What I’ve enjoyed most about putting together Viva Rovers over the past five (yes, five) years, is the chance links and communication it has thrown up, circumstances that would unlikely be born if I simply bought a ticket and went along to a game rather than churn out this accompaniment. Back in March, when previewing Rovers’ Championship match against QPR, I mentioned in passing the infamous Cup upset performed by Doncaster on the London side in 1985, and that though it is one of Rovers’ most famous and fondly remembered victories, I had never seen any footage of it.
A day or two after writing that preview I received an email from Ray Jest, a Rovers’ fan based in Bradford, who spends some of his spare time emailing out Rovers’ related news stories and match reports to a mailing list of exiled Doncaster fans spread all over the world. Ray contacted me to say that he had a video of the game, one which had sent to him by another Rovers fan Paul Ryder, and he’d send it to me, which he very kindly did. I was expecting a battered old VHS to arrive in the post, with ‘Charles & Diana Wedding’ scribbled out on a yellowing label and replaced by ‘FA Cup’ and so was quite surprised to receive an official club video, albeit one where the sleeve appeared to have been written by someone for whom English was a second language…
The FA Cup is something special to everyone who supports football. It is the ultimate in “knock-out” competitions wherever football is played, world wide. Ask anyone in a major club what it feels like after being knocked out by a “Minnow” in the third round and they’ll tell you it’s just as though “The roof’s fallen in”! This was a night to remember for all Doncaster fans as QPR, one of the most attractive sides in the then first division went to do battle with Rovers at Belle Vue for the right to be one of the 32 teams to go into the fourth round draw.
Anyway, this video, it is supposed, is one of very few copies still kicking around, possibly even the only one – although David Harle probably has two dozen in his garage for posterity – so, I felt it deserved to be seen by more people, especially as for Rovers’ fans of a certain vintage it is the game which defines their support. I managed to find a nice man in the media department at the University of Worcester, where until very recently I was employed, who kindly volunteered to digitalise the VHS, and at the expense of Worcester’s video learning programme he diverted his working hours to doing just that. Of course we could have flogged the resulting DVD through the Viva Rovers’ shop (a notion which was very tempting when the last electric bill arrived), but we have socialist principles to uphold and readers to serve and so instead I’ve chosen to whack it on here so it can be enjoyed in its entirety.
The quality of the footage is poor, there is no commentary, no graphics, just the match which blinks into focus just before kick-off, and blacks out for the duration of half-time. Occasionally you can hear the person holding the camera chortling along at the crowd in the Pop Stand beneath them, and then at full-time it allows for some of the pitch invasion and then cuts out. For all these reasons, and many more, I love it. Other things jump out at you whilst watching the footage, firstly is how much the back-pass rule has improved the flow of the game, and the second is just how ludicrously short the player’s shorts are. In a period where Mary Whitehouse was prominent, its hard to believe QPR’s number 10 was permitted to wear such hot-pants as those he is seen modelling at Belle Vue without receiving a caution for ‘ungentlemanly garments’. Anyway, enough rabble, here’s the match, in its glorious blurry entirety. Enjoy.
As an additional footnote, a poster on the VSC Forum who goes by the name of ‘Rovers Dave’ has dug out his appropriate copy of Rothmans Football Year Book and so we can now give you the match attendance (10,583) list the line-ups from this game;
Doncaster Rovers: 1. Peacock, 2. Russell, 3. Lister, 4. Ian Snodin, 5. Kowalski, 6. Humphries, 7. Buckley, 8. Butterworth, 9. Douglas, 10. Harle, 11. Glynn Snodin
Queens Park Rangers: 1. Hucker, 2. Robinson, 3. Dawes, 4. Waddock, 5. Chivers, 6. Fenwick, 7. MacDonald, 8. Fillery, 9. Bannister, 10. Byrne (sub: Fereday), 11. Gregory