Friday, 5 August 2011

An interview with...A Doncaster Rovers fan

There were times when I never thought I would say (type) this but we are now only one sleep away from the first league game at The Amex.

Years of fighting and campaigning and millions of lovely pound notes from Tony Bloom's bumbag have led to this.

Doncaster Rovers are the visitors, so I thought I would catch up with one of their fans and pose them a few questions prior to the big game.

And it seems, according to Colin Head, that some Donny fans are looking forward to it nearly as much as us.

Q. So, Colin, I understand you were at the last game ever at our former home, The Goldstone Ground. What was that like as an away fan? it was obviously fairly emotional for all those in the home end?

A. Yes, my son Frazer and me were at the game. I remember walking to the ground in the rain from the town centre. I chatted with a few Albion fans on the way and they were obviously very upset and angry about what was happening to their club. I could empathise with them as our club was being ripped apart too at the time.
The atmosphere throughout the game was electric and the place erupted when Storer scored your goal.

Q. Your players won a lot of fans that day with their banner (Doncaster Rovers salute Seagulls Fans). How sympathetic were your supporters and how aware were you of what was going on at the Albion at the time?

A. We were all well aware of what was going on, which is why so many Donny fans turned up to offer our support, for what was a 'meaningless' game in terms of our season, as we were already safe. I think there were about 700 of us there.

Q. I know a lot of Brighton fans have had something of a soft spot for Donny since that day, is the feeling mutual?

A. Yes of course! All Rovers fans who were around then have followed Brighton's fortunes over the years, as your trials and tribulations have been similar to ours. I know all Donny fans are really pleased you are back where you belong.

Q. And I understand you have a special souvenir from that day still in your garden?

A. Haha yes! After the game we all went on the pitch to chat and protest with the Brighton fans and we noticed the pitch was being souvenir hunted so to speak. So Frazer got a tuft and planted it on our back lawn when we got home. So a little bit of The Goldstone is still alive and well in Donny I should imagine!

Q. Doncaster have had your own fair share of problems over the years and I know Brighton fans have always been keen to help. Did the support of other clubs supporters mean a lot to Rovers fans?

A. Yes the season after you left The Goldstone was just terrible for Donny supporters. Our chairman and self styled 'benefactor' was determined to ruin the club and succeeded. We had lots of help, sympathy and protests but the one that will always live with me was when the Brighton fans came to town. They helped make it the noisiest and most vehement of the lot. Our 'benefactor' had to leave the ground as he feared for his safety. Never mind he ended up safe in prison!

Q. The Football League arranged the first game to be against you on police advice because you are considered a set of supporters who understand and appreciate the occasion. Were you pleased to be the first away team at The Amex? And why do you think lower league clubs have supporters who tend to band together more?

A. Personally I was thrilled that we were to be first up for you. It is really fitting that two clubs who have been on their knees, who met in your last game at the Goldstone; and are now where we are should meet on this day. Some Donny fans aren't so pleased however believing there's no way we'll be able to take anything from the game. For me though even a defeat wont spoil the day.

I think that what Brighton and Donny and countless other 'small' clubs have been through makes you appreciate just having a team to support. So when other clubs run into trouble you can only feel for them. We built up a great rivalry with Rushden and Diamonds in our Conference days and now they're gone too, it's so sad for the supporters. I haven't got time for premiership bandwagon jumpers. In Doncaster there are still plenty of Sheffield Wednesday and United 'fans' (who dont watch them anymore) They make me sick.

Q. So where will you finish this season?

A. I'm the eternal pessimist so I just hope that we will stay up. The two great things about our club though are the Chairman, John Ryan who, with the boards and supporters help has dragged the club to undreamed of heights and wants us to progress further yet! Him the management team of Sean O'Driscoll and Richard Kelly. Sean is a genius, players seem to improve so much under his guidance.

Q. Any star players to look out for?

A. Undoubtedly Billy Sharp is the fans favourite. The club have turned down massive offers for him in the summer. My own favourite is James Coppinger who is so skillful and a joy to watch when he's on song. Also George Friend has been a revelation since being switched to centreback. Another O'Driscoll masterstroke I think!

Q. As a club who has enjoyed their own new stadium in recent years, how did it feel to get a new home and how did it affect the club in the short term?

A. It felt unreal to be honest after all those years at Belle Vue, which was shall we say not the prettiest stadium around. But it was fantastic too and we started off with a full house and a win, which I'm sure you'll be hoping for too! The stadium was central to our progress though. When we were at Belle Vue the chairman was afraid to show prospective signings around as they'd run a mile! Since moving we've won the Johnstones Paint Trophy, been to Wembley and won promotion to The Championship.

Q. How do you think Brighton will do this season?

A. That's a difficult one. I think this league is getting harder every year. Some clubs are spending ridiculous amounts so it wont be easy for the rest of us. It's a massive step up from League One I can assure you. A mid table finish would be great for you.

Q.What song shall we listen out for from the away end today?

A. My own favourite and the only one I'm likely to join in on at my age is: 'We dont care about Rotherham, we dont care about Leeds, all we care about is DRFC' It's sung with rythmic clapping and is very effective when everyone joins in.

Q. Anything else?

A. Well it should be a good game as both teams like to play the game how it should be played and a draw would be nice! But most of all it will be a pleasure to share in what for Brighton supporters is a long hoped for dream beacome a reality.

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