THE last person that I expected to see whilst waiting to pick up some relatives at Leeds-Bradford Airport last Thursday was former Doncaster Rovers favourite Paul Green.
Greenie came across to say ‘hello’ after spotting me after flying back to England following his appearance for the Republic of Ireland the previous night.
It was the first time that I’d seen him to speak to since he left Rovers to join Derby County shortly after he had helped Rovers beat Leeds United in the League One Promotion Play-Off final at Wembley.
His departure, negotiated in advance of Rovers’ famous victory, took some of the gloss off the club’s Wembley triumph.
He admitted during our chat that he had felt at the time that relegated Derby offered him a better chance of realising his dream of top-flight football but that it hadn’t turned out that way.
I rather got the impression that Green had been disappointed with the fact that during his four years at Pride Park that the Rams never really looked like getting back into the top flight.
Green, who was also played out of position at times, will be looking to enjoy better times at Leeds United following his move to Elland Road this summer.
There was a marked contrast to the start of Doncaster Rovers’ league campaign on Saturday compared with 12 months ago when they were the first visitors in a competitive match at Brighton’s new ground. That game attracted a 20,000 plus crowd, whereas just over 4,000 were at Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium to witness Rovers’ first League One clash in over four years
It was good to see the likeable James Chambers, now at Bury, back playing again after the injury nightmare he suffered during his last 18 months at Rovers.
Tactically, Rovers boss Dean Saunders got it spot on and his players did what they were asked. I was impressed by their quality in a 3-0 win which beat their previous best away result on the opening day of the league season.
Sunday proved a historic day for Doncaster Rugby League Club.
Not only did they beat North Wales Crusaders 48-12 at the Keepmoat Stadium in their final home game to give them a 100 per cent home record for the first time, but they also ended the day in pole position in the Championship One title race.
They had started the penultimate weekend of the league season looking likely to lose second spot and finish third. But defeats for Barrow and Workington Town at Rochdale and Oldham respectively, saw them claim top spot for the first time since May.
I must admit that I didn’t see either result coming. It just shows that even after more than 50 years’ involvement with the sport I don’t know it all.
Victory for the Dons at London Skolars on Sunday week will see the club lift their first ever league title.
Having been given a second chance I can’t see the Dons blowing it against a modest side like Skolars, though the narrow pitch won’t exactly be conducive to the sort of expansive game they like to play.
Complacency shouldn’t be a problem after what happened to their Cumbrian rivals.
Saunders kept the media waiting for well over an hour at Monday’s pre-match press conference at Cantley Park whilst ‘wheeling and dealing’ on the phone. But at least we were able to enjoy the sunshine even though the delay added to the pressure back at the office.
It was good to see Rovers’ chairman John Ryan pay tribute to the Dons’ success in his programme notes for the home game against Bury on Tuesday.
Doncaster Rovers Belles’ England star Sue Smith, equally at home talking into a microphone as kicking a ball about on the pitch, did a pre-match interview on the field publicising the fact that they will be entertaining mighty Arsenal at 6pm on Saturday following the Rovers-Crawley clash.
Sue is a very eloquent and engaging character and she could teach a few of her international male counterparts a lesson when it comes to promoting the game.
Rovers’ first home League One game of the season saw them come from behind to beat the Shakers 2-1 in what was quite an entertaining affair.
I was pleased to see that Bury defender Adam Lockwood, who gave great service to the Keepmoat club over many years prior to being released at the end of last season, got a great reception from Rovers fans.
I was a bit later than usual getting down to pitch side for the post-match interviews and that allowed Rovers’ boss Dean Saunders the chance to play a joke on me.
No sooner had I rushed down the stairs from the press box after filing my report than he started walking towards the dressing rooms.
Not knowing how long he’d been talking to the other media I followed him and asked him if he had a minute when he burst out laughing and said he’d set me up and that he’d only just come out.
Being a bit of a practical joker myself I saw the funny side of it. But I warned him I’d get my own back.
Watch this space!