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The International Set

Len Graham, Rovers most capped player

Of late there have been two underlying themes to Viva Rovers content, ‘retrospect’ owing to our recent receipt of content which had been presumed lost in the bowels of the internet and also ‘internationals’ thanks to Brian Stock’s inclusion in a Wales squad which seems to be diminishing with the regularity of the central pool of characters in a slasher film. Anyway, thanks to friend of Viva Rovers John Coyle we are today able to blur those two themes for one great article. The piece below was originally written by John for the Rovers’ programme in the 2003-04 season and I am delighted that he has kindly allowed Viva Rovers to reprint it today. Enjoy.

When Michael McIndoe appeared for the Scotland Future side on 10th December 2003 he joined a small but not insignificant “club” of Rovers players who have represented their country in international fixtures. McIndoe was a 71st minute substitute for Lee McCulloch in the Scottish team’s 1-1 draw with Turkey at Dundee United’s Tannadice Stadium. He joins a group of ten full internationals and several more intermediate selections who have played for their respective national sides while with Doncaster Rovers.

Rovers’ first full international was inside forward Paddy McConnell. Born in Ireland on 5th February 1900 he played for a number of Scottish sides before joining Bradford City in 1924 then moving to Rovers a year later. He went on to score 20 goals in 137 League appearances for Rovers. In 1928, one day before his 28th birthday, he made his debut for Northern Ireland in their match against Wales in Belfast. The Irish side lost the game 1-2 and Paddy did not appear for them again until 1931 by which time he had joined Southport. Later in his career he returned to Scotland and played for Hibernian. He died in 1971.

The second Belle Vue man to earn full honours was to be Rovers’ only full Welsh international. Rhymney-born Eddie Perry joined Doncaster from Fulham in 1936 and after some impressive scoring performances for Rovers he was chosen by Wales for all three of their Home International fixtures in 1937-38. His debut, against Scotland in Cardiff, saw Wales win 2-1 and in his second game, against England at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough, he became Rovers’ first international goalscorer, although Wales lost 1-2. Perry later returned to Fulham and played for his country in Wartime internationals while with the London club.

In 1949 Rovers appointed the Northern Ireland international Peter Doherty as their player-manager and began an era that saw five Rovers men capped for the Province. Doherty was the first, winning the final one of his 16 caps in November 1950 in a defeat by Scotland. Playing alongside Doherty was the Barnsley forward Eddie McMorran, who joined Rovers in 1953 and won five of his 15 caps while at Belle Vue. McMorran scored three goals in those five appearances, giving him the distinction of being Rovers’ top international goalscorer.

In March 1951 the man who was to become Rovers’ most capped international made his bow for Northern Ireland in their 1-2 defeat by Wales in Belfast. William George Leonard (Len) Graham had signed for Rovers in October 1949 as a 24-year-old and made his debut the following season. He went on to make over 300 League appearances and he gained a total of 14 full caps between 1951 and 1958. Sadly for Len he appeared only twice in winning sides and he missed out on Northern Ireland’s appearance in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. He did, though, earn a recall in October 1958, playing in a thrilling 3-3 draw with England in his native Belfast. A month later he left Belle Vue to join Torquay United.

Len Graham’s first victory as an international came at Wrexham in March 1954 when his team beat Wales 2-1. Playing behind him was his club colleague Harry Gregg, who was winning the first of a total of 25 caps for Northern Ireland. Signed by Doherty from Coleraine in 1952, Gregg had found it hard to break into the Rovers’ first team where Ken Hardwick was established as first choice goalkeeper. He also faced competition from Norman Uprichard at international level and did not establish himself for his country until 1956. He played in three of Northern Ireland’s four World Cup qualifying matches and appeared in his side’s 3-2 win over England at Wembley. In early 1958 he signed for Manchester United and he survived the Munich Air Crash to appear in the World Cup. He played his final international in 1964. A shorter career was enjoyed by Jimmy Walker. A former Linfield player he spent only three seasons with Rovers but during that time he was selected by Northern Ireland against Wales in Belfast in April 1955. He scored a goal in the home side’s 2-3 defeat, but he was not called upon again. 

Three players from south of the Irish border also won caps while playing for Rovers. Wing-half Chris Giles played for the Republic of Ireland against Norway in 1951. The former Drumcondra player was not chosen again and left Belle Vue under something of a cloud in 1952. Another ex-Drumcondra man, Kit Lawlor, had a happier association with Rovers. Already capped when he moved to Belle Vue, he made two further international appearances in 1951 and in five seasons for Rovers he scored 46 League goals. Rovers last full international was also an Eire man- Waterford-born Alfie Hale. Hale joined Rovers from Aston Villa in July 1962 having already won one cap while with the Midland side. Between 1963 and 1964 he was selected for three European Championship qualifying games against Iceland and Spain (home and away). Hale moved to Newport County in 1965 and then back to his hometown club where he revived his career to such an extent that he won 10 further caps, the last of them in 1974.

Several players have won what might be called intermediate honours. The best known was the late Alick Jeffrey who was selected on three occasions for the England Amateur side before he turned professional. He made two appearances for England at Under-23 level in the autumn of 1956, the first a 3-0 win over Denmark in Copenhagen, the second the match with France at Bristol where he suffered a career shattering broken leg. During the 1970s the Under-23 age group was replaced by a new level- Under-21. In 1982 Daral Pugh became the first Rovers player capped at this level when he appeared for Wales against France at Newport. He won a further cap, playing alongside Ian Rush, in the return game a few months later.

Ian Snodin, perhaps the finest of a crop of talented youngsters to emerge in the 1980s, won four caps for the England Under-21 side in 1984-85. He played against Turkey, Israel, Romania and Finland and clocked up some Air Miles- all the games being played away! Later in his career, while at Everton, only injury prevented Ian from gaining full honours. Rovers’ final Under-21 international was Steve Gallen, an unusual case indeed. The former QPR defender’s brother, Kevin, opted to play for England at Under-21 level and Steve himself never made a Football League appearance while at QPR or Rovers! However, he played for the Republic of Ireland’s Under-21 side in a 1-1 draw in Latvia in September 1994.

Three men have been capped in so-called “B” Internationals while with Rovers. Centre-half Bill Paterson appeared for Scotland against England at this level in 1953-54, Rovers’ only Scottish selection prior to that of Michael McIndoe. Paddy Gavin represented the Republic of Ireland at “B” level in 1955 and in February 1995 Darren Finlay played for Northern Ireland’s “B” side against their Scottish counterparts even though Finlay was not a regular in the Rovers team.

Finally we should not forget the players who- until McIndoe- were Rovers’ most recent internationalists. Simon Shaw (2 caps), Simon Marples (2), Kevin McIntyre (4), Tim Ryan (7) and Tristram Whitman (2) all made appearances for the England National Game side (formerly the semi-professional team) during Rovers’ five-season stint in the Nationwide Conference. Whitman, who appeared against Wales and Scotland last May, was the last player to be capped at this level.  Rovers have every right to be proud of a fine crop of international players. We hope that in future that even more names will be added to those of Rovers ‘International Set’.

The Extended International Set

Since John’s initial article was printed four more players have gone on to win international caps whilst with Rovers. Full back and free-kick expert David Mulligan won six of his many international caps for New Zealand whilst at Doncaster between May 2004 and June 2006, the last of which came against Brazil. 2006 was something of a boom period for Rovers players on the international stage as Mulligan was one of three Rovers players capped that year. Goalkeeper Alan Blayney represented Northern Ireland against Romania in May, whilst Mark McCammon won three of five Barbados caps earnt whilst on Doncaster’s books in September;s Caribbean Cup scoring three goals in the process as well. Doncaster’s most recent international is the forgotten man, Stuart Elliott, who represented Nortern Ireland against Georgia whilst on loan at Rovers in March 2008. Brian Stock will hopefully take the baton from Elliott in the Millennium Stadium on Wednesday.

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About glen wilson

Former schoolboy, Glen Wilson writes on football and travel and has been editor of the award-winning popular STAND fanzine since before the award.

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