Eleven of the Best: Rovers Cult Figures
We recently ran a 64-player contest to see who the fans believed was the Ultimate Cult Hero of Doncaster Rovers, with “Afro Goal Machine” Jason Price crowned the winner. The month-long competition gave us a chance to remember some of the biggest and brightest characters in the club’s history amidst a clamour to look into the archives during the forced suspension of football due to COVID-19, so we thought it fair to highlight some of the other cult figures who featured in the vote.
This is a loose “starting XI” featuring a realism-stretching 4-3-3 formation, which doesn’t strictly adhere to the way the 64-player contest played out. Whilst nine of those who made it to the last 16 do feature, we have tried to make sure several distinct eras of Rovers history are represented – plus if we just picked the eleven highest vote getters we’d end up with a team featuring as many goalkeepers as it does midfielders!
So without further ado, here is our Doncaster Rovers Eleven of the Best…Cult Figures!
GK: Andy Warrington
No better place to start than with a player fondly remembered for his eight-year spell during the club’s time in non-league and subsequent rise back to prominence. Andy Warrington, who reached the final of our vote last month, became a real fan favourite for his near-constant presence between the sticks, regularly showcasing a command ability more than befitting a Football League goalkeeper.
“Oh, Andy, Andy” was a Belle Vue terrace staple throughout the early 2000s and it was never sung with more vigour than in the Play-Off Semi Final victory at Chester in 2003, as Warrington’s superb saves in the penalty shoot-out sent Rovers to the inaugural Promotion Final and subsequent return to Division Three, where he was also a key figure in Dave Penney’s side winning the title in 2004.
DF: Rufus Brevett
Stretching the boundaries of a formation early by selecting an extra left back, this one feels justified as Rufus Brevett left a lasting legacy at Rovers, for whom he began his stellar career. The dreadlocked defender broke through under Dave Mackay and immediately established himself as a prodigious talent despite the team not finding success on the whole.
Brevett became a popular figure among fans for his endeavour at such a young age, and his talent was clear – he even made it into the PFA Team of the Year in 1990/91, a season he spent more than half of as a Rovers player before departing for Queens Park Rangers. The £150,000 transfer fee stood as testament to the man as the club’s record fee received for a player for almost 20 years, and his decade-plus time as a top flight player for QPR, Fulham and West Ham makes him one of the most successful Rovers alumni of the modern era.
DF: Adam Lockwood
He may not be held up as a beacon of Rovers history very often, but Adam Lockwood played his part in some significant glories for the club. Signed in 2006 from Yeovil having been a Glovers player for their parallel rise out of the Conference, “Lockie” displayed exceptional leadership qualities from the start and was a near-ever present in his first season, playing the full 120 minutes as the team won the 2007 Football League Trophy.
He was a steadying presence amongst a young group of central defenders as Rovers went up into the Championship with Lockwood as club captain, although he missed most of the Play Off run after suffering an injury against Leeds near the end of the campaign. Injuries plagued him during the Championship years but he remained a key member of the squad throughout those four years and is easily one of the more recognisable faces from the magnificent Sean O’Driscoll era. Plus he wore the #11 shirt as a centre half which takes some guts!
DF: Mark Albrighton
The incomparable “Sarge” is another who typified the defiant return of the club from the ashes of despair in the early 2000s, signing ahead of the 2002-03 season and playing a key role in the back-to-back promotions that followed. Mark Albrighton was as much a strength off the pitch as he was on, helping to lead a team that had its fair share of young up-and-comers with steel that belied his own age, and Rovers benefitted from the prime years of his career.
Sarge’s most memorable moment in the hoops however came in an otherwise inconspicuous setting. During a 2004 friendly at Belle Vue against Manchester City (manager by Doncaster-born footballing legend Kevin Keegan) one Joey Barton began to get too big for his boots and was duly throttled right out of them after a nasty challenge on Paul Green, with Albrighton wading into a two-team brawl and giving the cocky midfielder the scare of his life.
DF: Tim Ryan
Blessed with a wicked left foot, Tim Ryan was as endearing as footballers come. Whilst he presented generally as something of a “tryer”, his ability far exceeded the understated first impression people often got and his solid role at the team’s primary left full back across many seasons of growing success make him as clear a cult figure as you can get in the last two decades.
His penchant for long-range screamers out of nowhere meant his every touch of the ball became a trigger for fans to shout “Shoot!” even if Ryan was facing his own goal 50 yards away from the opposition penalty area, and let’s not forget it was Ryan’s delivery that Paul Green put in for the opener in the 2003 Play-Off Final. He is also one of the only people able to say he played for the club both before and after Ken Richardson was ousted, having played for Southport between two spells with Rovers.
MF: Ricky Ravenhill
The last of four players who spent several years at the club under Dave Penney, Ricky Ravenhill is the first true son of Doncaster to feature in this article. Ricky was a typical combative central midfielder who made his professional debut for Rovers in 2002 and went on to become a key player in the successes that followed. His midfield partnership with fellow youngster Paul Green became the fulcrum of Penney’s side and his contributions at both ends of the field were numerous.
It is testament to his progression whilst playing for his hometown club that in the space of three years he played 40+ games in the Conference, Division Three and League One and went on to play in the Football League for nearly ten years after leaving, before returning to help coach in the academy which now includes his own son moving up towards the first team set-up.
MF: Alan Little
Little is the only player on this list who can claim to be a record signing for Rovers, with Billy Bremner spending £25,000 to bring him to the club from local rivals Barnsley in 1979. The Horden-born midfielder was exactly the sort of player Bremner needed in his side and indeed he typified the spirit of the Scotsman in his playing days as well, becoming a fast favourite with fans for his unrelenting presence in the middle of the park.
Nicknamed “Animal” not so much out of fondness but out of necessity due to his nature on the field, Alan Little became a figure universally appreciated amongst those who saw him play for the club despite only staying for three seasons. He moved on to Torquay and, like his brother Brian, became a manager thereafter most notably at York City where he masterminded a win over Manchester United in the 90s, and managed the likes of Andy Warrington and Paul Barnes.
MF: Jason Price
The winner of our vote to decide the club’s biggest cult figure, JJ Price combined silky skills with a genuinely friendly and fun personality to mark himself out as a true hero to Rovers fans of all ages. Dubbed the “Afro Goal Machine” after a phrase he stumbled onto himself in a radio interview, Price scored important goals right from the off after joining in 2006 and his winning goal against Crewe to send the team to Cardiff in the Football League Trophy helped to make the Keepmoat Stadium feel like home.
He followed that up with a star turn in the 2008 Play Off run and, more so than his goals and performances, his way of making everyone smile and laugh with his playful approach to matters on the pitch meant he has become a prominent fixture in the minds of Rovers fans. The Welshman has settled in his adopted home of Yorkshire and is now a plumber, with the humorous tagline “Big Hair. Small Prices.” adorning the side of his van in typical JJ fashion.
FW: Colin Cramb
Almost the sole light in the darkness that was the club’s sad decline towards non-league in the mid-90s, Colin Cramb was a goalscorer above all else and in just two seasons scored 25 league goals for the club, a rate approaching one every two games. Cramb was a classic centre forward and a shrewd pick-up from Hearts by Sammy Chung, as he top scored for the club during some lean years in the fourth tier.
Cramb continued his fine form in front of goal at a host of other clubs in England and his native Scotland after a big £125,000 move to Bristol City in 1997, and was still scoring goals as recently as 2009 in the Scottish Leagues. Whilst he isn’t someone whose name comes up an awful lot now due to the relative obscurity the club found itself in during the time he was here, his exploits in front of goal mean he is happily remembered around these parts.
FW: Alan Warboys
Goldthorpe-born Warboys can say he donned the Rovers colours in three different decades of the 20th century, albeit across two spells over a decade apart. The most senior player on this list, he was indeed an old school sort of player and in his later years made the once-common conversion from striker to defender. Debuting at the age of 17 in 1967, his goalscoring prowess as a teenager was well noted and although he left for Sheffield Wednesday before the club’s promotion in 1969, he was still part of a halcyon bunch of Rovers players that paved the way for success.
He went to Cardiff to replace the legendary John Toshack up front and enjoyed the most fruitful spell of his career at Bristol Rovers before returning to Belle Vue in 1979 to feature under Billy Bremner, where he won the club’s Player of the Year award and made the move into defence before retiring through injury in 1982 having scored more goals in his second spell than he had as a prospect some 15 years earlier.
FW: Chris Brown
Another striker who excelled in two separate spells years apart, Chris Brown was a towering figure on and off the pitch and one of the very few who can boast multiple league winners medals as a Doncaster Rovers player. Brown, who was born in the town when his father Alan played for the club in the 1980s, came on loan from Sunderland and contributed 10 goals to the 2004 Division Three title win but became a key figure after re-joining in 2011.
Brown was a hard-working centre forward who had so much more than goals to his game, but he scored some important strikes after overcoming an injury-hit first season back in the hoops. He was a central figure in the celebrated squad of warriors that won the League One championship in 2013 and has since gone on to a successful podcasting endeavour, underlining his personality by regaling great tales from his playing career including plenty from his time with Rovers.
Let us know your thoughts on this edition of Eleven of the Best and stay tuned over the coming weeks for more here on ITEN.