Its often taken for granted just how far Doncaster Rovers have climbed in our time as supporters, and how rapidly they achieved that rise. Indeed with some fans beginning to denounce the current man at the helm after a poor start to our fourth consecutive season in the second tier of football it really is hard to believe that just nine seasons ago Rovers were a non-league side. Ten years ago this weekend, the August Bank Holiday saw Rovers travel to face Stevenage Borough and it is with an image taken at that game we begin our new Snapshot photo feature.
Ahead of Rovers first home league match of the current season, I had a chance encounter with supporter Geoff Snell. After purchasing a fanzine from me outside the stadium, Geoff paused to ask “Did you used to play the trumpet at matches?” Expecting a clip round the ear for the horrors of sound inflicted on him and other supporters a decade ago my reply of yes was a hesitant one, but instead it turned out Geoff, who often took his camera to games in Rovers’ Conference years, had a picture he wanted to share with me. And following a pleasant and interesting exchange of emails with Geoff that picture is featured below.
Yes, that brass instrument wielding clown with the giant watch and daft fringe is indeed me, a decade ago this very weekend. The picture was taken mid game at Broadhall Way, the sought of thing that would nowadays earn the wrath from the great fun-stopper in the sky otherwise known as Football Data Co. Those who know your grounds (and your biology) may notice I’m standing up too, with away fans that day occupying the North Terrace. Completion of Stevenage’s all-seater South Stand, which now serves as the away end, had fallen behind schedule and that stand would not be open until two months after this game. The eagle-eyed may also spot the star of ITV documentary ‘The Tightest Man In Britain’ (no, really) just over my left shoulder.
The match itself was a particularly uninspiring goalless draw (as this match report reflects) watched by a crowd of 2,352 in the ground, though a considerable more will have seen events from Broadhall Way pan out. That is because the most notable aspect of this game was that it represented Rover’s first ever live television appearance, with the match being broadcast as part of S*y Sp***s deal to cover the Nationwide Conference. How long those watching at home stayed tune to the bore draw on a sun-drenched Bank Holiday afternoon is unclear, but those of us in the ground battled on to the end at least.
This was to be Rovers penultimate season in the Conference, and though they had been strongly tipped for promotion (especially after signing Justin Jackson for £100,000 in the weeks after this game) an inability to turn draws into wins would cost them. This goalless match at Stevenage was followed by five further stalemates in September and with the team ambling things were not helped by Chairman John Ryan stepping down in November. Ryan resigned in protest at the Council who he felt were not doing enough to help the club relocate to a new stadium, but he would be back before the year was out.
Manager Steve Wignall however would be gone by then, he was sacked in January owing to “severe financial constraints” (ie. the absence of Mr Ryan’s chequebook) according to stand-in Chairman Trevor Milton; the same constraints would see players Barry Richardson and Paul Carden also leave the club earning Milton the nickname “The Axeman” amongst the Rovers support. Reserve team coach Dave Penney took over from Wignall, winning his first six matches to spark talk of a promotion push, but those hopes were extinguished by a 1-0 defeat to Boston United on a Tuesday night in mid March, in front of over 4,000 at Belle Vue. Boston would eventually win the league and the sole promotion spot, on goal difference (and brown envelopes) over Dagenham & Redbridge, the latter would be pipped at the post the following season too, beaten by Rovers in teh first ever Conference play-off final.
I went off to University three just over three weeks after this game. Even more surprising than that is the fact that the trumpet didn’t make its final appearance at a Rovers game for another two years.
I’m hoping to make Viva Rovers Snapshot a regular feature so if you have a Rovers related image you think would be suitable for inclusion please get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org. Many thanks to Geoff Snell for sharing this image.