And so we wind our ten years in five teams feature up with the last and most certainly least impressive XI. We’ve had the good, the cult, the borrowed and the worldly of Rovers players of the last decade and now it’s time to bow out on a low point with the Worst XI to represent Doncaster Rovers in the Noughties. To ensure we encompass all available awfulness we’ve tinkered with the formation once again to play a suitably danger-laden 3-4-3 system.
Even allowing for extra front men, their are some notable absentees from Rovers’ particularly woeful crop of strikers. Justin Jackson was very much on the fringes of this side, whilst Darren Byfield would have been in had it not been due to him that I got to sit behind Jamelia at St Andrews in 2008. Ah, Jamelia. Whilst I get lost in a familiar daydream about the pop princess, here it is, the XI we all wish we could forget.
Goalkeeper – Tonny Nielsen
Tonny Nielsen arrived at Rovers in the summer of 2005, as part of a two for one deal on Danish goalkeepers that also brought Jan Budtz to Belle Vue. However, as with most two for one offers Rovers soon discovered that they actually had no need for all the Danish Goalkeeper they had purchased and ultimately one would suffice. At 6ft 7” high Nielsen brought height to the Doncaster squad and very little else as he failed to make an appearance in sixteen months with the club. The only time Nielsen made anything approaching the headlines was when he had to have a bed specially made to cater for his size. Further proof that Nielsen perhaps wasn’t the best goalkeeper at the club came as he was deployed as a striker for the reserve team, and possibly also a floodlight at the training ground. Nielsen returned to his native Denmark after leaving Rovers and has now changed his name to Tonny Brogaard, presumably to distance himself from his time at Belle Vue.
Right Centre Back – Sam Oji
Sam Oji began his career as a youth player with Arsenal before joining Birmingham City in 2004. Despite these impressive beginnings he made his Football League debut for the Rovers in the 2005-06 as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat at Gillingham. It rarely got any better. Though he actually featured in Rovers Carling Cup quarter-final against Arsenal, his introduction coming five minutes before Gilberto’s equaliser, which may be a coincidence, but I choose not to view it that way. In fact it was probably he who yelled “Don’t put it in Asda car-park Heffs, whip a cross in”. Oji’s last appearance for the Rovers came in a woeful New Years Eve defeat at Rotherham where he managed the incredible feat of looking less inspiring than Millmoor’s surroundings.
Centre Back – Harry Worley
Whilst writing an article for another publication a few years ago I stumbled across Harry Worley’s Myspace page. “Form is temporary, class is permanent” was the Worley’s proud personal motto, implying that his spell on loan with Doncaster Rovers was far from permanent in every sense. Worley was a Chelsea trainee when he arrived at Rovers to look out of his depth for the end of the 2006-07 season. The centre back tried regularly to overplay his way out of trouble, but sadly his confidence was pitched way above his actual ability. Having moved on to a loan spell at Crewe after his time with Rovers Worley continued to show errors of judgement, notablt by dating Big Brother contestant Charley who, to use Worley’s terminology, is a very temporary kind of woman.
Left Centre Back – Nic Priet
Nic Priet looked really good in pre-season, but then so once did Alan Morgan and Steve Halliday. The French full-back began his career with Lyon and made his first move to the UK with Leicester. He arrived at Doncaster from the Foxes in the Summer 2004 off the back of glowing praise, but he was cruelly found out away at Bournemouth as Sean O’Driscoll’s Cherries ran him so ragged he was left looking not so much like a rabbit trapped in the headlights as a shrew picked out by a lighthouse. In all Priet made ten appearances for the Rovers, becoming the least convincing Frenchman seen on these shores since Arthur Bostrum’s policeman in ‘Allo ‘Allo. Now back in his native France Priet plays in the French third tier for Association Sportif Beauvais Oise, or as their badge brilliantly abbreviate them, ASBO.
Right Midfield – Chris Black
Chris Black might have been really good, but alas we’ll never know. The midfielder from Ashington in the North East, joined Rovers from Sunderland in 2004, having previously played for the Black Cats in the Premier League. Black made a solid enough debut on the right of the Rovers midfield away at Oxford that March as part of a colourful side which included Chris Brown and Paul Green. Black was subbed off for Ricky Ravenhill eight minutes from time, and was never seen again. The youngster went awol, returned to the North East in the days after, and despite remaining on Rovers books ‘til the New Year he never returned to Belle Vue and indeed never played another football match again.
Centre Midfield – Adriano Rigoglioso
As Italian as apple pie, Adriano Rigoglioso was an established Conference midfielder with Morecambe when he moved up to the Football League to join Rovers in November 2003. The Scouser somehow remained at Rovers for two and a half years in which time he made three times as many substitute appearances as he did starts. And there were just eight of those. Incredibly he won a Division Three title medal with Rovers, though his only notable contribution to the season was a booking at Huddersfield, presumably for wasting supporters’ time. To give Rigoglioso some credit he did score a truly brilliant goal for Rovers in an LDV Trophy match away at Hereford, but in terms of making amends for his whole Rovers career, that was about as helpful as turning up in Manhattan on 9/12 with a dustpan and brush.
Centre Midfield – Guy Ipoua
If his career background is to be believed Cameroonian midfielder Guy Ipoua faced more trials than Pete Docherty, as he was ‘on the books’ or the training grounds of various clubs in France, Spain, Portugal, Scotland and England before eventually settling at Bristol Rovers in the late 1990s. In July 2004 Ipoua finally included Doncaster in his European footballing tour resulting in many a Rovers fan speaking the words “We’ve signed Ipoua… no, no, not that one, his brother”. Ipoua managed ten games for Rovers of which his only two starts were the wildly contrasting 2-0 League Cup win over Ipswich, and the 5-0 debacle at Bournemouth. Of those, its probably safe to label the Ipswich game as the anomaly.
Left Midfield – Michael Timlin
They say the mark of a good referee is when you don’t notice they are there. The mark of a poor footballer is surely being able to look awful whilst playing in a victory over fierce local rivals. Michael Timlin managed this when on loan from Fulham in 2006, as he managed to earn criticism from the Belle Vue crowd on his debut, even though Rovers were 3-1 up against Rotherham at the time. Timlin made three appearances for Rovers, and looked every inch a Premier League player throughout, presuming of course we are talking about the Welsh Premier League.
Striker – Michelle Di Piedi
Long haired and far from interesting Michele Di Piedi joined Rovers in the Summer of 2006, with an indifferent career behind him. Stuttering spells in Italy, Greece and even Greenland balanced out by a successful spell at Sheffield Wednesday where he was much loved by Owls fans, though as they number the infamous Tango Man we can probably discount that endorsement. Di Piedi made just three appearances in a Rovers shirt, two of them, including his only start for the club, came under caretaker manager Mickey Walker, suggesting that Walker was doing everything he could possibly do to avoid getting the job full-time. The forward brought little to Rovers front-line other than an alice-band and a lot of irritating whining, we may as well have signed Paris Hilton.
Striker – Tomi Ameobi
When it comes to football being known as the less talented of the Ameobi brothers is probably on a par with being referred to as the uglier of the Widecombe sisters. Still, Tomi Ameobi joined Rovers in the summer of 2008 being described as ‘raw’ by the club’s management. After watching him in pre-season Rovers fans had formed their own opinions, most of which featured one more letter. Ameobi made his only competitive performance for Rovers in December 2008 when he came on as a substitute against league leaders Wolves at the Keepmoat Stadium. He proved to be something of an impact substitute, as his only contribution was to give a way the free-kick from which Wolves scored. As cameos go, it was as helpful and as necessary as John Prescott’s appearance in Gavin & Stacey
Striker – Carl Alford
Like the Millennium Bug, Carl Alford was expected to make a sizable impact when he arrived in 2000, but ultimately proved as threatening as a sleeping kitten. Alford had scored an incredible 42 goals in 39 games for Stevenage the previous season prompting Rovers to splash out £50,000 on the forward. For their money Doncaster got one goal and two bookings, suggesting they should have spent it on something useful like new dressing rooms and just stuck one of the old benches up front instead, propped it up, stuck a shirt on it and got Matty Caudwell and Kevin McIntyre to try and ping crosses off of it. Said bench would have had more chance of finding the net than Alford, and would have possessed both a better touch and quicker reactions. Watching Alford was like watching ITV’s football coverage; you hope it’ll get better each week, but ultimately its just a massive disappointment from start to finish.
In addition to namining our Worst XI of the past decade we have also named a Best, Cult, Borrowed and World XI from Doncaster Rovers most upwardly mobile decade, and you can find these alternate line-up’s listed here.