Doncaster Rovers are unrecognisable from the club Darren Moore left but the affection towards him remains the same: Peter Catt

The big man is back.

By Peter Catt
Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 6:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 7:15 pm
Darren Moore as a Rovers player in 1996
Darren Moore as a Rovers player in 1996

And as he proudly takes charge at Doncaster Rovers what a contrast he will see to the club he left when it was virtually in tatters 22 years ago.

When Darren Moore arrived at Doncaster as a highly rated, but still raw, 21-year-old in July, 1995 the club was already on a rocky road that would ultimately lead to the Conference.

Moore was not to know it at the time but the club was in the control of a man who already had a fraud conviction following a notorious horse racing scandal a decade earlier.

Doncaster Rovers player of the Month Darren Moore receives his trophy from supporters Daniel Mayfield and Claire Mayfield, aged eight and seven, of Retford.

And he was signed just days after a fire had burned through part of the main stand at Belle Vue.

A blaze which was to lead to the club’s self-styled benefactor Ken Richardson being jailed in 1999 for conspiracy to commit arson.

Richardson believed he could propel Rovers towards the top flight when he came to the club and he helped finance some excellent signings at the start – Russ Wicox, Graeme Jones, Chris Swailes and Jamie Lawrence among them.

But Moore and Colin Cramb were among the last to fit into that category and, despite the big defender’s efforts, Rovers were already on a downward spiral.

While Richardson plotted behind the scenes Moore did his best to ignore what was going on in the background and produced some outstanding performances on the pitch becoming a cult figure among the fans.

He immediately formed a formidable centre back partnership with Wilcox, playing under manager Sammy Chung, before Wilcox was transferred to Preston early in the season.

Moore also played alongside current Under 23s boss John Schofield who has been in charge of training and holding the fort until his arrival.

Rovers finished 13th in Moore’s first season and 19th the year after by which time the likeable Birmingham born colossus was well aware he had joined the club at the wrong time, and must have been relieved to move on to pastures new when he signed for Bradford City in a £300,000 plus deal in June, 1997.

It represented a tidy profit for Richardson with Rovers having signed him from Torquay for less than £65,000.

The season after he left was the worst on record with Rovers only winning four league games and conceding 113 goals as they drifted out of the Football League.

Moore went on to fulfil his potential proving an inspirational figure for a number of clubs winning promotion four times as a player before going on to earn plaudits for his exciting brand of attacking soccer as manager at West Brom.

His sheer presence in defence put fear in the hearts of many a forward during his time at Rovers.

Yet off the pitch you could not wish to meet a nicer guy.

Whenever I bumped into him and said cheerio after games he would inevitably have a big smile, a bone-crushing handshake and a parting line…’take it easy, man’.

Now the gentle giant takes on a very different challenge at Doncaster to the one he faced during the dark days of chaos and turmoil at Belle Vue.

But this time he will be joining a revitalised, respectable and well run club.

And he will be surrounded by decent people desperate for him to do well.

Me included.

Good luck big man.