Doncaster Rovers Managers | Fred Emery

Continuing his look at Doncaster Rovers managers, which was first published in the match programme over a decade ago, long-serving popular STAND contributor John Coyle turns his attention to Rovers’ record League appearance maker; Fred Emery..



By 1936, Fred Emery was very much David Menzies’ right-hand man, so when the Scot left for Hull City, it seemed logical that Emery should move into the manager’s chair. Emery had been at Belle Vue since 1924, and his 417 League appearances for Rovers still stands as a club record. Since 1932, Emery had been captain, the man responsible for implementing Menzies’ policies on the pitch and he was still playing when the board confirmed him in his new role, although he hung up his boots at the end of the 1935-36 season.

Emery took charge of a Rovers team on the slide and despite avoiding relegation in 1935-36 they failed to record a victory under his stewardship. His first win did not come until August 1936 when Rovers beat Southampton 2-0. Despite that, they finished bottom of Division Two that season, although by signing forwards Mick Kilhoury, Albert Malam and Eddie Perry, Emery had made preparations for the future. Emery was also in charge of the first Rovers team to travel overseas, when they took on the Dutch national side in Rotterdam in October 1936. Rovers lost 2-7 but the players enjoyed their foreign excursion.

Back home, Emery’s team enjoyed two good seasons in Division Three (North). In 1937-38 they finished runners-up, two points behind Tranmere Rovers and some attractive football ensured that attendances remained at Division Two levels. The following season an even better record saw Rovers again finish second, although some distance behind runaway leaders Barnsley. In those days, only the Champions were promoted to Division Two, but Rovers began 1939-40 full of optimism. However, after only three matches the season was cancelled owing to the outbreak of war.

Despite his long service with Rovers and a decent record as manager, Fred Emery was soon to lose his job. In July 1940, the Rovers Directors decided to dispense with his services as an economy measure. Although some competitive football matches had been arranged, wartime football had brought with it much-reduced crowds- down from an average of 11,000 in 1938-39 to 3,000. In the circumstances, it was felt that Rovers could not afford a manager.

In 1943 Fred Emery was appointed manager of Bradford Park Avenue, a job he held until 1951. Avenue were in Division Two and he managed to keep them there until 1950, when they swapped places with Rovers, winners of Division Three (North). He then moved on to become manager of Carlisle United, who occupied the middle to lower reaches of the Third North throughout his tenure. In April 1958, he resigned as Carlisle manager and just over a year later, in May 1959, Fred Emery died, just before his 59th birthday. A great Rovers player might also have been remembered as a great manager had it not been for the outbreak of World War Two.


First match: 29th February 1936 v Port Vale (away) lost 0-2.

Last match: 2nd September 1939 v New Brighton (away) lost 2-4.

Football League Record.

Played 140, Won 50, Drew 41, Lost 49, Winning percentage: 37.5%.

by John Coyle

© John Coyle, 2002. This article is copyright and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the author.

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