Who Are These Jobbers?
Defining a club’s ‘banter era’ is divisively subjective task. Many supporters will point to a period of abject misery, while others will argue that a single season of calamity will suffice as an ‘era’. Everyone from Rangers to Darlington produced their own endless tweetstream of something they believed would give them credence in the “hey, you think you’ve had it bad, how about this?” stakes.
Ultimately, it was the weirdest type of self-deprecating dick measuring that can only be attributed to the beautiful game. Naturally, we ended up jumping the shark when Celtic fans claimed Ronny Deila’s tenure (two league titles and one League Cup) to be worthy of this status while Arsenal supporters then believed they signing Kim Kallstrom was worthy of getting in on the action.
This was the nadir for Doncaster Rovers fanzine popular STAND which embarked on a tour de force of hilarity detailing the stewardship of former chairman Ken Richardson. A masterclass in detailing a banter era (of which you can read in full here) it charts in full technicolour, an absolutely astounding period in a club’s history.
It has everything you could wish for: Richardson advertising the Belle Vue ground for sale in a national newspaper despite not owning it, conceding 13 goals in their opening two home games of the season, going 24 games without a win, Richardson being charged with “conspiracy to commit arson” after the Main Stand was burnt down in 1995, accidentally locking the youth team in a changing room and Richardson eventually being sent to prison.
Honestly, make yourself a brew, find a comfy seat and take in the entire saga here.
So after all that, you would think that Rovers’ had had their fair share of banter. Think again! How does a member of One Direction launching a crowdfunding campaign to buy the club sound? As that’s exactly what happened in 2014 as Louis Tomlinson (fresh from being clattered by Gabby Agbonlahor in a charity match) teamed up with former chairman John Ryan to forge a takeover.
Looking to find £2 million, they only managed £757,796, failed the Football League’s “fit and proper person” test, the bid collapsed and ended in Tomlinson claiming he was “misled”. There was also that reserve match he played in when 4,000 screaming 1Ders turned up to see Tomlinson run around for a bit.
So yeah, Doncaster Rovers pretty much have the “banter era” dick-measuring title well and truly sewn up. Sorry, everyone.
What’s The Ground Like?
It is tempting to simply cut and paste the blurb about Shrewsbury Town’s New Meadow into this section. Like The Shrews, Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium replaced a beloved home of character in Belle Vue and moved the team to a retail park outside of the town.
It looks pretty, it has loads of bright red seats and we’ve been given a really big allocation. That’s about it. There’s no character to it and it’s a canny walk from the centre of Doncaster. Anyway, Sunderland supporters are housed in the Case Construction North Stand and the low roof means you can make a decent racket.
How Do I Get There?
My, my these trips are so bloody easy aren’t they? They’re so bloody easy to do that 4,000 of you mad bastards are heading to Doncaster on a Tuesday night. Doffing that sweet, sweet cap of mine to each and every one of you.
Shall we set off? It’s a pretty straightforward journey by car taking the A19 and A1 (M) down to junction 35 for the M18. Take the first exit at junction 3 on to White Rose Way (A6182) before taking a left onto Stadium Way and, funnily enough, you will find the Keepmoat Stadium here. There is parking available at the ground for £5 per vehicle while there is also space at the surrounding industrial estates.
If you get lost putting DN4 5JW may help you out.
For those big dawgs arriving by train, Doncaster railway station is around two miles from the stadium and is relatively walkable. Alternatively, you can catch the number 56 from Doncaster Interchange or get a taxi.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
You know what an out-of-town football stadium means? You got it, buddy boy - queuing for an absurdly long time to get a beer in a family restaurant, so you can catch me at the Beefeater Lakeside or leaning on the bar of Tenpin Doncaster with a glass of red.
Of course, if you fancy a thinking man’s experience of Doncaster then set a course for the town centre. Given it’s fairly diminutive size, this corner of South Yorkshire does have quite a decent selection of alehouses. If arriving by train, you can take an immediate right and dive into the cosy surroundings of The Leopard on West Street.
Swing by the Tut ‘n Shive on West Laith Gate and discover if the jukebox is as “legendary” as the Doncaster Free Press claims. If you’re looking for a pub like nowhere else you’ve ever seen then Cask Corner on Cleveland Street is for you. Boasting a delectable range of beers and ciders it also an enormous dartboard and is completely covered in coffin decoration for reasons unknown to anyone.
If you have a little extra time on your hands then venture to The Queen on Sunny Bar which has bloody lovely craft beers, decent food and an even better crisp selection. Of course, if you are a total reprobate then Doncaster’s Wetherspoons - The Gate House - is on Priory Walk.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
What is there to do at 10pm on a Tuesday night in Doncaster? Absolutely nothing! However, once the sun rises on a crisp autumnal Wednesday morning, this darling of South Yorkshire will become your oyster as you feast upon the hearty delights it has to offer.
Swing by the award-winning (although, it is unclear which awards it has actually won) Doncaster Market. Dating back to Roman times (no, really) this traditional marketplace has over 400 stalls and *extremely Alan Partridge voice* occupies 25% of the town’s refurbished pedestrian centre. Wednesdays are outdoor market day so rub shoulders with pensioners from Barnsley as you peruse the antique and bric-a-brac items.
It the excitement of the market wasn’t enough then learn about all thing Doncaster at Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery which is only bloody free! Don’t forget to stop by the Doncaster Dome and experience intense joy that only one of the UK’s “top five sports and leisure attractions” can bring. It’s got everything in here - swimming pool with water slides, ice skating, a gym, play zone and, for some reason, a gig venue.
And if you’re on a proper half-term with the kids trip, then Yorkshire Wildlife Park is only 15 minutes away and has actual polar bears.