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Champions 2003-04

30 January 2013

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As Rovers go for the League One Champions title, Rovers Official Website looks back at the last Rovers Champions in the 2003-2004 season.

Rovers had got back into the league with the memorable win at Stoke against Dagenham and Redbridge the previous season, and were favourites for relegation the first season back.


Rovers travelled to Leyton Orient for the first game on a scorching hot day in August, coming back with a 3-1 win after goals from Gregg Blundell and Leo Fortune West.


That was followed up with a win against former manager Steve Wignall’s Southend United the following Saturday after a midweek Carling Cup victory over Grimsby Town. Captain Steve Foster scored the first goal for Rovers in the league at Belle Vue.


After the initial sequence of three wins from three, Rovers failed to record victory for six games and only picked up 3 points, giving the doubters the chance to say ‘we told you so’.


Rovers won their next game on 20th September at home to Oxford United 2-0, with goals from Tim Ryan and Paul Green in front of 5,040 fans.  There followed a nine match unbeaten run including a 5-1 demolition of Bristol Rovers at Belle Vue.


York City ended the run of results at then named Kit Kat Crescent with a 1-0 win over Rovers. The next side to beat Rovers would be six games later when title favourites Hull City beat Rovers at the KC Stadium 3-1 in front of 23,006, with future Rovers favourite Jason Price scoring for Hull.


Rovers were to vie with Hull City for the top spot throughout the rest of the season but pipped them for the title at Boston United when Rovers were held to a nervy 0-0. That result meant they could not be caught and eventually finished four points above Hull City.


They celebrated the title at home to already relegated Carlisle United when 9,720 packed Belle Vue to see Steve Foster lift the trophy.


So where are some of the players now? We looked back at the core of the side and where they are now.


Fans’ favourite ANDY WARRINGTON was the ever-present goalkeeper who made 89 League appearances after joining Rovers in the Conference from York City, before joining Bury in November 2006. He joined Rotherham in July 2007 and has been twice ever-present. He is still at Rotherham United.


DAVE MULLIGAN: New Zealand international right-back who joined Rovers from local rivals Barnsley in 2004 after making 66 appearances for the Tykes. He then joined Scunthorpe United in August 2006 after 77 appearances and 4 goals for Rovers, then Port Vale before going back to his native New Zealand to play for Wellington Phoenix and Auckland City. 


SIMON MARPLES; Simon joined Rovers from Stocksbridge Park Steels in 1999  and was to make 151 appearances for the club before joining Chester in 2006. Currently not playing and working within the building/construction industry.


MARK ALBRIGHTON:  The ‘Sarge’ was a no nonsense versatile centre half who joined Rovers from Telford United in 2002, making 86 appearances before he moved to Boston United in July 2006, followed by spells at Cambridge United, Stevenage Borough, Kidderminster Harriers, Nuneaton and Barwell.


STEVE FOSTER: Captain Foster was a key Central defender for Rovers who made 116 appearances between 2002 and 2006 after joining from Bristol Rovers. He joined Scunthorpe in January 2006. He then reunited with Dave Penney at Darlington and has since played for Blyth Spartans, Mansfield and Spennymoor.


TIM RYAN:  Whenever any Rovers fan saw Stockport born Tim ‘The Rat’ play they would shout ‘shoot’ because of his fantastic shots from outside the box. He was a no nonsense defender who was hard in defence but could break forward. An England Semi-Pro international who had two spells at Rovers, playing first in the bad years 1996-97 making 27 appearances but then went on loan to Altrincham before joining Southport. He re-joined Rovers in 2000 in the Conference making 181 appearances for Dave Penney’s side scoring six goals. He then played for Peterborough, Boston United, Dave Penney's Darlington and Chester. He is now Stalybridge Celtics coach.


PAUL GREEN:  Paul was the find of the youth set up under Mickey Walker after joining from Sheffield Wednesday. Paul broke into the first team with Steve Wignall as manager in 2001 during the Conference years, and the midfielder featured in Doncaster’s rise to the Championship, making 277 appearances for the club and scoring 33 goals. He left after the Wembley play off final to join Derby County in July 2008. The Pontefract born Republic of Ireland international joined Leeds United in July 2012.


RICKY RAVENHILL: Midfielder Ricky joined Rovers from Barnsley in 2002, making 137 appearances for the club, and scored 9 goals as he formed an integral part of the side that won promotion from the Conference at Stoke, and was instrumental in the Championship winning side. A hard tackling player who could score as well as stop the opposition, Ricky won many admirers before he moved to Grimsby Town in 2006. He played for Darlington, Notts County and then joined Bradford City in 2011. Currently warming up to play at Wembley for Bradford City in the Capital One Cup Final against Swansea after playing in the side that beat Premier League sides Arsenal, Aston Villa and Wigan. Also youth coach at Doncaster Rovers Academy.


JJ MELLIGAN:  Republic of Ireland U-21 winger who was on loan from Wolves making 21 appearances in the Championship winning season. He joined Cheltenham Town in July 2004, then Leyton Orient, Dundalk, Cheltenham again and Solihull Moors. 


JOHN DOOLAN:  The former Everton player joined Rovers from Barnet in 2003 after 182 appearances for the Underhill side. The midfielder scored twice in 84 League games for Rovers, moving to Blackpool in July 2005. Later with Rochdale and Southport's player-coach, he is currently Everton’s youth coach.


GREGG BLUNDELL:  Liverpool born Gregg joined Rovers in 2003 from Northwich Victoria and made 86 appearances for Rovers. The striker scored 28 goals for the club including the first back in the League at Leyton Orient.  Gregg joined Chester City in July 2005, then Dave Penney’s Darlington, Accrington Stanley, Chester again and Barrow. He is now Tranmere’s physio.


LEO FORTUNE-WEST:  The big striker became a folk hero at Rovers with his aggressive style of playing up front. Leo joined Rovers from Cardiff City and played 90 times for the club scoring 19 goals. Leo scored two of the goals on the hot first day back in the league at Leyton Orient. The striker then joined Rushden & Diamonds in July 2006, then Shrewsbury Town, Cambridge United, Alfreton Town, North Ferriby, Goole and now Doncaster side Armthorpe Welfare as player manager. 


MICHAEL McINDOE:  When Rovers prised Michael from Yeovil Town, whom he had helped into the league as Conference Champions above Rovers, everyone was surprised. The Scotland B international winger was a fans’ favourite with his mazy runs at defences, and he tormented Aston Villa, Man City and Arsenal the following season. Michael netted 28 goals in 122 League games before joining Barnsley in a move that upset many Rovers fans in July 2006, then played for Wolves, Bristol City and Coventry City.


CHRIS BROWN; Current Rovers player Chris Brown was at Rovers this season on loan from Sunderland. He scored 10 goals in his 22 games on loan at Belle Vue before going back to Sunderland at the end of the season. He also played for Hull City, Norwich City and Preston before returning to Rovers in 2011.


Other players who featured in the season:

Chris Beech, Jamie Paterson, Franny Tierney, Dave Morley, Paul Barnes, Jamie Price, John McGrath, Steve Burton, Robert Gill, Rob O’Brien, Adriano Rigoglioso, Peter Hynes, Adebayo Akinfenwa, Chris Black, John Maloney, Barry Richardson.



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