RTID met with Rovers historian Tony Bluff as he prepares to make his final away trip to Leicester City as part of the media team, after over ten years of travelling around.
Tony is well know as the co-author with Steve Uttley and Barry Watson of a series of Rovers books and will be missed on the road by everyone he has met in his time. With over 600 games under his belt, his knowledge of the club is second to non and he will continue in his role of historian at the club next season.
When did you first work for Rovers?
Commencing at the start of the season in 1984 doing 1st team line-ups and player stats for the programme until Richardson culled the programme and the team that produced it.
How did you get involved with Rovers and writing the book?
In the late 70s, I had given up my active association with local football and was surprised that Rovers had barely celebrated their Centenary. To say it was a muted celebration was a severe understatement!! I had always collected football records and information so when ‘The Association of Football Statisticians’ was formed around 1980, I joined them. Being a history buff, I was familiar with the history of the game and had some club history books but they were only written text books, no stats. Then Breedon Books started publishing their ‘Complete History series’ so, in 1984, I called at the Rovers office and naively asked if I could use their minute books of directors’ meetings and any other material such as result books that they may have in their archives as I wished to compile a history of the club. “What minute books, what archives? Sorry we have nothing on the history of the club.” So the obvious answer was to spend the next ten years researching at Doncaster Library. Barry Watson joined me in compiling the results and I set about writing the book.
You have worked at over 600 games. What are the highlights?
Mainly the obvious ones of winning the Play-Off final at Stoke in 2003 to regain our place in the League; winning the JPT Final at the Millenium in 2007; beating Leeds in the Play-Off Final at Wembley (I never thought I would ever see Rovers at Wembley!! Especially beating Leeds) so that they were back in the 2nd tier where I had first seen them in 1954. But best of all, being a part of the club making a name for themselves in the football world after 50 years of dereliction. In 10 seasons writing match reports of the 1st team, I missed just two games, did reports of all Reserve games when we ran a team and covered numerous Youth games when I was available.
What was it like travelling around the country?
I’ve always loved travelling and it was great going up and down the country doing a job I thoroughly enjoyed and visiting football stadia that I hadn’t visited. I call football grounds ‘the cathedrals of football’ and did an article under that title when it was confirmed that a new Stadium would be built instead of updating Belle Vue. Unfortunately, age and health have overtaken me so I need to slow down.
In that time has football media changed?
How did they manage before the days of mobile phones, laptop computers, ipads, texting, Twitter and Facebook? That is how much things have changed. In 1984 I prepared all the records by pen and paper and had to physically take them into the club for printing in the programme. These days the report goes instantly on to the computer and then the website, and also goes out directly by Twitter and Facebook. Information is instant today- how soon before information goes out? Before it happens.
Leicester is your last away game. What will you feel like going to that one?
It will be just another game and I have a job to do. It also depends on whether we will need any points from this game to stay up. Then the saddest part will not be me finishing but the club getting relegated. Hopefully that won’t happen.
What do you intend to do with Rovers from next season?
I’ve always enjoyed watching youth football. Fifty years ago I ran my own youth team in local football and saw some of my players move up the football ladder. So, all being well, I will follow the Rovers Youth Team. Seeing young players come through from the Youth set-up like Mark Rankine, Paul Raven, Paul Green, Jamie Price, Liam Wakefield and numerous others who made a career in football is satisfying not just for me as a watcher but for the coaches. I know, I’ve been there as stated above.