Doncaster Rovers: Class of 2019 can become FA Cup legends

“Hopefully in another 50 or 60 years people are asking who was in that Doncaster side that got to the fifth round and they’re talking about Marquis, Coppinger and reeling a few names off.”

Friday, 15th February 2019, 09:54 am
Updated Friday, 15th February 2019, 09:57 am
Rovers legend Alick Jeffrey.

Grant McCann's words on Rovers’ record-equalling achievement in the FA Cup certainly have some validity.

Whether or not the individuals of today's game will still be recalled in the next half century remains to be seen. Victory against the might of Premier League Crystal Palace on Sunday may just do that.

But the most iconic name in Rovers history continues to be lauded 60-odd years from his heyday – and the FA Cup played a big role in his emergence.

Rovers may not have reached the fifth round of the FA Cup for 63 years, but during the 1950s they did so four times in five seasons.

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And in the 1954/55 season they enjoyed a storied campaign in the competition - one where a certain Alick Jeffrey emerged to prominence.

A formidable talent, Jeffrey forced his way into the Rovers side that season despite being just 15 at the time.

Making his debut in the home clash with Fulham, appearances were sporadic until December when he became a mainstay.

For Rovers, then a second tier side managed by Northern Ireland legend Peter Doherty, the FA Cup that season provided a level of intrigue a disappointing league campaign did not.

And it kicked off in the fourth round – one that went on for 510 minutes and saw multiple journeys across the country in the height of winter.

After a goalless draw at Belle Vue – on Jeffrey’s 16th birthday – the replay at Villa Park ended in a 2-2 draw after extra time.

As was customary at the time, another game was needed, five days later at Manchester City’s Maine Road. Jeffrey put Rovers ahead but Villa equalised. Again, after extra time, there was no further score.

Hillsborough awaited in the third replay. Without a goal, the game was abandoned at the end of 90 minutes due to bad light.

So the two sides were forced to go at it for a fifth time the next day – at West Brom's Hawthorns.

Finally, with two goals from Jeffrey and another from Geoff Walker, Rovers ended the tie, denying Villa the opportunity to play their neighbours Birmingham City in the next round.

Unsurprisingly, Rovers were spent and lost 2-0 at St Andrews only four days after finally beating Villa.

Jeffrey – who ended the season with six goals from 21 appearances – had begun to garner attention as one of the very best young players in the country.

He led the line the following season, helping Rovers, alongside other icons in Charlie Williams and goalkeeper Harry Gregg, to their last fifth round appearance before this season's – a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Belle Vue.

A move to Manchester United to join the Busby Babes was considered a formality, as were senior caps for the national team, until October 1956 when he suffered a horrendous leg break playing for England U23s which ended his career for more than seven years, only for him to make a remarkable comeback.

While the players of today would not claim to be of similar stature to Rovers’ greatest, the opportunity to write their name in folklore as the first group to ever reach the quarter finals is real.