Monthly Archives: October 2012

Fran Tierney

Fran Tierney was one of the highly regarded players to come off the Crewe Alexandra production line, during a period when Dario Grady produced a number of top class talents such as Danny Murphy, Robbie Savage and Neil Lennon.

Tierney was regarded as the hottest of prospects in the early part of his career and was reportedly set for a high profile move to Liverpool in the mid 90’s before a serious knee injury scuppered the deal.

He signed for the Rovers in March 2001 having had brief spells with Notts County and Exeter City, with questions marks over his fitness still hanging over him, having never really moved on from injury.

Fran’s time at the Rovers, as throughout his career, was littered with injuries.  However when fit, he proved he had the ability to play at a much higher level.  Skilful on the ball he had great vision and awareness and could provide a quality final ball with either foot.  He is indelibly etched on the history of the club, as it was his goal in extra time which won the conference play-off final in 2003 and lifted the club back into the football league.  Sadly, injury eventually had the final say and ended the midfielder’s career in late 2004.

John Doolan

Midfielder John Doolan signed for the Rovers at the latter end of the clubs stay in the Football Conference, quickly establishing himself in the centre of Rovers midfield during the clubs rise through the divisions.

A talented midfielder, who was comfortable on the ball and always able to link play well, Doolan will be forever loved for the part he played during a splendid 3-1 win on a wintery, misty October evening at Oakwell in 2004.

Those who looked hard enough through the Barnsley fog that night, saw John enter into a ‘hard’ challenge with his opposing number, Stephen McPhail, as the two fought for the early right to ‘play’ in the middle of the park.

 McPhail ended up in a heap on the other side of the advertising hoardings, a result which forever endeared the scouse midfielder to all Rovers fans, and instantly made him, still to this day, as welcome as a skunk at a dinner party throughout Barnsley’s gloomy streets.

The return league game at Belle Vue was drenched in cries of “Watch out, Doolan’s behind you” and taunts of “Doolan’s gonna get you” as Rovers once again hammered Barnsley 4-0 with the big man himself to a rare goal, bagging the Rovers third. 

He went on to enjoy successful spells with Blackpool and Rochdale after departing Doncaster in 2005 having made 84 league appearances for the Rovers, scoring twice.

Tony Coleman

On 6th May 1966 Rovers entertained Notts County in a game they were desperate to win in order to further progress their march towards promotion with only three games remaining.

Things didn’t go well on that night at Belle Vue; Rovers struggled to get going and were frustrated by a number of ‘questionable’ decisions awarded against them by referee Mr Jack Pickles, with a number of them serving to frustrate the home side’s talented midfielder Tony Coleman.

Coleman fell victim to a number of niggling and cynical fouls in the middle of the pitch that continually went unchecked by the abstinent Pickles and his frustration was beginning to grow as each moment ticked by.

Coleman’s mood was clearly not helped by his side’s performance, as with a quarter of an hour to go the home side were 3-0 down and lucky to have registered nil.  It was at this point that County winger Tony Flower had yet another ‘coming together’ with Coleman which again went unpunished by the match official, and proved the straw which broke the camel’s back.  Coleman stood up, the ball long since having gone, and booted the visiting midfielder as if he was trying to kick him onto the main stand roof, instead leaving lying on the Belle Vue turf.  Mr Pickles immediately showed he was in possession of some cards that evening should he feel inclined to use them and promptly gave Coleman his marching orders.

After setting off on the lonely walk to the dressing room, Coleman appeared to think better of it, turned round and proceeded to punch the referee squarely in the head. 

Players from both sides were needed to separate the two and Coleman eventually left the field, to receive the backing of his chairman, who vowed to support one of his star players in any inquiry into the incident.

Inquiry there was, however it is now universally accepted that the referee swore at Coleman as he left the pitch and this prompted his about turn and subsequent Mohammed Ali impression and as a result the FA adopted a lenient approach to his punishment, handing out only a 6 week ban!

Loved by Rovers fans before the incident, Coleman became a hero on the Belle Vue terraces as a result of it.  

He left Rovers to enjoy a richly distinguished career, with the hard man winning the Forth Division with Rovers that year and going on to win the league championship and FA cup with Manchester City.

Brian Deane

He fit the bill as the archetypal front man of the day.  At 6’3” tall he was big and strong, good in the air and held the ball up well, allied with decent pace and the ability to run in behind defenders, Brian Deane had all the necessary qualities as a front man.

Undoubtedly talented though still quite raw as he entered the first team, having been nurtured through the ranks, he performed well in a Rovers side which struggled, and eventually established himself as the teams talisman whilst still a teenager, ending the 1987-88 season as the team’s top scorer with a creditable 10 league goals.

With financial problems never far away, a move for one a the clubs most saleable assets always looked on the cards and in the summer of 1988, Sheffield Utd acquired his services for a poultry £30,000.

He went on to develop as his early promise suggested he might, scoring the goals which took Sheffield Utd to the top league in England.  Indeed, he had the honour of scoring the first ever Premier League goal in 1992 when he scored an early strike against Manchester Utd and went on to win 3 caps for England.  His goals consistently caught the eye and he moved to Leeds for £2.9m in 1993.

He continued to play at the highest level and moved briefly back to Bramhall Lane in 1992 for £1.5m before spells with Benfica, Middlesbrough, Leicester, West Ham, Leeds again and Sunderland.  Over the course of his career he amassed transfer fees totalling in excess of £8.5m and scored over 200 goals making him the jewel that the Rovers unearthed and then sold for relative peanuts

Jack Ashurst

Jack joined in 1988 aged 34 years for a reported fee of £15,000 from Leeds Utd. He brought with him vast experience and excellent organisational skills.  He was a tough central defender who could read the game extremely well and was never flustered, regardless of the situation in front of him.

He had a tremendous influence on the players around him and proved to be an excellent, strong leader on the pitch, qualities which were recognised as he was installed as club captain shortly after joining and was awarded the supporters club player of in his first season.

Jack was released in May 1990 having turned down the offer of a new contract from the club in order to concentrate on business interests away from the game and joined non-league Bridlington Town.  Five months later however, Rovers boss Billy Bremner convinced him to re-sign as short term cover for widespread injuries in the Rovers defensive personnel.  This short term agreement eventually lasted two years as Ashurst continued to turn in a number of reliable performances before he eventually left the club in August 1992, joining Rochdale on a non-contract basis.

Such was his impact, it was considered – in times of crisis, call jack!  He was an ever reliable, excellent footballer who was a real fans favourite and made a total of 149 appearances for the Rovers.

Eddie Gormley

Joining the club on a free transfer in July 1990 from Tottenham Hotspur, the Irish midfielder went on to make 128 appearances and scored 17 goals during three years in South Yorkshire.

Eddie was an all action, box to box midfielder with the ability to drag his team back into a game. He won the player of the year award in 1992 and 1993 and was affectionately known as ‘Steady Eddie’ as the fans pleaded with him to go steady in the middle of the park, a tireless runner with a creative flair and eye for goal from long range he was a big hit with the fans until his departure, deciding to play in his native Ireland, where he enjoyed a suitably successful career.  During his time in South Yorkshire he made 128 apps, and scored 17 goals.

Tom Keetley

One of twelve brothers, four of which played for the club during the 1920’s, Tom Keetley joined the Rovers from Bradford Park Avenue in 1923.  He went on to become one of the most significant He spent six seasons at Belle Vue and scored more than 20 goals every term,  and is Rovers all-time leading goal scorer with an incredible 180 goals.

During the 1926-27 season, Keetley bagged an amazing 36 league goals in 36 games, an incredible scoring record over the course of a season that never looked like being surpassed.  That was however until two years later when in 1929 Keetley finished top of the scoring charts with 40 league goals on just 32 matches, including an outstanding performance in a match at Ashington when he scored 6 of the Rovers goals in a 7-4 victory.

He was a legend whilst at Rovers, so it is understandable that consternation resounded around Belle Vue in October 1928 when he was placed on the transfer list at his own request, having had a disagreement with the board over the terms of his benefit.  Eventually however the dispute was resolved with the club guaranteeing a sum from a match to be played against Hearts.

Evidently however, the problems with the board was never totally resolved and the following summer Keetley declined to re-sign for the club, instead preferring to move back to Derbyshire to be closer to his business interests there.   The fee the club received from second division Notts County went towards offsetting the loss the club had accrued the following season, however the loss of Keetley’s goals would have left a bigger void in any team than the one on the balance sheet.

The goals continued to flow at his new club, where he still holds the club record for goals scored in a single season with 39 and he scored a total of 94 goals in 103 games for Notts County, and when his career ended in 1934 following a brief spell with Lincoln City he had made a total of 330 league appearances, with yielded a return of 284 goals.

Keetley was a goal scorer the likes of which are seldom seen, his record in a Rovers shirt (185 goals in 241 appearances in competitions for the club) is unparalleled, with the biggest surprise of all being that Rovers never achieved promotion during his time at the club, despite his goals.  Quite simply Tom Keetley was the clubs greatest ever goal scorer.

Fred Emery

Following brief spells with Lincoln City and Bradford City, Fred joined the Rovers in the summer of 1924 but had to wait until December to make his debut in a 1-0 win at home to Hartlepool when he was drafted in a replacement to the injured full back Wigglesworth.  He made a total of just 11 appearances that season but did play in 4 of the final 5 games, beginning the following season firmly in the first team; he missed just 4 games all year.

A talented and composed player he was primarily used as a left half but he had enough quality to play anywhere in defence.  Always reliable and a consistent performer he became a key element in the Rovers team, eventually being made club captain for the start of the 1932-33 season.

It was under his guidance as team captain that Rovers won the third division North championship during the 1934-35 season, again a picture of consistency he played in all of the clubs first 37 league games again providing a key component in the Rovers defence.

It was as a result of this experience as skipper, allied with the high regard with which he was held at Belle Vue that led to his appointment as player manager in 1936, filling the vacancy left by David Menzies departure.  He combined playing with the role of manager for a short time, with his final appearance in a Rovers shirt coming away at Tottenham in April 1936 and the following season the team felt his absence on the pitch hard as they conceded 84 league goals and were relegation back to division three.

Emery subsequently enjoyed some success over the next two seasons as manager, guiding the club to runners up spot in division 3 twice, just narrowly missing out on returning the team to the second division before the outbreak of the second world war meant a break in the league structure, with Emery ending his association with the club in 1940.

He went on to manage Carlisle United for a seven year spell between 1951 and 1958, having replaced future Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, before his death a year later in 1959.

A fixture in the Rovers side for over a decade, he holds the record for the highest number of appearances by a Rovers player, making a total of 437 appearances and scoring 31 goals.

Syd Bycroft

Joined Doncaster Rovers in January 1936 having made a name for himself playing in the midland league with Grantham Town.  His debut was not long in coming, lining up in the Rovers first team for second division match at Swansea as a centre forward.  Rovers were beaten comfortably 2-0 and Bycroft spent the next few weeks in the Rovers reserves where he was ‘reinvented’ as a centre half, making such progress that he was brought back into the team in March and played in all the clubs final 7 games at the heart of the defence and remained a regular from then on.

Syd’s career was interrupted by the start of the Second World War when he was assigned the role of Police officer following the suspension of the Football League schedule, however he continued to play regularly for the club during the war and when the League resumed in 1946 he was once again an integral part of the team.

He missed just 1 match during the clubs record breaking season in winning the third division championship in 1946-47 and over the subsequent years he became the foundation of the Rovers teams, and the team once again won the third division title in 1950 with Bycroft ever present throughout the whole season.

He retired from playing at the end of the 1951-52 season, but having qualified as a coach a few years previously, he stayed on with the club assisting with the coaching and training sessions.  

In January 1958, following the shock departure of Peter Doherty, Bycroft and trainer Jack Hodgson were placed in joint charge of team affairs until the end of the season.  The pairs first game in charge was be chance, against Peter Doherty’s new team, Bristol City which Rovers won 2-1.  The season had not been going well for Rovers who were struggling in Division 2 and despite winning their opening game, Bycroft and Hodgson could only guide the team to one further win all season with the club subsequently relegated.  Bycroft and Hodgson went back to their former duties and a new manager was installed, with Bycroft finally leaving the club in 1959 after 23 years with the Rovers.

He made 333 League appearances for the club, scoring twice, but the reality is that had it not been for the war, he would surely have become the clubs record league appearance holder (he made in excess of 150 further appearances for the club in the war time competitions).  He had a reputation for being one of the toughest centre halves in the game, he was fierce in the tackle and was a hard, uncompromising man on the field, but a gentleman off it, he will be forever on of the clubs greats.

Clarrie Jordan

Clarrie signed on as Rovers player just a few weeks before the start of the Second World War began in 1939, meaning he was forced to wait until the Football league resumed its schedule in 1946 before he recorded his league debut.  However the war years saw the club placed in the East Midlands league which provided 20 competitive matches as well as organising a number of ‘friendly’ matches which saw a number of guest players used as well as a number of younger players brought in from the reserve side, including a 17 year old centre forward called .

Jordan in turn made a number of guest appearances for other sides such as Leeds United and Derby County, but turned down their advances with offers of a full time deal after the war in order to return to the Rovers.

By 1942 Clarrie was regularly included in the Rovers team, scoring over 20 goals in the two season prior to the end of the war finishing as the clubs leading marksman in each.

Jordan finally lined up to make his football league debut in 1946 in the home win over Rochdale, scoring his first goal in the following game as Rovers beat Chester 3-1.  He was instrumental in the clubs record breaking season that year as the team won the Third Division comfortably.  Jordan scored 42 league goals in 41 appearances in a remarkable season that saw him notch 4 hat tricks, with him scoring a total of 44 goals in all competitions over the course of the season.

Clarrie left the club the following season, signing for Sheffield Wednesday, much to the disappointment of the Belle Vue faithful to whom he was a hero, with Rovers receiving a reported £6,000 fee in addition to forward Arnold Lowes.  Rovers struggled with life in a higher division and with goals proving difficult to come by, particularly following Jordan’s exit, were subsequently relegated.

Jordan, who remarkably had still been working at South Kirkby Colliery throughout his time at the Rovers, turned full time as a professional footballer with Wednesday for whom he scored 32 goals in 92 appearances.

In total he made 60 league appearances for the Rovers during which he scored 48 goals, however in reality he scored more than double this for the club if his goals during the war years were included.  His 42 league goals in one season remain as a club record, as he remains a legend in the history of the football club.