By Rob Johnson
We all know names such as Rob Jones, Colin Cramb, Ian Duerdan and Mirsad Bubalovic but what about some of the less talked about rovers players of the modern era? Here is my top ten rovers unsung heroes in no particular order:
1. Lee Warren 1994-2000
191 Games 4 Goals
‘My all time rovers XI’ has been a subject I have seen come up time and time again on various rovers forums over the years. One thing that strikes me is that we have been blessed with a plethora of commanding centre backs. Moore, Nicol, Foster, Albrighton, Graeme Lee, Matt Mills, Rob Jones etc. Yet Lee Warren played more games for DRFC than any of them and never receives a mention. Warren, along with Danny George, was the only player to stick with rovers following the disastrous and almost mortal relegation of 97-98. He won supporters club player of the season two years running before being controversially released by Steve Wignall despite featuring in 41 games the previous season. His legacy has suffered somewhat from relatively poor attendances during his time at the club but he deserves to be remembered fondly by the rovers faithful.
2. Dave Penney 1998-2002
63 Games 13 Goals
Dave Penney’s back to back promotions as manager have eclipsed his actual playing career with rovers which is a shame as he was a damn fine centre midfielder. Former brick layer Dave was well loved by the flat cap wearing, turbine smoking section of the rovers support and was a lynchpin of the ramshackle side that Ian Snodin put together in the early conference years. He played in both Conference Cup finals (scoring in one) and also scored the winner against football league club Southend in the FA cup. For anyone not familiar with non league football there was nothing more satisfying then getting one over a league club what with their fancy Goals on Sunday highlight reels thinking they were big shots because they didn’t have to play in two qualifying round to even be in the first round of the FA cup. Will always be loved as a manager but was also a great player.
3. Tristram Whitman 2000-2003
69 Games 15 Goals
‘Heyyyyy Tristram Whitman Ohh, Ahh I wanna knoooowww if you’ll score a goal’ rang out the chant from pop side. ‘No’ was often the answer. He did however score a goal so crucial that Tris Whitman fully deserves to be more than just a footnote in rovers recent history. Signed from the spectacularly named Arnold Town for 10k, Whitmans glorious moment came in the 94th minute of a crucial play off final first leg, when he jinked inside and hit an unlikely winner from the edge of the box. Rovers had been incredibly poor that day but one moment of magic from Whitman kept us in the tie for the second leg. He also never managed to find a shirt that fit him.
4. Dave Morley 2002-2005
59 games 6 goals
Often eclipsed by much loved defensive compatriots Tim Ryan And Mark Albrighton, ‘Dangerous’ Dave Morley still deserves a chapter in the rovers history books. Never a man to let a simple lack of ability stop him from trying to dribble round two opposition players in his own six yard box, Morley often left rovers fans with hearts in mouths and skids in pants. Surprisingly though it was at the other end of the pitch that Morley made his biggest mark scoring six times in our promotion winning 02-03 season including a towering header in the play off final against Dagenham. I always remember starting to sob when he stepped up to take a penalty in the semi final shoot out against Chester and being stunned as he dispatched it into the top corner.
5. Mark Wilson 2004/2006-2012/2013
143 Games 3 Goals
Roundly hated by large sections of the rovers support despite being signed by three different managers and being present for two promotions. Mark Wilson was a virtual ever present in the SOD glory days and while his job was primarily to pass the ball sideways to Brian Stock or backwards to Brian Stock he performed this role admirably. Obviously popular in the dressing room – as the wild celebrations following his perfect assist and vindicating 20 yard volley in a home game against Derby attest to – Wilson always seemed like a true professional and a nice guy. Sadly, along with Adam Lockwood’s cameo’s as a substitute, Wilson was often unfairly made a scapegoat by fans. A friend of mine described Wilson as ‘The worst man in history including fictional characters. Worse than Skeletor even’. Harsh…
6 James Hayter 2007-2012
162 Games 33 Goals
It seems strange having Hayter on this list given that he scored arguably the most important goal in rovers history against Leeds at Wembley. For reasons that I have never understood Hayter has not been afforded the same amount of love and devotion lavished on players such as Paul Heffernan and inexplicably Jason ‘Afro Goal Machine (17 goals in 93 games)’ Price. Sir Franny Tierney scored a tap in to win the first play off final and has a huge banner hanging outside the Keepmoat. Where is Hayters recognition?
7. Neil Campbell 2000-2002
74 Games 16 Goals
To say that Neil ‘Goals’ Campbell had an indifferent start to his rovers career is an understatement. Indeed the nickname ‘Goals’ was given ironically from the cheerfully hostile pop stand faithful. Campbell eventually won the fans over though with his physical approach and successful second season which saw a decent return of 11 goals in 27 starts. Eventually lost his place to Paul Barnes but will always be remembered fondly for scoring a comedy own goal in the 90th minute of an LDV fans trophy game only to score a glorious golden goal winner in extra time.
8. Simon Marples 1999-2006
173 Games 0 Goals
A stalwart of the famous Dave Penny side that achieved back to back promotions Marples is another one who was never as loved as his defensive counterparts Tim Ryan and Steve Foster. Marps was a consummate professional who never fulfilled early potential that saw him linked with Sunderland and Everton. His frightening pace was offset by his ability to only run in straight lines but he made the right back spot his own in a very strong rovers outfit. Remarkably never scored (or even looked like he might score) for rovers. I always imagined he was saving up somersaults and dance routines for when he did score but alas we never had the opportunity to find out. I assume he was very jealous when fellow right back Dave Mulligan scored almost immediately upon signing as competition for the right back spot.
9. Sean McDaid 2005-2010
103 Games 2 Goals
Amidst all the despair about Sean McDaid’s career ending injury it is easy to forget how good a player he actually was. Representing Scotland at youth level and winning supporters club, players player and young player of the year in his first season McDaid had the world at his feet until a knee injury cut his career short. A fan favourite who was probably our most consistent player in our first seasons in league one, McDaid was also a part of the remarkable league cup run of 2005 scoring in the famous victory against Man City at Belle Vue.
10. Don Goodman 2003
6 Games 0 Goals
Journeyman striker Don Goodman arrived at rovers on loan in 2003 to help push us over the line to promotion. Unfortunately never scored despite winning every single header he contested in his short spell at the club. The reasons for his inclusion here are threefold. Firstly he seems like a really nice chap, secondly his wild celebrations after Sir Fran’s golden goal in the play off final at the Britannia Stadium were a true delight for all concerned and lastly because I couldn’t think of anyone better…
This article first appeared in Popular STAND Fanzine, pick up your copy of issue 76 for only a £1 at the Home Game vs Scunthorpe!