Fan Favourite: A Salute to Alfie May
Plenty of players come through the doors of Doncaster Rovers, such is the nature of the ever-evolving world of professional football. Some stay only a short time, whilst others ply their trade in the hoops for years, but precious few take the club to heart. Those that do tend to earn a place in the consciousness of Rovers culture for years afterwards, regardless of how their career progresses after they depart South Yorkshire.
Alfie May is one such player. The cheeky forward plucked from non-league obscurity by the club three years ago became an instant hit with fans young and old, building a reputation as a tenacious, committed and friendly character with as much enthusiastic verve off the pitch as he displayed on it.
Sold to Cheltenham at the start of the year having found opportunities increasingly limited under Darren Moore, it feels as if we haven’t had much chance to reflect on May’s three year stint at Doncaster Rovers. With the dust now settling on his departure and the man himself adapting superbly to life in League Two, we thought now was as good a time as any to salute the boy done good.
From Erith & Belvedere to the Emirates
Alfie’s rags to relative riches backstory endeared him to Rovers fans immediately, fostering a great desire to see him succeed that was only helped by the working class community core at the heart of Doncaster Rovers. He arrived from eighth-tier Hythe Town on New Year’s Day 2017, coming into a team pushing for the League Two title.
The jump to the professional level was talked up frequently, highlighting the fact that Alfie could now realise his dream having worked as a bricklayer whilst playing in non-league trawling around clubs like Chatham Town, Corinthian and Erith & Belvedere. It’s a real-life “Roy of the Rovers” type story, a comparison that kept coming up in those early days, and it didn’t take Alfie long to adapt.
After a couple of appearances from the bench in away games through his first few weeks at the club, Alfie scored his first professional goal on his home debut in front of a raucous South Stand, slotting home to equalise in a 1-1 draw against promotion rivals Luton. The knee-slide celebration said it all about how delighted he was to net his first goal for Rovers and the fans took him into their hearts immediately thereafter.
Alfie went on a run of seven straight starts in attack following that and ended the season with two more goals and a promotion medal as Rovers went up, meaning he would be playing League One football months on from turning out in the Ryman South. Alfie May was the name on everyone’s lips in August as he set off out the blocks with four goals in the first five games of the season, including a strike in a Carabao Cup upset win over Hull.
That blistering form earned Alfie a deserved start up front as the leading man for Darren Ferguson’s side in the next round of the Carabao Cup, away to Arsenal. Nine months on from turning pro, he was in one of the grandest football stadiums in the world and came as close as anyone to scoring for Rovers, firing an effort into the side netting from a Rodney Kongolo lay-off in the first half with the score at 1-0.
Although he struggled to hold down a starting berth in the second half of the season, it had still been a successful campaign for Alfie and he took his game to new heights the following year under Grant McCann. A key part of the squad, he made 46 appearances and scored 11 goals across the 2018/19 season, hitting double figures for the first time as a professional and bagging a memorable four-goal haul in an FA Cup win over Chorley.
Whether acting as a support striker for the prolific John Marquis or playing as a wide forward in McCann’s 4-3-3, Alfie May regularly stepped up to help Rovers over the line in games, and whilst he only netted twice in League One, they were both noteworthy goals. He scored a 90th minute goal against Oxford that should’ve been the winner, if not for a late, late equaliser, and kicked off 2019 in style with a powerful header (yes, really) inside the first 60 seconds of the New Year’s Day thumping of Rochdale.
Alfie played his part right to the end of a memorable campaign, coming on to affect the Play-Off Semi Final at Charlton and playing a pivotal role in the Extra Time goal that nearly sent Rovers to Wembley. Sprinting from the edge of his own box and taking the ball to drive a counter attack, it was Alfie’s driving run and pass to Mallik Wilks that set up Marquis to head Rovers ahead in the tie, and we can only wonder if things might have ended differently if Alfie had stepped up in the shoot-out instead of Big John or Tommy Rowe, who missed their spot kicks to send Charlton through.
The arrival of Darren Moore last summer initially meant good things for Alfie as he began the season as the starting left winger, winning the club’s Player of the Month award for August, but the signing of Jon Taylor and emergence of Kieran Sadlier relegated him to a substitute role again and the writing was on the wall for his time in Rovers colours. His final goal for the club was trademark Alfie, a delightful dink over the keeper in a 7-1 win away at Southend in October.
A Firm Favourite
Not many players have been willed on quite so fervently by Rovers fans as Alfie May. Although he never quite made his scoring streaks extend over the course of a whole season, and despite the high competition for places throughout his three years on Lakeside, you would struggle to find many who don’t appreciate his contribution as a forward wearing the hoops.
His 23 goals in 117 games for the club is among the best goalscoring records at the club in the last ten years, and the stats don’t quite tell the whole story when it comes to assessing his contribution in front of goal. Alfie was never really the main striker thanks to the presence of John Marquis and he was often used as a utility forward, there to support rather than lead the way.
Regardless, his warmth and cheekiness off the field have earned him a place in the affections of fans for all-time. His rampant friendliness rubbed off on everyone around him and his friendship with veteran team mate James Coppinger in particular became a source of great entertainment in person and on social media. The duo monopolised the pre-match mascot roll call for favourite players during Alfie’s time at the club and his popularity in the community cannot be understated.
On New Year’s Day last month, Alfie made his final appearance at the Keepmoat Stadium as news broke that he was leaving to join Cheltenham Town. As he walked along the bottom of the South Stand, many fans – the majority young fans Alfie has endeared himself to more than anyone – bid him farewell after confirming that the rumours were true, and the Black Bank saluted their unlikely hero with a standing ovation and one last chant of “Alfie, Alfie May”.
It was a fitting send-off for a player who will be remembered as much for his relationship with the Rovers faithful than for his memorable exploits on the pitch. The transfer was announced two days later and Alfie took the time to thank us in an emotional goodbye, speaking of his appreciation for being given the chance to live his dream and become a Yorkshireman.
Alfie has hit the ground running again in his new surroundings, winning the Player of the Month award at his new club after scoring four goals in his first five games for the Robins. If he keeps that up, we may get to see Alfie May at the Keepmoat again before long. There is no doubt he’ll be welcomed back with open arms if and when that day comes.