Doncaster Rovers were formed in 1879. In the 125 intervening years, the club has won a few lower-league titles, as well as a few Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cups, and of course the infamous 1923 Wharncliffe Charity Cup. But what happened in 2003 has put those trophies in the shade.
After nearly a decade of back-to-back United titles, it took something special to break their run.
March 29th 2003 was the day the title race took a decisive turn. Doncaster faced a tough test at high-flying Crystal Palace. The same day, United had an easy three points to pick up away at lowly Leyton Orient.
After 7 minutes, Doncaster were already a goal down. Then…
The stuff of champions. Not only that, but United lost at Brisbane Road.
This left us sitting 7 points clear, and with all the momentum
The title was settled with a week to go. The relegation battle, however went down to the last day. Two big teams were involved
Beating United had inspired Orient on a run of form which saw them to safety. No surprises that Chester went right back down again. As I predicted, the appointment of Glen Thomas had seen Chelsea slide from mid-table comfort into the bottom 4. Over on Merseyside, Howard Kendall had overseen 6 years of decline from a 7th place finish into regular relegation candidates
While we finished with a great 3 points at Liverpoool, conspiracy theorists were having a field day. Chelsea needed to get something at home to Glen Thomas’ old team Watford. Watford were safely sat in mid-table, and conceded a late goal to give Chelsea the point they needed. Everton shared 6 goals in a thriller against Sunderland
That money will come in handy too.
Here’s an overview of the Doncaster squad which will go down in history
Last time we spoke, Genoa were in deep trouble, despite winning away at league leaders Milan. That victory sparked an incredible run of form. We picked up more points in 9 games than we had done in the previous 20!
We were the only team to beat the champions though. We just need to add some consistency.
Our best player this year was our goalkeeper, which is never a great sign
Pitiful goalscoring chart. Iacopino only joined in February as well! We’ve got potential in the squad. (The new N’Doram and Mijatovic – Soares and Dragutinovic) We don’t have enough proven quality though. Shevchenko and Paulo Sousa have both been disappointments. Hopefully our good run at the of the season can continue into next year…We’ll see..
In the Belgian League, it was the usual second place finish behind the Bruges juggernaut.
Another double, and a Champions League semi-final for the Belgian giants.
However, we were still in with a shout in Europe. As you’ll recall, we were drawn against Liverpool in the CWC semi-finals. Here’s the home leg
Scholl and Nevland are big game players (wasted in the Belgian league to be honest). Liverpool pulled a late goal back, and they would surely be favourites back at Anfield
Here’s the task that awaits us
The most expensive player in the game (Denilson) is thankfully injured. We are still playing against the England strike-force (Youngs and Fowler). Three other internationals are out, Rio, Kevin Nicholls and Ballotta (Italian striker), but nevertheless every starter is a full international.
We put in easily our best ever performance, Liverpool’s 3 man attack didn’t even get a shot on target
Raul Madeiros never gets a look-in in the Juplier League, but he saves his best for the big European games.
And so we’re off to the final in… Israel (eh?)
Who will our opponents be?
Oh just multiple Serie A and Champions League winners Juventus then.
Here’s their line-up
Their star players from the first 5 years of the game have begun to fade, and they haven’t really been able to replace them. Still a formidable 11, and they have to be the favourites.
Here’s how we lined up
We were missing our usual defensive midfield lynchpin, South African Mark Tucker. Putting Martin Nielsen there meant we had no right winger, so Giovanni Van Bronkhurst got a very rare start.
It was a crazy 90 minutes
2-1 up until 6 minutes from the end.
Extra-time couldn’t seperate us. When Maarten Schops missed our second penalty, I feared the worst. But…
It had to be Mehmet Scholl! Fully deserved, in the twilight of his career
Yep, we haven’t got close to a league title, but that’s some achievement. Shame we’re still broke though
Here’s a quick look at our squad
Nevland had a quiet CWC final, but he has been going at nearly a goal a game for us. Our other star players are Dmitri De Conde (who for some reason can’t get into the Belgian team) and Brazilian international Paulo Rink at the back.
We have been in debt for the last two seasons and we’re still £2.5 million down, despite that European win. It’s a difficult balancing act. To compete in Europe we need to pay big wages, but we get virtually no bonus money in the league and gates of 20,000. We need to start selling to buy
BEST OF THE REST
Inter had a good year in the cup tournaments. Taking the Coppa Italia against a resurgent Atalanta
And beating PSG in the Champions League final.
The Kanoute and Ronaldo double-act once again coming up with the goods.
One of my ex-teams won a European trophy (no, not Monza)
Alessio Pirri, one of my signings, won the man of the match
And of course, Man United weren’t about to let a season go by without winning a major trophy
As for the awards
Morten Carlsen with back-to-back European player of the year awards. Seems a bit of a strange choice, but Inter did win the Champions League and Morten did have a big season for club and country, so fair play.
I won the English Manager of the Year Award. With my reputation swelling, I just need an international manager to get sacked now please…
No, I meant a current international manager.
Look who’s going back to the County Ground to replace Glenn though
So 6 seasons in my trophy-haul stands at a Premier League, Belgian Cup and a Cup-Winners Cup. Now it’s time to start building a dynasty..