Ryan of course. Someone I have idolised my whole life as the saviour of my club. I will never forget those words my Dad said as we trudged back home. I’ve no doubt in my mind that if it wasn’t for John Ryan they’d have rang true.

Unfortunately my Dad never got to see Rovers back in the league, diagnosed with a Brain Tumour a few years later he missed the opportunity to see the ‘Ziggers’ as he called them return to the football league. I’m not ashamed to say I wept at Stoke when the crowd blasted out ‘Are you watching Richardson?’. It caught me again at our return at Leyton Orient as we left Brisbane Road singing ‘Rovers are back’. Its romantic, and a little silly to some, but football can give you a sense of identity and local pride (when lets face it, Doncaster didn’t have much else to be proud of). All this may not have been achieved if it wasn’t for one man’s determination to make it happen.

His launch of a ‘quid a kid’ at Belle Vue heralded a new age for the club and the start or rebuilding a new generation. Almost all of my friends who attended those games in the Conference still attend now, even if we can’t get there as much as we’d like.

I, like many, have had the occasional ‘head in hands’ moment with John Ryan; I cringed at the ‘Going4it’ campaign and took some heavy flack from my friends when he launched his ‘tides have turned’ rant about the Sheffield clubs. Johns passion, sometimes naïve ambition and often absurdity makes him a loveable character – a man who might not have completely funded our success out of his pocket, but his voice and football guided decision making certainly crafted it. Not many chairmen in English football actually genuinely love their club as much as JR did, and his love and passion seems to nourish the sense of ‘belief’ amongst the fans and the players (who all speak very highly of him) in a way no other could. He stood out from most other chairmen always wanting to go one step further by whatever means he could. The ‘Experiment’ as an example, where he perhaps felt forced into improvising with our limited resources and brought in names from levels of football we could never have dreamed of! Granted it backfired tremendously but was a risk that could have meant the club not just maintaining its Championship status but also pushing for Premiership glory, in my opinion one worth taking.

I am honoured to say we had a club being run by a supporter first, chairman second approach, a man who you would see shouting and gesturing just like I would at a poor refereeing decision. I’ve no doubt in my mind John Ryans mood would be heavily influenced by the Rovers result, just the same as my Dads would all those years ago.

There’s no denying that Rovers have become a much more professional operation since Terry Brammall and Dick Watson have come on board and I’m sure its something John Ryan will acknowledge and strive to maintain and I wouldn’t hope to take away anything from the contributions of any of our board members.

However I for one cannot wait for those outrageous expectations back, those angry rants to the press when a decision hasn’t gone our way, those long walks round the pitch while the fans sing his name and most of all, the flash of those big white teeth as he starts again at the forefront of the merry go round that is Doncaster Rovers.

Welcome back Sir John Ryan!