DONCASTER ROVERS’ former Belle Vue home may have been razed to the ground several years ago but, as he drove past it on Bawtry Road recently, the memories came flooding back for Darren Moore.
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Granted, the ramshackle old stadium, the club’s home for 84 years, may have had its detractors and most Rovers supporters were glad to see the back of the tired facility which had long since seen better days when the club moved to the Keepmoat Stadium at the start of 2007.
Yet treasured images remain in mind’s eye of a revered cast list who once graced it, including the likes of Billy Bremner, Alick Jeffrey and the Snodin brothers.
For the club’s new manager, it will always be a special venue for all its imperfections.
Moore happily reflects on his two-year spell at Belle Vue in the mid-1990s making him a man in a footballing sense when he took on the baton left by Russ Wilcox and became the defensive bulwark to steer Rovers through testing times, showing leadership and resolve beyond his tender years.
I have got an attachment with the supporters and area and it really does feel like coming back. The response I have had from the support in general, individually and collectively, has been excellent.Doncaster Rovers’ boss Darren Moore
Those qualities are likely to serve him well as he surveys his new kingdom from his manager’s office less than a mile from Rovers’ old abode as the club seeks to effectively build a new side minus several of last season’s leading lights.
Moore told The Yorkshire Post: “I drove past (Belle Vue) and really could not believe it.
“Wow, the flashbacks you get from that time; I get some incredible ones.
“I still have some videos of my time there and some of the goals I scored and games. I look back at them and think it is incredible.
“Being where we are now was the right thing to do for the football club. It is fantastic and we have all played our part for the next generation.”
It is perhaps Moore’s former Belle Vue team-mate Graeme Jones whose verdict on his good friend is the best summation of what Doncaster are getting in their new manager.
Jones spoke of a ‘natural leader’ upon briefly linking up with him at West Brom last season, adding: “On a human level he affects everybody, because he’s genuine, honest and consistent.”
That mindset saw him stick with Rovers when a succession of leading players left, with their demise culminating in a tortuous descent into the Conference in an annus horribilis in 1997-98.
The previous season, Moore did more than anyone on the pitch to help ensure that the club avoided that damning fate a season early, cementing the cult hero status he was quickly afforded by Rovers followers who remember his input to this day.
Thankfully, Doncaster are a club transformed for the better since and Moore will be able to count on a reservoir of goodwill if waters get choppy.
Moore, who moved to Bradford City in the summer of 1997, added: “I remember at the time here when I stayed and a lot of my team-mates were going.
“I stayed put and my job at the time, especially in the second year when we were really struggling, was making sure that Rovers stayed and kept their league status.
“That was my thing and I was passionate about it and pleased to do that. It is good to see how the club have moved on and evolved from that over the years.
“I have got an attachment with the supporters and area and it really does feel like coming back. The response I have had from the support in general, individually and collectively, has been excellent.
“I am grateful for it as, hopefully, they recognise the love and respect for them that I had then and the feelings towards me that I was one of their own coming back. I gave blood, sweat and tears for the club.”
Despite residing in the town for just two years, Moore’s attachment to Doncaster is unmistakably clear, but do not let it be said that his decision to apply for the vacant managerial post was based upon pure sentiment.
The potential that the club possessed even in those ‘bad old days’ in the Nineties was something that Moore was aware of – and which was refreshingly realised in Noughties.
It is something Moore is driven to sample from his new vantage point in the home dug-out.
The 45-year-old said: “If you look at the population here in Doncaster, it is just under 300,000. So it is there. The support and fanbase is there.
“I feel that the club have got a structure that represents that, it really does.
“The (Doncaster) people are hard-working and passionately love their sport here. It is always something I quickly picked up as a player that when you go out there and cross that white line on a Saturday there is one thing that the supporters can associate with a player and that is hard work.
“You ask any supporter if they could put on a Rovers shirt for a one-off, the one thing they can definitely give you is hard work. That is a definite.
“I always said that and picked that up as a player here. When I crossed the white line, the only thing I was not lacking was hard work and commitment and desire.
“Working and managing teams, you want that ingredient really. That is what we need to have.”