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We all know Darren Moore ‘the manager’, but what about Darren Moore ‘the centre back’. Thats where things started between him and the Rovers and its there he made his mark on every Rovers fan who witnessed his command of Belle Vue. I fancied revisiting his glorious performances which came during a period in our history that often was anything but, and also provide a reference tool for those fans young enough to be blissfully unscarred by the Rovers of the 1990’s.
Moore was eye catching even before a ball had been kicked, his 6’2″ powerful physique advertising that he was equipped to deal with the physical side of the game. Inevitably he was commanding in the air and also caused problems in the opponents box at set pieces, scoring some important goals. Perhaps even more crucially though, he was quick, and not many visiting forwards were able to get in behind the Rovers number 4. He read the game well and was tactically and positionally sound. Even at such young age it was clear he was destined for bigger and better things. He grew into a leader over his time at the Rovers, he had to given he state the club fell into, and he was a pivotal figure at Belle Vue. I will never forget the occasions where Moore, with the ball at his feet on the half way line, occasionally just set off running towards the opposition goal, and the look on the face of those charged with stopping him. Darren Moore was a rare bright spot for the club over his two year spell and his performances made him an iconic figure among Rovers fans with him winning player of the year in both years he spent with the Rovers. It’s no wonder his appointment as manager was met with such delight last year.
He first joined in the summer of 1995, having arrived at Belle Vue as a highly rated youngster from Torquay United (one of three signings from Torquay that summer, along with Scott Colcombe and Duane Darby), but having some pretty big boots to fill. Chris Swailes had left the Rovers a few months before and gone straight into the Premier League with Ipswich Town in a 6 figure deal. Moore was a direct replacement for Swailes and lined up alongside key man Russ Wilcox. It seemed this partnership would be the rock the Rovers season was built on, but the two played just 4 league games together before Wilcox, the clubs top wage earner, was sold to Preston in September.
Moore never really managed a settled partner, playing alongside Matt Carmichael, Jamie Murphy and Paul Marquis amongst others over the course of the season, but consistently put in some high class performances as a useful Rovers side, including John Schofield, Graeme Jones, Gary Brabin and Sean Parrish were among the promotion contenders with the team further boosted in January by the signing of Scottish forward Colin Cramb.
However, a glimpse into the off field problems just over the horizon began to surface as a host of key players were sold before deadline day and Rovers form slumped, finishing 95-96 well outside the play offs.
The following season saw further reductions in playing staff, manager Sammy Chung replaced a couple of hours before kick off and rumour of board room involvement with team selection. Rovers were relegation candidates until an upturn in form in the last third of the season, led by a spine of Moore, Schofield, Paul Birch and Cramb, meant Rovers finished outside the relegation battle.
That summer any assets the club had were sold off and Darren left for Bradford for a significant, tribunal fixed, 6 figure sum, going on the play in the top flight and enjoying a hugely successful career with West Brom, Derby County and Portsmouth as well as 3 international caps with Jamaica.
The Rovers faithful followed his career from a far and he remained a cult figure in Doncaster. Idolised by many on the terraces of Belle Vue in the 90’s, a new generation of Rovers fans are getting to know the qualities of Darren Moore. Let’s hope that things continue to go as well second time around.