No. I don’t have a girlfriend. You would probably go on to assume that for yourself over the course of this article, but I felt I should dissuade any doubts you may have from the off. Anyway, when Steve Brooker finally finished something other than a course of medication against Leicester in the penultimate game of the season I noted that his was the first goal by a Rovers number 9 in three years. Rather than doing what any normal person might have done with that fact, like go “huh?”, retweet it and then get on with my day I decided instead to take a look at which Rovers squad numbers were the most prolific.
Thanks to their five-season sojourn into non-league football at the turn of the millennium Rovers have only worn squad numbers for nine seasons. Our late embrace of modernity and marketing potential meaning that we’ve only nine seasons worth of goals to distribute amongst squad numbers. All competitive goals scored since August 2002 have been counted, all league, cup and play-off matches with the exception of the Sheffield County Cup games of 2002-03. The result shows that for Doncaster the number 14 is as special as it is for the Dutch.
The First XI
Don’t think we’re stopping with that giant table above, oh no, we’ve more spare time than that. Below you can find a breakdown of the first XI squad number totals;
The chief reason for number 14 being top of the pile is its continued ownership by Rovers’ most prolific goalscorer of the last decade; Paul Heffernan. The Irish man’s notable cup form bringing him 57 goals, just under three-quarters of all goals scored by Rovers’ number 14s. Had Leo Fortune-West not switched to the number 13 shirt in the 2004-05 season, allowing Chris Beardsley to take 14 off the peg, there would be another 6 goals on this total too.
Non-scoring number 14s; 1. Andy Campbell
Someway behind the prolific 14 is number 8, producer of 52 goals in the last nine seasons, more than half of which were struck by Gregg Blundell. The scouse forward took the number 8 shirts at the start of his first ever season of League football and duly finished as the club’s top scorer with 20 goals as Rovers won Division 3. Despite Blundell’s prolifics the most memorable goal by a number 8 is arguably Sean Thornton’s strike in the 3-0 Carling Cup victory over Aston Villa. Brian Stock took over the jersey from Thornton in 2007, scoring 14 in his first two seasons, though injury has limited him to just two strikes in the last couple of campaigns. Gareth Owen’s solitary 2002-03 goal means ever wearer of the Rovers’ 8 shirt has found the net.
Given Steve Brooker’s single goal in two seasons it’s perhaps a surprise to find number 9 so high in this list. That it is, is testament to the non-league prowess of Paul Barnes who scored 26 goals in Rovers’ 2002-03 Conference season. Mark McCammon’s 15 goals for the club in two seasons from 2006-2008 also help edge it up the list, a tally which ensured the first goal at the Keepmoat Stadium would be scored by a number 9.
Non-scoring number 9s; 2. Guy Ipoua, Darren Byfield
Thanks to his longevity and artistry number 26 is now synonymous with the club’s longest-serving player Jamie Coppinger. Though not prolific, Copps has been a steady provider scoring at least five goals in each of his six seasons with the club. Chris Brown’s prolific loan spell during the 2003-04 Division 3 title season ensure that number 26 sits fourth in Rovers Squad number goal table, whilst Gregg Blundell’s debut goal at Hereford rounds off the tally.
Non-scoring number 26s; 1 Jon McCarthy
Like Jamie Coppinger’s 26 shirt, the high position of number 21 on this table is down to one key contributor. The £50,000 acquisition of Michael McIndoe ahead of Rovers’ first season back in the League may well be the club’s best piece of transfer business with the winger hitting double figures in each of his three seasons with the club. Sam ‘der Kaiser’ Hird alas has not been quite so prolific.
Non-scoring number 21s; 4. Daniel Bent, Tyrone Thompson, Michele Di Piedi, Peter Gilbert
The ultimate one-man show; number 12 may be sixth in the squad number goals table, but it has only ever had one goal-scoring incumbent. James Hayter. Averaging nine goals a season since he arrived from Bournemouth and scorer of Rovers only ever goal at Wembley Stadium, the 2008 Play-Off winner against Leeds Hayter has made this shirt his own. I would guess that at least 30 of these were headers too, and 25 of them ridiculously brave/far-out/ambitious ones at that.
Non-scoring number 12s; 3. Barry Miller, John McGrath, Jan Budtz
As acknowledged by ‘Sir Francis Tierney Day’ earlier this week the number 7 shirt can lay claim to Rovers’ most important goal of all time, the winning goal struck by Tierney at the 2003 Conference Play-Off Final. Lewis Guy may not have been prolific, but he at least ensured that a goal was scored by the number 7 shirt for five seasons from 2004-2009. Following Guy’s release a year ago Martin Woods took over the 7 shirt, with his goal against Hull City this season ensuring that every wearer thus far has found the net.
Like the Number 7 shirt every player to have donned the Rovers’ 20 shirt has found the net, although its first wearer was much more prolific than it’s more recent muses. Paul Green was Doncaster’s number 20 for six seasons and across three divisions, and from teenage years to adulthood before leaving to join Derby County upon promotion to the Championship. Green was also one for the big games, scoring in the Conference Play-Off Final, the match which secured promotion from Division 3 the following season, and the final league game in League One. On Green’s departure John Spicer took over as number 20 with less emphatic results, scoring just a single Rovers goal at Plymouth, a tally matched the following season by loanee Jason Shackell. Joseph Mills two great strikes this season ensured that the 20 shirt is yet to finish a campaign goalless.
Although goalless in the Conference once Rovers made the step-up to League football the number 19 shirt has remained in the goals, beginning with home-town favourite Ricky Ravenhill. Aside from Ravenhill’s four seasons with the club and Richie Wellens impressive two campaigns the number 19 shirt has been worn and scored in by loanees and short-term inhabitants; Brian Stock hit some spectacular strikes in the 19 shirt when first brought in on loan by Sean O’Driscoll, against Nottingham Forest and Crewe in particular. The knack for the spectacular was repeated by Quinton Fortune with his solitary goal for the club to secure a 3-3 draw with Ipswich, whilst the contributions of David Healy and Jason Euell this season have been important in staving off relegation.
But for the odd numbering of loan striker Billy Sharp during his season on loan from Sheffield United, number 5 would be decidedly lower down this list. Graeme Lee’s most important came as number 5 when he headed the winning goal in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final at the Millennium Stadium, whilst Dean Barrick may have only struck once but it was a special one, a sizzling free-kick away at Telford that gave no hint of what misery the second half would bring.
Non-scoring number 5s; Phil McGuire, Matt Mills, Wayne Thomas
There can be few more consistent scorers than Steve Foster. Three seasons in the 23 shirt, one headed goal in each. After Foster departed for Scunthorpe Jason Price took over as the club’s 23, yet despite labelling himself the ‘Afro Goal Machine’ he fell short of double figures in each of his four seasons with the club. From 2006 – 2008 Price weighed with 17 goals including a couple of notable game-changing cameos against Crewe in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and against Leyton Orient to reignite Rovers’ 2008 promotion ambitions. Byron Webster alas has not found the shirt quite as potent… although it does now have much longer sleeves.
Non-scoring number 23s; 1. Byron Webster