In Memoriam: a day at Doncaster Rovers, Saturday 2nd October 2010

Posted: October 2, 2010 in Assorted Match Reports

My partner Claire scored an impressive ten goals this week!  Five of her team’s six in a Sunday league match, three in her Wednesday 5-a-side league and  she even hit two excellent sharp finishes in a mixed training session on Tuesday, when appalling weather meant reduced numbers, so we combined men’s and women’s training. I say “impressive”, but actually this is just a normal goal-scoring week for our Claire ….

Where does she get it from ? Well one grandfather was a professional r**by player (yes that horrible word will always be a swearword in my house and will always get bleeped on this blog), but the other was an international in the proper sport. He almost went to the World Cup finals in 1958. Check out the mentions for Len “Graham”, number 3 in the dark shirts on this clip which sees him in action for Northern Ireland at Wembley in 1955, marking the legendary Tom Finney and bravely preventing the prolific Fulham striker Beddy Jezzard from scoring what would have been his only international goal.

OK, so Len was a left back, and it does look like he had a torrid time in that particular match, but he spent enough time tracking right-footed legends like Tom Finney to be able to pass on a few tips to his grand-daughter Claire when she was young.

Grandad Len passed away 3 years ago now, in 2007, and Claire’s parents were left with plenty of wonderful memorabilia, so that for example in 2008 they went back to Len’s old club in Northern Ireland to present them with one of his international caps.

Communications at the club where Len spent most of his playing years, Doncaster Rovers (1949-58), weren’t very efficient and it’s only last Saturday, 3 years since he passed away,  that the family finally visited the Keepmoat Stadium to present D.R.F.C. with memorabilia from the most capped international player in their entire history. Claire’s dad didn’t want to go on the pitch and do the presentation so Claire presented it herself, and Doncaster chairman John Ryan immediately gave the shirt and cap the place they deserved in Rovers’ not-very-full trophy cabinet. These items, it must be remembered, were particularly precious because only one cap was given to each player per season in those days , not per match.

Pride of place in Doncaster's trophy cabinet

We were given a tour of the stadium, including visits to the home dressing room and even the referee’s room as they all made their match preparations. All in all it was a really enjoyable day, particularly as Donny have such a good passing style under Sean O’Driscoll, and we were thoroughly entertained by the 1-1 draw, Doncaster probably unlucky not to win in the end. I didn’t know much about Forest’s Lewis McGugan before today, but he was perhaps the most impressive young player on the pitch and it won’t surprise me to see him in the top division before too long. Transfer seems a more likely route for him to get there at the moment, rather than promotion for Forest. But as Blackpool have proved in 2010, anything could still happen!

By the way, I’ve watched football from all kinds of  vantage points  in and around all kinds of grounds, but this was my first time as a guest in a press box. Because we were seated at the back, we got a chance to watch a dozen or so members of HM press corps close up, and there were a few interesting insights. At least two of them spent a fair proportion of the match watching the Ryder Cup online on their computers, and one of the reporters even had to ask around his rival hacks to find out who set up each of the goals!

This shiny new council-owned stadium does inevitably have a bit of a soul-less feel, despite today’s best efforts of 2,000 Forest fans and a handful of the 9,000 home supporters to get behind their teams. There was no hint of commemoration of Rovers’  history anywhere in the stadium, and the club historian, poring over the 1950’s photographs of Donny’s glory years that Claire’s dad lent him, said that there was nothing like them anywhere in the club. Hopefully the family’s gift today can be the beginning of putting that right a bit!


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