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Doncaster Rovers 1990-91 season review video

90’s Football is fashionable, its official.  There is a wealth of Podcasts, books and websites celebrating the glorious decade when football came home, Football meant glamour, and the Premier League showed us the game wasn’t ours but it was a product that we should pay through the nose for and then have it rammed down our throats.  90’s Football is everywhere at the minute.  Brilliant.

Only I’m a Doncaster Rovers fan and the 90’s were, well, often a bit crap.  More than that though, hardly anyone else was bothered what was happening in the Fourth Division so video clips and nostalgia are a bit thin on the ground.

Fear not, I’m going to trek through the decades to bring it all flooding back and I’ve even been wasting more time on iMovie making childish videos to truly bring those heady days back to life.  A new one every week or so, starting with 1990-91: (video at the bottom)

Doncaster Rovers 1990-91.

There was some unusual optimism around for the start of the 1990-91 season. Italia 90 had captured the imagination of the whole country and while the Rovers previous season had been well, largely crap, there were signs that this year might be different. Inconsistency had been a key failing as Rovers finished 5th from bottom in 89-90 but the run in the Leyland DAF trophy, which had taken us to within 90 minutes of Wembley, had shown there was some quality in the side. New additions Andy Holmes, Brendan Ormsby, Paul Crichton and highly rated young midfielder Eddie Gormley were brought into Billy Bremner’s squad to complement some talented youngsters like Samways, Rankine, Brevett and Noteman. There was already a promising partnership forming between strikers David ‘Bruno’ Jones and John Muir, who had combined to good effect during the latter half of the previous campaign and the feeling was, that if we were lucky with injuries, then who knows?
Things started better than anyone could’ve wished for as Rovers won their first 5 league games, with Jones and Muir scoring 8 goals between them. Inevitably though, the clubs fragile luck faltered, and in the 5th game of that run, striker David Jones suffered a serious neck injury which forced him into DRI and Rovers good form with him. The next 4 games were all lost before inconsistency reigned once more but by mid January, after an excellent 4-0 win at home to Carlisle, Rovers were third and just 1 point behind the leaders. Gormley was excellent in Midfield, Jack Ashurst had come back in and steadied the defence and Lee Turnbull and Neil Grayson had scored important goals.
Once again though, it didn’t last. Financial pressures off the field (a massive unpaid tax bill to be precise) saw the clubs prize asset Rufus Brevett sold to QPR for a club record fee of £275,000. Rankine picked up an injury and Jones never regained fitness.
After Brevett’s exit Rovers won only 4 of the last 18 games and despite staying in the play off race right into April ended up 11th. The defence coped well with Ashurst and Ormsby at its heart, but at the other end the goals had dried up at a crucial time and key injuries had taken their toll. The squad was just too light and the budget did not allow any reinforcements to push them over the line.

In the scheme of things, and compared to the dross the Rovers faithful had been subjected to in recent years, it had been a decent, if frustrating season. Rovers had been close to getting it right, but a requirement to pay the bills had seen them fall short.

John Muir top scored with 13 league goals, Kevin Noteman, who played the last dozen or so games at left back was next with 7 (illustrating where the problems had been), whilst Colin Douglas played all 46 league games, presumably some of them sober.






Doncaster Rovers defensive analysis – Midfield shadow boxers

I’m a bit of a stats buff to be honest. I happily while away a few post match hours looking at graphs on possession and shots on goal and the newly fashionable ‘expected goals’ data brings plenty more colourful charts to the party.
This seasons surprisingly decent opening few results caught me a bit off guard but when I was watching and re watching our games highlights something about the goals we were conceding seemed to nag away at me. I decided to turn to some data and make some pretty diagrams of my own to try to make sense of it and illustrate those doubts accurately.

We have predominately played a midfield diamond so far this season; now I have my reservations about this because at times last season I thought it left our usually lacklustre or part time full backs exposed when teams set up against us with numbers out wide.
Doncaster Rovers defensive analysis 3Anyway, the nagging doubt I had this season was not directly towards our full backs or indeed the back four, but the midfield, so with my ‘Moneyball’ hat on I stated plotting the goals we have conceded on a diagram. I have charted the area of the pitch which led to the assist or a major contributing factor (a turnover of possession, key pass etc) marked with an ‘X’ and also where the goal scoring shot was taken from, marked with a red spot. The thing that jumps out from this (apart from my amateur photoshop skills) is that most of the goals we have conceded (7 out of 8) have originated from the inside left and right midfield areas, or the ‘sides’ of the diamond formation, usually occupied by Matty Blair and Tommy Rowe.

Doncaster Rovers defensive analysisBlair is at his best when he is going forward operating as a wide man, head down, using his pace to get to the byline and deliver crosses or burst into the box at pace. He can’t do that with freedom in a diamond and coupled with the understandable personal problems he has been dealing with, has not been at his most effective; his defensive work is certainly not the strongest facet of his game.
Doncaster Rovers defensive analysis Tommy Rowe

Tommy Rowe is unquestionably a good player, but I do think he has a tendency to drift in and out of games. He really wants to play more advanced, at the top of the diamond in a number 10 role, but whilst James Coppinger continues to roll back the years he is forced to play deeper. Rowe is good going forward, but doesn’t give enough when defending on a consistent basis and is sometimes absent when teams are running onto us.
Doncaster Rovers defensive analysis Matty BlairThe biggest midfield issue for me though is that we are not aggressive enough, both in the tackle but also in our closing down and harrying of the opposition, both individually (including the centrally positioned Ben Whiteman) and as a unit. In spells it feels more like a training exercise in shepherding players around than a belief and desire to win the ball (big contrast between the two sides in the Blackpool game – they snapped into every challenge and always looked hungry for the ball and a result) and too often our midfield three have been shrugged off by people running at them, something Tommy Rowe has been guilty of a couple of times in the lead up to goals.

Defensively, Rowe and Blair are a little bit like square pegs in round holes but if they are to play in these areas of the pitch then they are going to have to work harder out of possession and try to add some bite to the midfield otherwise we will continue to be vulnerable through the midfield or the personnel in there will have to change –  a shame given what they offer going forward; the stats speak for themselves…

When did it become ok not to win?

I’m angry, well hurt really. People say “well promotion was the aim anyway, that’s what matters” and “you’d have taken promotion before the season” but that just makes me more angry. If the point is not coming first then what is it? Seriously, why do we bother, with any of it? If it’s not the point to come first then why give out medals for doing so? Why did I spend years of my youth pouring over an embarrassingly sparse and almost contradictory ‘Honours’ column of our club, wondering what it would be like to see a team who were good enough to add their names to such an important list.

Try telling the 10 year old me that it doesn’t matter if we finish first or not. I could almost see some logic in that if we were one of European footballs fallen giants and getting out of the bottom division were merely an inconvenient but necessary step to getting back to where we should be.

The fact is we are Doncaster Rovers, this IS our level, here or hereabouts is where we have been for the last 60 years generally speaking and I can’t recall a single moment of the 80’s or 90’s where I wouldn’t have gladly offered any limb of your choice for the chance to be crowned champions of anything. This appalling attitude of ‘it doesn’t really matter’ is symptomatic of the sickening arrogance that runs through the game these days, a game where even it’s most average exponents earn money that would change the lives of most us.

I would love someone will the opportunity to do so, to ask Darren Ferguson to justify his part in this embarrassing conclusion to the season. To ask him for his thought process over recent weeks.  Why he has made consistent changes to personnel and shape when all the evidence screams it was unnecessary? Ask why last week when a win would’ve put us in charge of winning a trophy he lined up with one up front at home? Ask him if today, in what was basically a cup final, he could honestly say that replacing McCullough and Coppinger made our team stronger, and if not – as is so painfully the case, why did he do it? Why did he treat the competition and paying public with such contempt as to withdraw our two best players. I knew then that it was game over. I’m angered by the fact the we simply acquiesced to defeat and snatched it from the jaws of victory.

The most alarming point of the day was that in going behind there was no angry reaction from the players, no desire to change things, no kick up the arses, no hurrying to restart play, no will to win. I’m not saying they don’t care, of course not; I’m saying that at some point over the last few weeks it became acceptable not to win. It became acceptable during Paul Dickov’s reign, it became acceptable during a three month spell under Ferguson last year and it has become acceptable once more. The general malaise around the club has returned and it makes me feel sick. Let’s all feel relieved this season is over, if we still had 10 games left I wouldn’t back us to make the play offs.

I hope all concerned with the club enjoy their summer holiday and return determined to right the wrongs of the last month. I will spend the next few months trying to convince myself that next year will be different because we are back in League One, but the fact will remain that we blew it. We blew the chance to win something, to add another piece to history, to our history. Doing just that meant something to me and it hurts that didn’t. The first time that it doesn’t, the first time ‘I’d take’ second best I’m packing it in, when that’s acceptable then what’s the point?


Retro Rovers Video – Doncaster Rovers v Wigan Feb 1997

Doncaster v wigan 1997 videoThis was a superb game, honestly it was.  I know on the face of it its a 2-0 win.  At home.  Against Wigan.  But honestly it was.  Perhaps some context would help..

It was during a period where Ken Richardson’s destructive hands were tightening around the throat of the club.  It was widely rumoured that manager Kerry Dixon didn’t get to pick the team, we looking very likely to exit the football league and were on a run which had seen us pick up 2 points from the last 7 games.  We were going one way.

In contrast, Wigan were going up and up.  They were on their way to claim the Division 3 title and commence their rise to the Premier League.  Graeme Jones was returning to Belle Vue for the first time since his summer move to Wigan and was on fire.  He would go on to finish as the league’s top scorer and among the highest in Europe as he would find the net 31 times for Wigan during 96/97.  Put all that together then and the inevitable outcome was another heavy defeat.

Something happened however, Dixon must have wrestled back some sway in terms of team selection as Paul Birch was reinstalled to midfield (tragically Paul Birch would lose a battle with illness a few years later) and his quality shone through above everything else on show.  Well past his best with us, Birch totally ran this game and allied with a couple of pieces of genuine quality from Colin Cramb (not least the first goal, including the typical celebration) along with good performances from Darren Moore and Ian Gore, (who shackled Jones throughout) John Schofield and Martin McDonald, Rovers produced a shock result.  This was the start of a run of 4 wins in 5 which granted a stay of execution until the following year and was a rare highlight during 1997.

Rovers:  1.Williams  2.Cunningham  3.Darren Esdaille  4.Moore  5.Gore  6.Birch  7.Schofield  8.McDonald  9.Mike  10.Cramb  11.Ireland.  12.Warren (for Birch)

This was 20 years ago.  I can’t believe it really.  Listen out for Ken Avis on the tannoy too..



Retro Rovers Video – Hartlepool v Doncaster Rovers Feb 20th 1996

hartlepool-v-doncaster-rovers-1996This week takes us back to 1996 and Rovers are in the promotion hunt as the season nears its business end.  A bit of a wobble from the start of Feb sees Rovers likely to drop out of the race, though this crucial win at Hartlepool keeps us in contention…. for a while.  1 win from the next 12 means we missed out, as was usually the case during the 90’s.

Still worth a look as this clip provides a glimpse of Gary Brabin wading around midfield, Graeme Jones up front and a great ‘tackle’ from ‘keeper Perry Suckling.

The highlights revolve around Colin Cramb, with the scot rattling the woodwork before typically ‘winning’ the penalty, which he then converts, to win the game 1-0.  It is great to see Cramby in action again.

Rovers: 1, Suckling 2. Carmichael 3. Parrish 4. Moore 5. Colcombe 6. Warren     7. Schofield 8. Brabin 9. Jones 10. Cramb 11. Smith.

Retro Rovers Video – Sutton Coldfield v Doncaster Rovers 1980

Doncaster Rovers videoThis is a great Doncaster Rovers video all the way from Nov 1980 featuring Billy Bremner, immacualte tracksuits, a terrific green away kit (I miss a green away shirt) and a terrible pitch.  It is a proper FA Cup 1st round affair from the 80’s.

Rovers beat the non league side to go through to the second round and a 2-1 win at home to Blackpool before the run was ended in the 3rd round at Hull.  We got promotion from Division Four that year though, thanks to a very talented and youthful side.  Here is a glimpse of them from that year, Rovers goals coming from Dowd and Lally.

Line up:  1. Boyd, 2. Russell, 3. Lally, 4. Lister, 5. Harle, 6.Dowd, 7. Pugh, 8. Flanaghan, 9. Warboys, 10. I Snodin, 11.Little

Retro Rovers Video – Doncaster Rovers v Carlisle Jan 1991

Before I start, I have spent ages trawling through t’web and old VHS tapes and turned up loads of great Rovers vids.  It’s my plan to publish one on here every week, so keep an eye out or subscribe to the site to see when a new one goes up.

I spent agerovers-v-carlisle-1991s trying to find this.  I remember this game very well as it was one of the rare occassions that we featured on YTV’s ‘Goals on Sunday’ and, even more rare, we won 4-0.  I reckon I have it taped on Beta Max somewhere in a corner of my parents loft but had resigned myself to never seeing it again… Until i stumbled across the game on youtube.  No comms so we have to do without John Helm, but nevertheless it is glorious.  Goals from Eddie Gormley (the last one is great), Grant Morrow and probably the best of the lot from Rufus Brevett.  Loads of Rovers legends from Duggie to Ashurst, Ranks to Rufus and Sammy to Turny… Enjoy.

Rovers that day lined up :  1. Samways, 2. Rankine, 3. Brevett, 4. Ashurst, 5.Ormsby, 6.Douglas, 7.Turnbull, 8.Gormley, 9. Harle, 10. Morrow, 11. Noteman.  Subs: 12, Grayson, 14. Adams.

Doncaster Rovers Great Moments – Audio

Doncaster Rovers Great Moments – Audio

I recently had the pleasure of attending the National Sir francis tierneyFootball Museum in Manchester.  Whilst scouring for Rovers items of interest I chanced on the Museums audio feature and found worked my way through the Rovers section.  Listening to the commentary sent me right back to some of the greatest moments of the recent past of Doncaster Rovers FC.  The one from the League Cup tie against Villa in particular catapulted me straight back to the wooden seats of Belle Vue’s main stand.  I caught a sniff of Bovril and felt my feet turn to blocks of Ice and I was once again witnessing Sean Thornton’s strike arc into the net for Rovers third.

I’ve added to the list myself, but here they are for you to enjoy.


IMG_0857Dag v rovers Conf po final – Sir Francis Tierney sends Doncaster Rovers back into the Football League in 2003.

IMG_2432 Rovers v Villa League Cup Nov 2005 – Sean Thornton buries Villa with Rovers third goal.


IMG_2433 Doncaster Rovers v Bristol R JPT final – Skipper Graeme Lee heads home in extra time

IMG_1378 Doncaster Rovers v Leeds PO Final – James Hayter scores the only goal at Wembley in 2008 to send Rovers into the Championship

IMG_2434 Brentford v Doncaster Rovers League 1 – Incredible end to the game at Brentford in April 2013 as Rovers go from third place to Champions in seconds

Blackpool 4 -2 Doncaster Rovers tactical review

Never mind Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher et al on Monday night football.  Here is a proper breakdown of what went wrong (four times!) in Doncaster Rovers defending during Saturdays defeat at Blackpool.  Even got pictures and all that technical stuff like on the telly..

First Goal against.

doncaster-rovers-v-blackpool-2Slide 1. free kick just awarded to Blackpool.  3 of the back 4 visible, look in decent position.  All 5 Rovers midfielders in shot, all within 20 yards of each other, none of them are picking anyone up.

Slide 2.  Free Kick taken, none of the midfield have moved, still no one picked up. Back line still looks ok.

Slide 3.  This reveals that Blair, like the 5 others in front of him is both fast asleep and also 10 yards out of position and can only look on as Blackpool forward runs into the gap he has left. Look how far he is away from Butler, especially as there is a forward who should be being picked up.

Slide 4. Butler can’t get across, others still yards out of position can’t recover. Goal.  Midfield asleep, defence gets it terribly wrong.

Goal Two


Slide 1. Ball about to be delivered, decent defensive shape.

Slide 2. Ball in, Butler spare, 2 Blackpool players marked.

Slide 3.  Clear it’s too high, Evina reacts to deal with cross. No pressure.

Slide 4.  Evina in position to clear, no opponent even in shot at this point, nowhere near Evina who could deal with this in his sleep.

Slide 5. Ball bouncing. Opposition full back now approaching but 3 yards behind Evina who will smash it away easily.  Cedric has so much time he begins to think about what baseball cap would go best with the away shirt.

Slide 6. Evina will smash it away, any second now.  He’s still a yard infront of his man… wait, no not again!?!

Slide 7.  “What was I doing again. Oh yeah, baseball hats”, Cedric watches on admiringly as the Blackpool man lobs the ball towards goal.

Slide 8. S**t.

Third Goal



Slide 1.  Free kick, in excess of 25 yeards out.  4 man wall set up, evina in position to close down shot.

Slide 2. Ball rolling, Evina out. Wall in good shape.

Slide 3.  Look at the position of the goalkeeper.  Inexplicably, having set the wall up he has taken up a terrible position basically behind the wall, leaving his left hand corner massively exposed.

Slide 4.  Goal.  Even full length dive only gets to within 2 foot of left hand post, ball smashed through gap.  This is pretty basic which you would expect the keeper to set up and deal with properly.  Good hit but should be a simple save.

Fourth Goal


Slide 1. Back four in different post codes, Butler decides to get as deep as possible.  Must have a cunning plan to allow the forward to run unchallenged to the edge of the box before he intervenes.

Slide 2. Butler still retreats but now appears to try to deal with onrushing striker as though he were a small flightless bird and tries to usher him away from goal.

Slide 3. “Shoo! Go on, away!”.

Slide 4.  Oh well, it’s more or less straight at the keeper, look.

Slide 5. S**t

Do you see anything I’ve missed?  Agree, Disagree, let me know…  More tactical review next time there’s a defensive disaster… See you again next week.


Tom Keetley

Tom Keetley Doncaster roversOne 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 names in the history of Doncaster Rovers.  He spent six seasons at Belle Vue and scored more than 20 goals every term, and in the process installed himself as 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 is the clubs greatest ever goal scorer.

Tom Keetley Doncaster Rovers (league and FA cup)

1923/24: 40 apps, 20 goals

1924/25: 45 apps, 27 goals

1925/26: 42 apps, 24 goals

1926/27: 38 apps, 37 goals

1927/28: 43 apps, 36 goals

1928/29: 33 apps, 41 goals