Doncaster Rovers: Harrison Biggins’s return journey to Yorkshire has not been easy

HARRISON BIGGINS has had a fair bit to smile about so far this summer and like many other new signings at EFL clubs across the country, he is busy counting down the days to next weekend’s big kick-off.

By Leon Wobschall
Saturday, 23rd July 2022, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th July 2022, 10:22 am

His new team, Doncaster Rovers, start off with a mouth-watering derby against Bradford City in their League Two opener in seven days’ time.

Back home in Yorkshire after spells in the north west at Fleetwood and Barrow, the Sheffield-born midfielder, 26, – son of former Blades, Barnsley, Burnley and Stoke City striker Wayne – should see his peak years played out on White Rose soil.

It’s been some journey so far and it has certainly been a school of hard knocks after being shown the door at first club Barnsley at the age of 18.

Harrison Biggins playing for Fleetwood Town last season. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

For Biggins, wider perspective is close to hand, chiefly through the events of two years ago.

The Covid-19 pandemic hit hard among many families in England, including his own.

He had a bout of Covid along with his parents, while his nan Dolly sadly passed away after contracting the virus, and his uncle Paul was in intensive care for a long spell.

Biggins told The Yorkshire Post: “It was a tough time. In the March (2020), as it started, I lost my nan and we’d finished from football and I was home every day and everyone was in lockdown.

“On the same day that I lost my nan, my uncle went into intensive care for seven months. He’s absolutely fine now, which is good news. You would never believe anything had happened now, but it was a miracle to be honest.”

Like his uncle, Biggins is also a battler.

He can still vividly recall the hurt when he was released at Oakwell. That sort of rejection is a crushing blow for any young player and never goes away.

When you are the son of a successful professional footballer – and one who has represented that particular club – it adds to the pain.

Creditably, Biggins dusted himself down, went to work alongside his dad at his pallet business and started out on the non-league circuit at Stocksbridge Park Steels.

Jamie Vardy’s time at Bracken Moor served him well and Biggins also owes Steels plenty.

He said: “When I was younger, people used to think it was like ‘oh, because your dad used to play’ and all this. It just doesn’t work like that. This was years and years ago that he played and football has completely changed now.

“My aim was to get straight back in from Barnsley and I never realised what it took at that point. Once I left Barnsley, I had tears and had to go to work. But going into non-league just made a man of me and made me realise what it really takes.

“For three years, I was buying and selling pallets while I was playing in non-league. On the day that I signed for Fleetwood, that was the last day that I spent there.”

Those days combining a day’s graft with commitments with Stocksbridge were long and arduous. They also provided him with a solid grounding that many young footballers coming through rarely receive these days.

Biggins continued: “It made me realise that I’d never take it for granted in heading up to training every day and working hard.

“I was up in a morning and working first thing. It was my dad’s business. Although he’d sort of let me off and get my stuff done ready for (football).

“I used to play on Tuesdays a lot in non-league and we’d train on Thursdays, so on Thursdays, I’d be getting my gym work done, which kind of helped me in the long run.

“Lads who have been in academies and made their way that way would never realise what it is like.

“You go and travel two hours on a Tuesday or Saturday night in your cars or on a coach and don’t have a drink on the way home.

“But you enjoy it and I played at that level to be where I am now.

“It was a north-south divide (with the non-leagues) and however they worked it out, I will never know as we had some horrible journeys!”

The journey next Saturday should be somewhat nicer with a bumper crowd expected at Valley Parade for Rovers’ opener at City.

It will include a big following of Doncaster supporters who will be making the trip over the border into West Yorkshire.

For the Biggins family, there will be understandable pride.

As for whether he will receive plaudits from his dad if he does well, it’s a case of ‘wait and see.’

Biggins senior was an old-school centre forward of some repute who combined nous in front of goal with an ability to lead the line in an unforgiving era when respect had to be earned.

He is remembered fondly at several of his old clubs, especially at Stoke, where he is regarded as a legend and affectionately nicknamed Bertie.

Alongside Mark Stein, he was the darling of the Boothen End at Stoke’s old Victoria Ground home in the late 80s and early 90s.

Fans of working-class clubs like Stoke rarely dish out praise easily. And neither does Biggins, according to his lad.

He said: “It is very rare I get told ‘Well done.’ If he says I have done well, then I really have done well!

“He’s probably my biggest critic. I’ve learnt that now and to just accept it. After games, I will probably ring him if I think I have done well. If not, I will just leave it.”