Comment: John Ryan became “the single most important figure in Rovers’ history”, says Peter Catt

John Ryan
John Ryan

When I first interviewed John Ryan more than twenty years ago he was just an ordinary supporter.

Well...not that ordinary.

He was richer than most and had become involved as a sponsor giving away bottles of champagne to players named man of the match.

But, while we were chatting, he told me something I still find remarkable to this day.

He said he had been motivated throughout his business career to make money so he could eventually plough it into Doncaster Rovers.

Sometime after that he joined the board and, true to his word, once he had the liquid assets millions of pounds followed.

He began a love affair with the club as a small boy on the terraces at Belle Vue.

Like many of us he dreamed of playing for the team or becoming its boss.

Unlike everyone else he achieved both those ambitions but the relationship was not without its ups and downs.

It turned nasty during the reign of Ken Richardson when he was abused by some misguided fans who had been brainwashed into thinking he was holding the club back by not selling his shares to the self-styled benefactor who was later jailed for conspiring to burn down the main stand.

But the bitter sweet romance was rekindled when he returned to rescue Rovers and help them rise from the ashes.

Once he became chairman the unstoppable Ryan express began to gather full pace and an unprecedented spell of success followed.

Rovers won their way back into the league from the Conference, they were promoted again the following season, and then climbed into the Championship beating Leeds in the play-off final at Wembley, as well as picking up a JP Trophy at the Millennium Stadium on the way.

Supporters had never had it so good but the fanatical fan was never one to limit his ambitions and sought further investment in a bid to reach the promised land of the Premier League.

The dream turned into a nightmare when the ensuing boardroom conflict led to him handing in his resignation at Saturday’s derby clash.

During the twenty odd years I have known him, John Ryan has become the single most important figure in the club’s history.

Without him Doncaster Rovers would not exist in its present form.

Whether the divorce becomes permanent remains to be seen.

But for now the dream is over and what we can say for certain is that he has left massive boots to fill.

Peter Catt is the former long-serving sports editor of the Doncaster Free Press.