This weekend sees two of my former clubs, Doncaster Rovers and AFC Bournemouth meet, and I remember my time at both clubs with great fondness.
I had a lot longer at Doncaster, of course, but Bournemouth gave me my first taste of ‘real’ professional football, playing week in and week out, and there are some really good people at that club.
I was happy at Bournemouth but when Doncaster came in for me I was really sold by John Ryan’s vision for the club, and his ambitions for the coming years. His vision went on to be true as we won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and then beat Leeds in the play-off final at Wembley to gain promotion to the Championship.
I was at Rovers for five years, but those five years were some of the happiest of my life. The success we enjoyed, both individually and collectively, was fantastic, and not many players achieve in a career what I achieved in five years at Rovers. It’s something I will look back on with immense pride when the time comes for me to retire from football. I had a special relationship with the fans too. I think they appreciated my effort, and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t help me out on the pitch. I suppose being part of such a successful team helped with that! But after a disappointing 10-20 years, it was nice to give the Rovers fans the success they deserve.
It was disappointing to leave on the sour note of being relegated back to League One; no-one ever wants to leave a club in those circumstances, but it was the best decision for both myself and the club at the time. That experience put a bit of a dampener on my memories, if I’m honest, but I haven’t got a bad word to say about anyone at the club and I wish them all the very best. I was in and out of the side during the relegation run-in, but so were a lot of others, and you just have to get on with it as a footballer and use the experience to make you stronger.
That was my first taste of relegation, hopefully my last, and it’s great to see them bounce back to the Championship again. Rovers have made a mixed start to the season, but they’ve showed they can score goals and they still have quality players, like Copps [James Coppinger]. In Theo Robinson, a player I’ve obviously seen a lot of from Derby, they’ve found a quality goalscorer - his record shows that he will always score goals. He has a knack of being in the right place at the right time, and now he seems to have found a club he’s happy at, I think he will excel. For a striker in particular, it’s important to score a few early goals to boost your confidence, and now who knows what can happen? The sky is the limit!