Don Your Way column: Why I still miss damp, draughty dump that was Doncaster Rovers' Belle Vue ground

Darren Burke still misses Belle Vue.
Darren Burke still misses Belle Vue.
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It is now more than ten years since my beloved Doncaster Rovers moved into their Keepmoat Stadium home.

Some of the club’s younger supporters will probably never even realise Belle Vue’s existence, certainly now much of it is buried beneath the brand new housing estate opposite the racecourse.

Belle Vue glows in its prime.

Belle Vue glows in its prime.

In that decade since we waved farewell, there’s barely been a dull moment following Rovers, which any fan will know, doesn’t really need documenting any more than it already has been done countless times over the years.

I’ve had many happy times in the Keepmoat and since 2007, it has slowly started to feel like home.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss and long for the crumbling terraces, mud and potholes of Belle Vue.

There was something of a magical quality about the place - peeling red paint, shabby facilities and dozens of struts and columns in the creaking Main Stand meant that virtually every seat offered a restricted view.

Demolition gets under way in 2007.

Demolition gets under way in 2007.

There were weed-strewn overgrown stretches of terrace, a car park that wouldn’t have looked out of place in early 1900s England, clanking, aged turnstiles and a warren of dusty and cramped rooms and outdated dressing rooms.

The toilets were dark and dirty, the queues at the snack bars lengthy and Belle Vue was damp, draughty and sometimes hostile.

In short, the place was a festering, fusty, musty and shoddy dump.

But it was our dump. And we loved it.

Don’t get me wrong, the facilities at the Keepmoat are a million times better. Unrivalled and unobstructed views from every seat, a car park that actually knows what a proper road covering looks like, covered concourses, decent quality snap and facilities which wouldn’t look out of place in the Premier League.

But as much as I’ve come to love the Keepmoat and the successes (and misery) it has served up there over the last ten years, it will never match the unique charm and appeal that Belle Vue held over me like some sort of spell, right back from my very first game in 1981.

I used to love wandering down Bennetthorpe in the biting winter winds, seeing the floodlights twinkling in the distance, other red and white scarved supporters being drawn towards them like moths to a lightbulb, full of excitement and hope.

Invariably, Rovers would pummel that out of you by going 3-0 down after 20 minutes. But still, you’d be there again a week later thinking “this time we’ll win” (believe you me, for much of the 80s and 90s, we didn’t).

Nowadays, all modern football stadiums look the same. All plastic and breezeblocks, the colour of the seats more often that not being the only clue as to whereabouts in the country you are.

While the old girl slowly disappears, with just the odd wall remaining, let’s hope the memories and names of yesteryear from the glory days of Belle Vue will always live on.

I know they will in my mind.