Remembering the first time: Doncaster Rovers vs Bristol Rovers, October 1985

Front cover of the matchday programme from Doncaster Rovers home game against Bristol Rovers in October 1985

As with all things Rovers I approached the writing of this article with the diligence it deserved. I’d planned on researching who actually played in the game, Rovers’ league position at the time, the attendance, the weather, John Buckley’s pre-match meal and so on.

However, as with all things Rovers, due diligence is followed by inevitable disappointment; in this instance my misplaced faith in the data available on the internet, and my lack of the necessary Rothmans Annual, means I’m having to resort to quite literally remembering the first time.

Not to worry, as there are still some facts that remain lodged in the old grey matter, namely the opponents – Bristol Rovers – the season (1985-86), and that his majesty Sir Bill of Bremner had recently moved onto pastures new. Although not that new, given he was back at Leeds. He’d obviously realised our squad was relegation fodder given the departure of the Snodin brothers. Managerial matters were left in the trusty hands of Dave Cusack who, as well as picking the team, also played and bestrode the defence like some moustachioed colossus.

Alongside the obvious joy of actually witnessing a live football match two things stick in the memory. The lush green playing surface being one. It was relatively early in the season, however, the well manicured carpet of grass seemed a far cry from our school pitch where I played my football.

The other was the primitive nature of the toilet facilities. As an eight-year-old I assumed paying money to enter a venue would warrant something more than urinating into a gutter with just a wall to shield me from onlooking eyes. Call me a snob, but growing up in Hexthorpe does lead to certain refinements.

Main Stand terrace towards the Town End was where we stood, right up against the concrete wall at pitchside. Great for the action on that touchline, though anything happening on the far side of the pitch tended to feel a little distant, and you were reliant on the Pop Side crowd for feedback as to what was going on.

The actual content of the game fades to grey. I’m sure even if you do have a Rothmans Annual to hand it won’t tell you any more than we lost 2-0 and that Bristol Rovers had a man sent off. Revenge was sweet though, as the next time I can recall seeing the Pirates was at Cardiff in the Millennium Stadium. But that’s a time we all remember.

by Andy Barlow

This piece first appeared in print in popular STAND fanzine issue 82, published in May 2016.

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