It is interesting to consider that had Syd Bycroft not lost seven seasons to World War Two, when he served as a police officer, James Coppinger might not be Rovers’ leading appearance maker. Syd played 355 senior games for Rovers, but at a conservative estimate could have made 300 more appearances but for the war. Born in Lincoln in 1912, Syd was playing centre-forward for Grantham Town when he was spotted by Rovers and it was in the No. 9 shirt that he made his Rovers debut in February 1936. However, manager Fred Emery needed a centre-half, and tried Syd in that position. It was to be the making of him as a footballer.
Syd became a model of consistency, the epitome of the rugged, no-nonsense centre-half and he was much admired by Barnsley fan Michael Parkinson for his duels with rival forwards at Belle Vue and Oakwell. Parkinson described Syd’s tackling as ‘like a bear trap,’ but despite his fierce approach on the field he was a great friend to many rival players. He was a League ever-present in the final two seasons before the war, and he missed only one game as Rovers stormed to the Division Three (North) Championship in 1946-47 with a record points total. He won another Third North Champions medal in 1949-50 under manager Peter Doherty and he carried on playing up to the 1951-52 season. Syd then joined the coaching staff under Doherty and was responsible for developing a clutch of young players, including the prodigious Alick Jeffrey. When Doherty resigned in January 1958, Syd, along with Trainer Jack Hodgson, was appointed joint Caretaker-Manager but he could not prevent Rovers’ relegation from Division Two.
Syd left Rovers’ coaching staff in 1959 but continued to work for the club as a scout while running his own decorating business until the early sixties, when he joined the family monumental firm and continued working until his mid-eighties. In his later years Syd could often be seen at Belle Vue, in the Main Stand, watching the club he loved, and whose followers he had given so much pleasure over the years. He died in Doncaster on 10th October 2004, having seen Rovers return to the Football League after exile in the Conference. He was a true legend, a fierce competitor on the field, but a kind, friendly and gentle man off it.
Rovers Debut: 1st February 1936, Division Two vs. Swansea Town (away) Lost 0-2.
Final game: 26th December 1951, Division Two vs. Everton (away) Drew 1-1.
Career: Football League: 333 appearances, 2 goals. All senior games: 355 appearances, 2 goals
Honours: Division Three (North) Champions 1946-47 and 1949-50.