Retro: Billy Bremner’s Doncaster Rovers years

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Two First Division Championships, a Second Division Championship, an FA Cup winner’s medal, Football League Cup title, FA Charity shield winner and twice recipient of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup crown.

Billy Bremner’s achievements as a player under Don Revie at Leeds United from the mid-1960s to mid-1970s are well known by Leeds, and football fans alike.

But perhaps more obscure are Bremner’s achievements as a manager with Doncaster Rovers after he hung up his boots and took charge of the Fourth Division strugglers in the late 1970s.

Bremner signed for Leeds United in December 1959 and was taken under the wing of Revie, who was in the twilight of his playing career and would soon be made manager of the side.

Revie then took Leeds from also-rans in the Second Division to a formidable force in the top echelon through developing young talent and augmenting them with experienced professionals.

At the heart of the team was Bremner and he was made captain in 1966, holding the position during the highs and lows of the next decade.

After departing from Leeds in 1976 and then spending two seasons at Hull City, Bremner stepped into his first management role with Doncaster Rovers at the end of November 1978.

He replaced Stan Anderson, who was the club’s 14th manager in 20 years.

The side was placed 21st in the Division Four table and had won four, drawn six and lost eight of its 18 games.

Bremner was cautiously optimistic when taking to the press about the team’s chances after signing his three-year contract.

The Scot said: “It would be foolish to make predictions until I have weighed up the playing strength at the club.

“Our first priority is to get out of the bottom four but I believe the club has the potential, otherwise I would not have applied for the job.”

A struggling Rochdale side was the Rovers’ first opponents under Bremner at Belle Vue and a hard-working display from the home side saw them claim a 1-0 victory.

The new manager gave chances to youngsters Tommy Meagan and Peter Bowden, who played well, but the team’s inability to convert chances was obvious to all.

The remainder of the campaign saw the Rovers reach a high of 11th place before they fell towards relegation after five back-to back-losses.

Ultimately the side finished 22nd, requiring the club to re-apply to join the Football League. This request was subsequently granted and Bremner began to rebuild the side.

Among the new recruits for the 1979-1980 campaign were veteran striker Alan Warboys, centre-half Hugh Dowd, striker Ian Nimmo, midfielder John Dowie and full-back Billy Russell.

The Rovers’ purse strings were quite tight and Bremner had to bring through a number of young local lads during the season.

David Harle, Steve Lister and brothers Glynn and Ian Snodin featured as the Rovers finished a respectable 12th place.

Bremner turned out for the Rovers against Bournemouth as the side were decimated by injuries and illness.

There was talk that the 37-year-old Scot may have retired too soon after impressive displays in a friendly and a testimonial prior to the game.

Bremner was quick to quash such thoughts, however, saying: “I decided to quit when I felt I had lost my appetite for playing… I knew I was past my best and felt I would be cheating to play on when I knew I wasn’t giving 100 pc.

“I’m a manager now and that’s the direction I want to concentrate on.’

Despite being called into action again during the 1980-1981 season, Bremner was sufficiently focused to guide the Rovers to third place and promotion to Division Three.

During the campaign Bremner won manager of the month award for September and a gallon bottle of whisky as the Rovers won six games on the trot, scoring 14 times and only conceding three.

Nimmo was top scorer for the season, having contributed 18 of the Rovers’ 59 goals.

Doncaster Rovers carried their momentum into the start of the 1981-1982 campaign with five wins from seven games putting the team at the top of the table.

There was also a home win in the second round first leg tie against Division Two’s Crystal Palace.

However, the success was short lived and 11 games without a win saw them drop to 18th.

Only five more wins were recorded during the second half of the season and Bremner’s men ended the term in 19th position – three points away from relegation.

Warboys, Nimmo and Dowd missed large portions of the season through injury and, as Bremner was unable to replace them, the side struggled.

The 1982-1983 term ended in relegation to Division Four as injuries and the inability to bring in reinforcements took their toll on the side.

Bremner was adamant that he should shoulder the blame for the team’s fortunes but was also determined to see the Rovers back in Division Three at the first attempt.

After bringing in some fresh blood, including returning striker David Harle, Bremner’s side only lost nine matches all season (also going 15 games unbeaten) and finished second in the table.

There was good news for Rovers fans in March 1984 as Bremner signed a new three-year deal to stay at the club after he abandoned his intention to leave Belle Vue in the summer.

He was swayed by new investment in the club by local businessman Peter Wetzel, who had ambitions to take Rovers as far as possible, and Bremner was targeting Division Two.

An inconsistent season in Division Three followed with wins at unbeaten Reading, league-leaders Bradford City and at home to Division One’s Queens Park Rangers in the F.A. Cup, but just under half of the club’s league games ended in defeat. Despite this, the Rovers finished in 14th position.

A number of star players departed at the end of the 1984-1985 season – Steve Lister, Glynn and Ian Snodin – but the critical loss to the club occurred in October 1985 as Bremner was lured back to Leeds United to replace former team-mate Eddie Gray.

He said: “Nobody knows how much of a wrench it is for me to leave. I’ve had sleepless nights about my decision because I would have liked to have finished the job I set out to achieve here but I couldn’t resist the challenge offered by Leeds.

“We’ve had our ups and downs but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”