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features, teams of the decade

Decade Review; 10 Years in 5 Teams – #4 Borrowed XI

Yes, we’re still going with this and now after the Best, the Cult and the International XIs of the last three days we bring you a Borrowed XI. A look back at some of Rovers key loan stars from the past ten years. As with before, if a player has been picked for one XI already this week then they won’t feature in this one, so again there are notable absentees such as Brian Stock and Neil Sullivan. We’ve also had to venture away from our usual 4-4-2 formation and have instead gone to a 4-3-3. We’re tactically diverse like that you know. It must be Sean O’Driscoll’s influence. Anyway, here we go with the Borrowed XI.

Goalkeeper – Dino Seremet (from Luton Town)

Rovers have generally done well with loaned goalkeepers in the last decade, including internationals in the form of Neil Sullivan and John Filan. Its the much less known Dino Seremet who makes this list though having joined the club as an emergency loan signing from Luton Town in November 2005. With Andy Warrington and Jan Budtz both injured Dino took over in goal for a league match against Bristol City and kept a credible clean sheet in a 2-0 win. He kept a clean sheet in his second game as well, though this one was arguably more significant, coming as it did in the 3-0 Carling Cup defeat of Aston Villa. And oddly, that was that for Seremet. Jan Budtz returned for the next match and despite boasting the best statistics for a Rovers goalkeeper in the decade Dino returned to Luton.

Right Full-back – Sam Hird (from Leeds United)

Doncaster born Sam Hird initially joined Rovers on loan from Leeds United at the end of the 2006-07 season . Having failed to get on the pitch for the West Yorkshire side Hird’s main problem at Rovers was working out where on the pitch he was supposed to play. He made his debut as a defensive substitute in a 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest, and ended his spell five sub appearances later partnering Jamie Coppinger up front against Northampton. This liberating experience seemed enough to convince Hird to join his home town club permanently when he was released by Leeds that Summer.

 Though he initially struggled to make an impact for Rovers, when he finally had his chance, at the end of the 2007-08 season he seized it emphatically. And in just a handful of games he went from Rovers’ fourth choice centre-back to established Championship defender. This season Hird has continued to develop and not only looks assured as a defender he has even thrown in the occasional Beckenbaur-esque display; pinging passes around from the back at Watford, and also in a surprising holding midfield role at Sheffield United. If nothing else Sam ‘der Kaiser’ Hird highlights Sean O’Driscoll’s ability to get the best out of a player where others have failed.

Centre-back – Matt Mills (from Manchester City)

Matt Mills joined on loan from Manchester City in August 2007, having previously made an impression on Sean O’Driscoll at Bournemouth. It was not hard to see why; strong in the challenge and composed on the ball Mills was originally deployed in a central defensive three with Adam Lockwood and Gordon Greer. Though his initial loan spell ended in November with injury, Mills recovered and returned from City for a second spell in January beginning his second coming in a 1-0 win at Elland Road. He remained a near ever present and a key factor in Rovers ultimate promotion through the play-offs, and he certainly made his mark in the final at Wembley… particularly on the Achilles tendon of Jermaine Beckford. Understandably Rovers sought to make Mills a permanent member of the club, signing him for £300,000 in July 2008. After a great season with the Rovers his sale to Reading for £2million a year later is looking increasingly like an inspired piece of business

Centre Back – David Wheater (from Middlesbrough)              

Middlesbrough defensive stalwart David Wheater came to Rovers in February 2006, not long after making his debut for the Teesiders as a substitute in a 7-0 defeat at Arsenal. After taking on the likes of Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas, Wheater was thrust into footballing realism in his next dose of action as he partnered Mark Albrighton in a South Yorkshire derby with Barnsley. Wheater remained with the Rovers for six further games, including scoring his first ever professional goal against Gillingham, and only tasted defeat in his final match. His time at Belle Vue obviously stood him in good stead, as Wheater has gone on to play for England at under 21 level and also make the senior squad.

Left full-back – Shelton Martis (from West Brom)

I know he’s not a full-back, but I had to find a place for Shelton Martis somewhere in this line-up for his impact on Rovers’ first Championship season. Martis came to Rovers from West Brom for a one month loan spell in November 2008 and his arrival helped kick-start the survival of a Rovers side rooted at the foot of the Championship. In Martis’ five matches Rovers conceded just a single goal and crucially notched a first win since August, thanks to a goal from Martis himself. The Netherlands Antilles international stealing in at the far post to head home the winner in the live televised match against Ipswich as Rovers fans tried to desperately to remember how it is you celebrate one of those goal things.

Right Midfield – JJ Melligan (from Wolves)

Irish midfielder JJ Melligan joined Rovers on loan from Wolves in November 2003 and made an instant impact, scoring in a 3-0 win over Boston United on his debut. Melligan soon became a fixture on the right hand side of midfield and remained on the Rovers wing until the end of the season, offering much needed balance to Michael McIndoe’s presence on the opposite flank. Though he did score again for Doncaster against Cheltenham in December, his most keenly remembered contribution came in the win over Cambridge United which secured Rovers promotion. With Rovers 2-0 up at a packed Belle Vue Melligan took the opportunity to show off his party-piece, pausing to stand on the ball with both feet as he ran at the U’s left back. After collecting his title winners Melligan moved to Cheltenham Town in 2004 and made over 130 appearances for the Robins before moving to Leyton Orient in 2007 with whom he remains.

Centre Midfield – Jonathan Forte (from Sheffield United)

Jonathan Forte had as many loan spells at Rovers as he did pronunciations of his surname. Forte came to Belle Vue three times across two seasons as he failed to make the breakthrough at Sheffield United owing to Neil Warnock’s one goalkeeper to every ten strikers squad recruitment system. Initially with Rovers for September and October 2005 Forte scored four times in eight appearances and after a brief cameo back at Sheffield United Forte returned for a second spell for November and December. He would score again at Belle Vue before the season ended, though this time he was wearing the away colours of Rotherham as he had joined them for the second half of the season.

Forgiven for his spell on the dark side of Mexborough  Forte returned to Rovers for the duration of the following season, making over forty appearances and scoring nine goals. Those he did score came at crucial junctures as well as he netted two in a Carling Cup tie with Derby, one goal in the Keepmoat Stadium’s opening match against Huddersfield and finally in the Johnstones’ Paint Trophy Final at the Millennium Stadium. Forte’s pace was a supreme asset to the Rovers team of that season and proved an effective outlet in Sean O’Driscoll’s 4-3-1-2 formation.

Left Midfield – Simon Johnson (from Leeds United)

Attacking midfielder come striker Simon Johnson spent two months on loan with Rovers in their first season in League One. A pacy forward Johnson proved a useful foil to Neil Roberts more abrupt striking style and was a very welcome addition to the Doncaster side. Johnson’s finest game came in a 3-0 home win over MK Dons as he netted two goals in three minutes as part of an all round excellent performance. Though he was keenly wanted by the Rovers fans he was subsequently loaned to Barnsley before eventually joining Darlington where he would once again work with Dave Penney. Despite the promise he showed whilst at Belle Vue Johnson has recently joined Halesowen Town, having failed to make an impact at Bury.

Striker – Ross McCormack (from Rangers)

The further Ross McCormack’s career progresses, the more remarkable it is that he was ever a Doncaster Rovers player. Even prior to his loan spell at Belle Vue in 2006 McCormack had scored in the Champions League for his first club Rangers. McCormack was with Rovers from January to May in 2006 and scored five goals as Rovers made a late move for the play-offs. Most notable of McCormack’s goal was a spectacular late equaliser away at Hartlepool as the forward turned neatly and let fly from thirty yards to secure a 1-1 draw. McCormack returned to Scotland to join Motherwell before moving to Cardiff in 2008 with whom he was second top scorer in the Championship last season. And he played for us once, no really he did.

Striker – Chris Brown (from Sunderland)

Though a trainee with Sunderland Brown made his football league debut with Doncaster Rovers, scoring on the first game of his loan spell; a 5-1 win over Bristol Rovers. Brown was to remain with Rovers from October until the end of the season and proved a welcome addition to the strikeforce that would ultimately deliver Rovers the title. Though third choice forward behind Gregg Blundell and Leo Fortune-West, Brown still managed to chip in ten goals in twenty-two appearances and fully deserved his title-winning medal. Though he has gone on to play at a higher level, Brown has never been as prolific as he was for Rovers that season.

Striker – Billy Sharp (from Sheffield United)

Though only a Rovers player for the last four months of the decade there can be no argument against Billy Sharp’s inclusion in this side. Unable to catch a break at Sheffield United Sharp came to Rovers in September 2009 and took just four games to open his goalscoring account for the club, scoring against his former side Scunthorpe at Glanford Park. Since then the striker has not looked back, scoring ten goals in his next twelve games for Rovers, including a scoring run of six consecutive games in November and December. A hard working forward with an incredible eye for goal no other Rovers player, he is the first Rovers player since McIndoe to have opposition players running genuinely scared as he bares down on goal.

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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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