On Saturday the 25th May, former players from both Doncaster Rovers and Leeds United, together with fundraisers from everyday normal backgrounds, will play in a match at the Keepmoat Stadium in aid of the fantastic cancer charity, Evestrust.
Meet the players
Brian Stock: Central midfielder Stock, was Rovers captain for the historic League One play-off final victory over Leeds in 2008, their first promotion to the second tier of English football in 50 years. It can’t be underestimated how important Stock was to the Rovers side, with his early penalty setting the tone for their 5-1 second leg win in the semi-finals over Southend United. Stock had decent spells elsewhere, at Burnley and Bournemouth, where he is currently a coach for the south coast side. The midfielder is also one of only a handful of players in recent years to play international football whilst at Rovers, winning three caps for Wales.
Paul Heffernan: The Irish striker spent five seasons at Doncaster, where he scored some of the most memorable goals in the club’s recent history. These include a strike in the famous 3-0 win over Aston Villa on their way to the Carling Cup quarter-finals in 2005, and Rovers’ second goal in their 3-2 victory over Bristol Rovers in the 2007 Johnstone’s Paint trophy final at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. He also won the Scottish League Cup in 2012 with Kilmarnock.
Richie Wellens: The Manchester United graduate had two spells at Doncaster Rovers, helping the side to promotion from League One alongside Stock. In between those periods at the Keepmoat Stadium, Wellens was sold to Leicester City for £1.2 million, where he played under Nigel Pearson, Paolo Sousa and Sven Goran Eriksson. He is currently the manager of League Two club, Swindon Town.
Paul Green: Starting his career as an 18 year old at Rovers, Green was the only player to be part of all three promotions during Doncaster’s meteoric rise through the divisions from the Conference to the Championship in the 00s. He later moved to Derby County, then on to Leeds and also gained 22 caps for the Republic Of Ireland, including a substitute appearance at Euro 2012 against the eventual champions, Spain. Still playing at the age of 36, Paul Green is currently at Crewe Alexandra.
Steve Foster: No-nonsense defender Foster was an integral part of Doncaster’s successive promotions to League One in 2003 and 2004. He also played league football for Bristol Rovers, Scunthorpe United and Darlington, before the latter went into administration in 2009. Steve Foster’s last known job in football was as the assistant manager of Whitley Bay.
Simon Marples: Another member of Rovers’ promotions of the early noughties, Simon Marples played 159 games in a 7 year period at Belle Vue. This spell was the only league football of his career and unfortunately never brought about a professional goal for Marples. Something I’m sure he’d like to put this to bed in this match.
James O’Connor: Learning his trade in the Aston Villa youth system, O’Connor’s most successful period of his career was undoubtedly at Doncaster Rovers. Six years he spent at the Keepmoat Stadium, including four campaigns in the Championship. The right-back also won the man of the match award in the 2008 League One play-off final victory over Leeds. He ended this season as the caretaker manager of Kidderminster Harriers.
James Hayter: Speaking of Doncaster’s play-off final victory over their Yorkshire rivals, step forward Mr. James Hayter. The striker scored the winning goal at Wembley that day and is fondly remembered by Donny fans. Hayter played out a 19-year career in the football league, with spells at both Bournemouth (for 11 years) and Yeovil Town, but it’s with Rovers that he enjoyed his biggest moment. He also holds the record for the fastest ever hat-trick in English league history, netted three for Bournemouth in 2 minutes and 21 seconds. Watch out Leeds legends!
Andy Warrington: Keeping goal for Rovers between 1999-2007, Warrington still remains a fans favourite to this day. His vital saves helped Doncaster escape from the doldrums of the conference to a comfortable League One position during his time at Belle Vue. He is currently on the coaching staff at Lincoln City.
Colin Douglas: Before current player James Coppinger was known as Mr. Doncaster, there was Colin Douglas. His club-record of 468 appearances in all competitions stood until Coppinger surpassed it three years ago. Douglas is certainly regarded as a legend at the club, so much so that his image is one of six former Rovers players to be displayed on the side of the Keepmoat Stadium.
Fundraisers: Alan Knowles, Lee Parkin, Bobby Ziyaei, Rob Johnson, Lee Parker, Sid Jones, Daniel Pearson, Lee Pearson, Connor Steel, Andrew Harriman.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink: Despite playing in the Dutch and Portuguese leagues beforehand, it was at Leeds United where Hasselbaink announced himself on to the big stage. In just two seasons he helped propel Leeds from mid-table mediocrity to a top four side, with a record of one goal every two games – sharing the Premier League Golden Boot in the 1998/99 season. A move to Atletico Madrid followed in the summer of ’99, where Hasselbaink finished the season as the second top scorer in La Liga and helped his side to the Copa Del Rey final. An amazing achievement to say that his side were relegated in the same campaign! The Dutchman returned to England the following season with a £15 million transfer to Chelsea and he did not disappoint, winning the PL golden boot outright this time with 23 goals. Even later on in his career the striker was appearing in major finals – for Middlesbrough in the 2006 UEFA Cup final and Cardiff in the 2008 FA Cup final. He was also a member of the Netherlands 1998 World Cup squad. Hasselbaink will quite rightly be remembered as one of Europe’s most lethal marksmen of the last 20 years.
Danny Mills: My first memory of Mills as a player, was him firing home a last minute free-kick winner for an already relegated Charlton against Aston Villa in 1999. As a Villa fan, at the time I was devastated. He moved to Yorkshire in a £4 million pound move that summer. His four seasons at Elland Road coincided with when they really were at the peak of their spending powers. High finishes of 3rd, 4th and 5th attracted many star players at the time on big money. Mills, along with those high profile names helped Leeds to the Champions League semi-finals in 2001. Just a year later and he found himself as England’s first choice right-back at the 2002 World Cup, following an injury to Gary Neville. He certainly did not let his country down and turned out to be one of England’s most consistent players of the tournament. Before leaving Leeds for Man City, he spent a year on loan at Middlesbrough, where he won his and Boro’s only major trophy – the 2004 League Cup. You’ll find him these days co-commentating on Radio 5 Live’s football coverage. Danny Mills is back after his memorable performance last year, where not only did he perform on the pitch, but off it as well, by going into the crowd with money tins (pictured below) to get the Leeds fans to donate. Top bloke!
Ian Harte: Irish left-back Harte was always a firm favourite with Leeds fans after coming through the youth academy at Elland Road. He played over 250 games for Leeds in all competitions, scoring an impressive 39 goals. Harte had the added quality of being set piece specialist, with many of his goals coming from free-kicks or penalties. In fact he actually scored a hat-trick of free-kicks in a pre-season friendly against Blackburn in 2000. A move to Levante in Spain followed Leeds’ relegation from the Prem, but Harte came back to England in 2007, playing for Sunderland, Blackpool, Carlisle, Reading and Bournemouth, before retiring at the age of 38. Let’s hope he rolls back the years with a trademark goal at the Keepmoat.
Rod Wallace: An underrated footballer in his day, Rod Wallace is the only player in this match with a League championship medal. Howard Wilkinson’s side upset the odds by beating Man Utd to the league title in 1992, of which Wallace was a huge part. His partnership with Lee Chapman lit up the last ever First Division campaign with over 30 goals between them. He also scored the 1993/94 goal of the season with a 60 yard run along the touchline before slotting home. Following a few more seasons at Leeds, Wallace became one of the first players to move on the Bosman ruling, allowing him to sign for Glasgow Rangers for free as his contract expired in 1998. He was called up to the England squad only once, by Graham Taylor, but never won an international cap. Outrageous.
Darren Huckerby: A £6 million signing from Coventry in 1999, Huckerby only played for Leeds for 18 months before moving to Man City. During his time at Elland Road he was in and out of the team due to competition from fellow forwards, Mark Viduka, Alan Smith and Michael Bridges. Huckerby did, however, play his part in Leeds’ run to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2000. He still has a close affinity with Norwich City, where he ended his career and now resides in Norfolk. Huckerby also has the impressive record of managing to score in every English league, every English domestic cup competition and both the Champions League & UEFA Cup throughout his career.
Noel Whelan: Another Elland Road youth product, Noel Whelan is very much a Leeds lad. He will forever be remembered by Leeds fans for his stunning overhead kick against Chelsea in 1994. Although it was at Coventry City, where Whelan enjoyed the best football of his career, linking up regularly with Dion Dublin and his teammate for this match, Darren Huckerby. He later moved to Middlesbrough for £2.2 million, as well as spells at Millwall, Derby County and Aberdeen. After retirement, Whelan had a short stint on Celebrity MasterChef, but was eliminated in the first round. He currently works as a co-commentator for Radio Leeds, where he has become well known for his passionate celebrations and his ”Get In” catchphrase whenever the whites score.
Michael Brown: Known throughout his career for his tough tackling, Michael Brown was never far away from a yellow card. Despite this, he played the majority of his playing days in the top tier of English football at Man City, Spurs, Fulham, Wigan and Portsmouth – where played in the 2010 FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea. It’s often forgotten that Brown’s step up to Premier League football was off the back of him being an integral part of the Sheffield United side which reached both domestic cup semi-finals in 2003. He joined Leeds at the latter end of his career, between 2011-14. You’ll now find Brown working for Radio 5 Live as a regular panellist on the Football Daily podcast.
Simon Walton: Known as ‘one of our own’ in the Leeds legends side, Walton came through the ranks at Elland Road and played there for the first two years of his career. Since then he has played for no less than 12 different league teams. The midfielder is currently at Maidstone United. Despite his journeyman reputation, Simon Walton’s home is definitely still Leeds United.
Fundraisers: Alex Sanderson, Dave Parry, Stevie Spencer, Michael Grant, Ryan Hunn, Michael Smith, Matt Mears, Andy Hurst, Scott Lamb, John MacLeod
Legends match history
Since the first legends match in 2013, every year more and more former professional footballers have been coming down to Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium for the charity. The match format used to be a team of ex-pros against a team of fundraisers, giving those who have raised money a chance to play against some of their favourite ever players. Some of the famous faces from previous matches include; Paul Merson, Darren Anderton, Chris Sutton, Des Walker, David May, Andy Sinton, Jason McAteer, Mark Draper, Carlton Palmer, Lee Hendrie, Clayton Blackmore, Julio Arca and Bruce Dyer. The players have been known to go above and beyond to take part in the game. For instance, Darren Anderton was known to have travelled up and down from his home town of Bournemouth on the day of the game and refused to take any fuel expenses.
The format then changed last year to a Yorkshire derby match – Doncaster Rovers vs Leeds United. Fundraisers now join forces with Donny and Leeds legends, lining up alongside them in a more competitive occasion. In fact last year’s match was so intense that former Leeds player Danny Mills and ex-Doncaster star Brian Stock had to be pulled apart after clashing on the pitch! The 2018 Legends match certainly was an eventful affair. A crowd of over 2,400 saw Doncaster’s younger, fitter players storm into a 5-0 lead in the first half, with goals coming from James Hayter, Brian Stock and an outstanding top corner volley from Rovers fundraiser Dave Parry – a Hungerhill school teacher. Leeds’ Rod Wallace hit back for the visitors just before half time. The second half was a more even game, and Leeds fundraiser Andrew Andre netted to make it 5-2. Leeds were back in the game shortly after, following a strike from Julian Joachim. However, an unfortunate injury to Noel Whelan was a huge setback for the whites and Doncaster duly ran away with the game, with James Hayter completing his hat-trick and further goals from fundraisers ensured the match finished 8-4 to Doncaster.
About the charity
The Eve Merton Dreams Trust was founded in June 2011, just 6 months after Eve Merton sadly lost her battle with ovarian cancer. Martin Lawrence (Eve’s son) and Clynton Johnson began the Doncaster based charity to help people who are suffering from ill effects that Eve and her family went through. Their aim is to use the grief of losing a mother and turn it into a positive for other local families. To fundraise and know exactly who and how those monies would make a difference. They answer dreams, grant final wishes and do anything they can to make the patient and their family smile, helping fight the onset of post diagnosis PTSD.
By fulfilling a dream or granting a wish, Evestrust try and provide a positive focus. Empowering both the patients and their families with new enthusiasm and strength to deal with the ongoing daily struggles of illness, gruelling hospital treatment, financial restraints caused by the condition and the majority of the time, sad loss. The charity is a non-profit organisation, which has operated solely on a voluntary basis for the last 8 years and has helped hundreds of families. Their current fundraising total stands in excess of £540,000.
Eve’s love of football
Why do a charity football match you may ask? Well Eve had a history with the beautiful game, going back nearly 50 years. Back in 1972, in Sudbury, Suffolk, Eve’s local area was short of active junior football teams, meaning her son and other local boys had nowhere to play competitive football. At that point, Eve, her then husband Eddie Merton and another local father, Peter Thurlow, combined their forces to form a new team by the name of Cornard Dynamos. They hand made the first kit, which resembled Birmingham City in the 70’s, and went about the task of raising funds to make the team a reality. Eve would organise a sponsored bike ride to Bury St. Edmunds and back, and even wrote to football king of the 70’s, Rodney Marsh. Marsh then replied to Eve with a lovely letter, agreeing to be the club President of Cornard Dynamos F.C and sent a signed ball for the club to auction. Marsh arranged to meet the boys at an upcoming Ipswich vs Man City league game but sadly due to injury was unable to travel. Another football legend, Ipswich manager Bobby Robson, alongside players Paul Mariner and Eric Gates, would ulimately save the day with a full stadium tour of Portman Road.
Once the club was up and running, a young talented ginger boy from the local area would sign. He would play in the ranks at Dynamos, learn is trade, and later sign for Colchester United, before eventually signing for Arsenal as Charlie Nicholas’ replacement. That young boy was Arsenal legend Perry Groves. Cornard Dynamos still exists today, with over 200 boys and girls signed from the local area, ranging teams from U7’s to U16’s.
Eve herself was always a huge football fan, hailing from a strong Chelsea F.C background. Yes, before the Roman Ambramovich era! She even decorated the front of her house before the 1970 FA Cup final with banners such as Osgood is Good’. After moving to Doncaster she continued to support her children’s love for the game. Assisting managers at Edlington Whitestars and Hyde Park Knights, raising money for the boys to enjoy trips, after season parties and cup final banners.
Eve’s love for football and her children was clear to everybody who knew her. Her dedication and passion has helped tens of thousands of other children learn and enjoy the love of the game. Perry Groves himself said at the 2017 Legends event, “People like Eve & Eddie are the core to grass roots football, they did so much for me and so many others”.
For more information on the Eve Merton’s Dream Trust or to make a donation, please visit – https://evestrust.co.uk/
You’ve read the story, you’ve seen the players, now get yourself down to the Keepmoat Stadium on Saturday 25th May. Come to support a fantastic cause and take a trip down memory lane with some of your favourite former Doncaster and Leeds players. Having been to a few of these matches myself over the years, it’s sure to be a great occasion.
I’ll be back with a match report a few days after the event.
Kick-off time: 2pm
Tickets available on the gate or by ringing 01302 762576
PRICES – Adult: £5 – Children: £3 – Family of 4: £10.
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