After being relegated from the football league, on 2nd May 1998, and losing most of
their professional players Doncaster Rovers sank into a pit of
despair. Things however, have now changed. Their latest success is the winning of the Johnstones Paint Trophy at Cardiff's Millennium stadium, against Bristol Rovers on the 1 April 2007.
The Club's Early Beginnings
The club was first inaugurated in 1879. It was set up as a team to play against the Yorkshire Institute for the Deaf and Dumb. The group of apprentices who had set up the team decided to form a club so that they could play matches against other local clubs. They decided to call the club, Doncaster Rovers. At this time their team colours were blue.
In the beginning they did not have a pitch of their own to play on so in general they would use the Town Fields or the Racecourse. In 1885 the club managed to obtain its own ground, which funnily enough was situated behind the deaf and dumb institute. It was at this time that they changed the team colours to red.
Doncaster Rovers entered the FA Cup in 1888. They were badly beaten by Rotherham Town by an astounding 9 -1 margin. Rovers were invited to join the Midland Alliance in 1890. They did well in this league and finished second. In 1891 they reached great new heights by winning the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA Challenge cup, beating Sheffield United 2-1. This sent them into the Midland League, where they won the championship in 1896/97 and 1898/99. The team went on from strength to strength finally getting into the football league. During this time the club was made into a Limited Liability Company, although they still finished at the bottom of division two with only eight points.
World War I
In the summer of 1914 Doncaster Rovers was voluntarily liquidated. Despite this the club managed to reform within the month and was accepted by the FA and re-entered the Midland League. This League was suspended after one more season due to the War. However another league, the Midland Combination was set up with help from the Rovers, but this also only lasted for one season as the clubs were finding it hard to get teams together. During this time Doncaster Rovers closed down and the Army used their ground as a military depot.
Back with a New Ground
During the summer of 1920, Rovers was reformed. Unfortunately the army was still using their ground. Luckily, the club was offered some six acres on Low Pastures. The new ground was opened in August 1922 with the new name of Belle Vue, by Charles Sutcliffe, a representative of the Football League.
Many Good Things From A Beautiful Small Town
- During the 1946/47 season Doncaster Rovers held the record for the most wins.
- They recorded the highest attendance for their match against Hull in 1948 a staggering 37,099 people attended.
- 1954 Alick Jeffrey was signed by Doncaster Rovers. He was just 15 years old. He was such a good play that he was due to be singed by Manchester Unitied, but unfortunatly injured his leg in an England under 23's match against France.
- 1970 Doncaster Rovers rejected Kevin Keegan as a player, apparently because he was too small.
- In 1997/98 season they held the record for the most losses, a record 34 defeats!
- They are the only team to win the Fourth Division championship three times, during 1966, 1969 and again in 2004. They were not however, allowed to keep the trophy,(Football League rules state that any team who wins a trophy 3 times can keep it)due to the football league claiming that the name had changed so therefore Rovers had only won it once.
- Season 2005/06 saw Doncaster Rovers beat Premiership sides Manchester City and Aston Villa in the League Cup.
Dark Days For The Rovers
A lone bugler sounded the last post before Doncaster Rovers finally called time on Football League status. Ken Hawley sounded the famous tune to mark the end of an era as the town's club completed a tragic season which has seen them win only four matches and lose all but a handful of their professional players.
- The Doncaster Star, Monday 4 May, 1998.
During the 1990s, Ken Richardson took over backing of the club. He ploughed a lot of money into Doncaster Rovers. When Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council refused to sell Belle Vue ground to him, he began to lose interest. He withdrew his financial backing and as a result the club was subject to an administration order. The better players left to ease some of the financial burden but unfortunately, the players who were left at Rovers were just not up to the task.
The fans were devastated and blamed Ken Richardson for effectively killing Rovers. They even led a funeral procession complete with coffin, along Carr House Road, to the last home game. There was a bright day for the fans, however, when Ken Richardson was sent to prison, just after Rovers were relegated into the conference league, for trying to set fire to the Rovers ground, apparently hoping to pay off the clubs debts with the insurance money.
John Ryan - Saviour of Rovers
John Ryan brought the playing side of the club at the end of the 1997/98 season, with the company Westferry buying the lease for the ground. He injected new life into the club by signing up both Ian and Glyn Snodin to help get the team back in the football league. He also recruited Neville Southall, John Sheridan and Steve Nicol. The team went from strength to strength.
Doncaster Rovers Today
Doncaster Rovers is probably in its best form for 50 years. They have had promotions in both 2002/03 and 2003/04 under the management of Dave Penney who returned to the Coca Cola league in 2006 and was replaced by Sean O'Driscoll.
The club moved to the new Keepmoat Stadium in December 2006. Their first match there was played on New Year's Day against Huddersfield Town FC. Unfortunately Ken Richardson may have got his wish with regards to the destruction of the Belle Vue ground. The ground was destroyed by a gas explosion in February 2007.
I believe the nightmares of the past are over and only sweet dreams will follow. The club is now on the right footing.
- George Best.
I can't think of any other football club that has endured the same traumas as Doncaster Rovers. Thankfully, true fans are now in charge at the Club.
- Kevin Keegan.
Mention Doncaster Rovers and I am reminded of a Saturday afternoon at Bramall Lane and my first experience of a sending off. Charlie Williams,1 as I remember, was dispatched for inserting his right boot in Doc Pace's shorts! I am delighted that the decline in Rovers fortunes has been arrested and that, like Charlie Williams, Rovers seem to be smiling again!
- Howard Wilkinson.
Jeremy Clarkson (Presenter)
Paul Daniels (Magician)