The fairytale story with the right ending - Alfie May's time at Doncaster Rovers

It was a story that you could not help but get wrapped up in and now it has concluded.

Friday, 3rd January 2020, 5:15 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd January 2020, 5:16 pm
Alfie May

Alfie May's arrival at Doncaster Rovers was the stuff of fairytales.

That his stay developed into normality speaks volumes about the character and ability of the diminutive forward who made a home in Doncaster and, more significantly, league football.

From his first day, May had the tough task of proving himself worthy of being a full time professional.

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Alfie May

The move to another league club which has ended his time at Rovers proves he achieved just that.

In truth, he achieved it long ago.

May's rise was dream-like.

Banging in goals for eighth tier Hythe Town in the Ryman League, he began to garner attention from higher up the pyramid.

Alfie May

Darren Ferguson - a man who pretty much wrote the book on plucking talent out of non-league - spotted something in May during a trial in December 2016 and took the plunge.

"There were a lot of things I liked about him, mostly his attitude," Ferguson said at the time. "He’s got an absolute desire to be player and that was the real thing for me.”

A debut - all of two minutes - came a fortnight into his Rovers career and he waited another month for more.

Weeks earlier, he was getting up at the crack of dawn to work in his brother's building business and wolfing down full English breakfasts to power him through the day.

And after a full day's toil he was off to training with Hythe, or even more remarkably, trekking across the south for an evening away game and getting up for more after only a few hours of sleep.

Now he had achieved the dream of both he and his beloved late grandad who had ferried him wherever he needed to be as an academy player.

A story, as mentioned before, that you could not help but get wrapped up in.

His first Rovers goal came in only his third appearance - a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw with a strong Luton Town side at the Keepmoat, seeing him rewarded with his first start in the following game.

In a side which powered to promotion in the 2016/17 season, a forward who made his league football debut at 23 managed 16 appearances - nine of which were starts - and three goals.

It was not a bad record over four months in League Two, but May then had to prove himself worthy of football at the level above as Rovers won promotion.

He took tremendous strides in the right direction during the first real pre-season of his footballing life, returning fitter, stronger and sharper than he had ever been in his life.

A tough man to please, Ferguson was impressed. "Physically, he’s much, much better," he said. "He’s looked sharp from day one.

“And I also think it’s about confidence.

"For a striker he knows he’s got the respect of his team mates, that the fans really like him so I think he’s taken a lot of confidence from that.

“He’s just getting on with it, every day with a smile on his face."

That last line is a spot on summation of May as a footballer and a man - as was the reason he won over supporters quickly and kept them on side.

Whenever on the pitch, May gave everything, running his socks off for 90 minutes and battling with opposition defenders that towered above him.

After a while, questions in interviews no longer probed into his past or his journey, but instead focused on the present. May's story had progressed.

For the first few months of the 2017/18 season, he was Rovers' top scorer before an untimely injury derailed his progress.

Opportunities in the second half of that campaign were limited as Ferguson gave others a chance - Alfie Beestin and Alex Kiwomya were given the nod to start alongside the prolific John Marquis.

That would then become more of a fact of life for May at Rovers.

A change of manager in the summer of 2018 brought a change of system with Grant McCann favouring a 4-3-3.

While there were opportunities in the wide positions for May, the form of James Coppinger and Mallik Wilks meant the chances were limited.

He nevertheless delivered on those occasion, again showing superb work rate, busyness and threat. It says a lot that he finished that campaign with 11 goals after making only 16 starts and was involved in 46 matches including both legs of the play-off semi-finals.

His standing in the Rovers dressing room only grew as time went on. He took on the mantle as the player in charge of training ground fines with much enthusiasm.

Another change of manager brought a bit more misfortune on the pitch for May - Darren Moore's 4-2-3-1 formation limiting his chances further.

He started the season in 'the 3' but the arrival of new additions such as Niall Ennis and Jon Taylor sparked shuffles which left him on the bench.

May leaves Rovers having scored three goals this season in 23 appearances, nine of which were starts.

His contract was set to expire in the summer and, despite his valuable contribution, it was unlikely to be renewed.

So the chance to leave, and to join a promotion-chasing League Two side on a deal until 2022, always looked a very good opportunity. Even more so when you consider he has a child on the way.

It was the right time to go.

His overall Rovers record of 23 goals from 114 appearances - 51 of which were starts - tells the story of someone who was always a reliable contributer.

But it would be incredibly difficult to reflect the value of a player who could always be relied upon for effort on and off the pitch.

A willing and enthusiastic participant in the club's community endeavours, May has been an excellent servant for Rovers.

He may have been a full time professional footballer for three years now but he has consistently given the impression he has never taken one single day holding that status for granted. Nor that he ever will.

There is no doubting that Rovers have lost a good one in Alfie May.

He might not have been the most gifted player or the most lethal forward, but there can be no denying the effort, commitment and determination he delivered day in, day out for both the individual and collective cause.

His chapter with Doncaster Rovers has closed. We await with excited anticipation to see how the next one will play out.