With Brendan O’Callaghan added into the Hall of Fame on Tuesday and the votes for the standout player of the 1980s and 90s now closed, we move onto the 2000s.
Below is a shortlist of six of the top players from the 2000s who are not already inducted into the Hall of Fame (click here for the full list of inductees). The list was created by John Coyle and you can vote for your favourite at the bottom of this page.
Voting will close on March 25.
Read more about the nominees:
Paul started in Sheffield Wednesday’s Academy but following his release he joined Rovers as they looked to rebuild their youth programme following relegation from the Football League in 1998. A dynamic box-to-box midfielder with a good eye for goal, he established himself in the team during the 2002-03 campaign and scored one of the goals as Rovers beat Dagenham & Redbridge to earn a return to the League. He was a member of the team that won the Division Three Championship in 2003-04 and reached the quarter-finals of the League Cup in 2005-06. In 2006-07 he helped Rovers win the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the following season he played in the League One play-off Final at Wembley. Rovers beat Leeds United 1-0 to return to the second tier of English football after an absence of 50 years. That was to be his final game for Rovers, as he moved on to Derby County. He has won 22 caps for the Republic of Ireland and is still playing in the League with Crewe Alexandra. He made a total of 279 appearances for Rovers, scoring 35 goals.
When Sean O’Driscoll was appointed Rovers’ manager in September 2006 his first signing was Brian, who had played under him at AFC Bournemouth. A gifted midfielder with vision and a great passing range, Brian soon established himself as a key member of the Rovers team and was part of an era of great success. He played in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final victory over Bristol Rovers in April 2007. The following season he made 40 League appearances and helped Rovers to gain promotion from League One, taking the corner headed in by James Hayter for the only goal in Rovers’ Play-Off Final victory over Leeds United. While at Rovers he was capped three times by Wales. He moved on to Burnley in 2012 after making 216 senior appearances for Rovers. He now works as a coach for AFC Bournemouth.
When he joined Rovers, initially on loan in November 2006, Neil was already an experienced goalkeeper. He had played for Wimbledon, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in the Premier League and had won 28 Scotland caps. During his first season he helped Rovers to win the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, and after joining permanently in July 2007 he was part of the team that won the League One Play-Off Final against his former club, Leeds United. During Rovers’ first two seasons in the Championship he missed only one League game. After being displaced by youngster Gary Woods, he had a spell on loan in 2012-13 with AFC Wimbledon before being recalled to the Rovers first team. His final game was in April 2013, at Brentford, where he watched Marcello Trotta’s penalty rebound from his crossbar before James Coppinger snatched a winning goal. In all he made 217 appearances for Rovers.
Another who had played under Sean O’Driscoll at AFC Bournemouth, James joined Rovers from that club in May 2007 for £200,000. Initially hampered by a niggling groin injury, he nevertheless had a huge part to play when Rovers reached the League One play-offs in May 2008. In the Final at Wembley his diving header soon after half-time was the only goal of the game as Rovers beat Leeds United to return to the second tier of English football after 50 years. Subsequently the hard-working forward formed an effective partnership with Billy Sharp which helped to keep Rovers in the Championship for four seasons. Before moving to Yeovil Town in June 2012, James played 179 games, scoring 39 times.
By the time he joined Rovers in the summer of 2007, Richie had established himself as one of the outstanding midfielders in League One via spells at Blackpool and Oldham Athletic. Rovers gave him the platform to prove that he could perform at a higher level. Combative and yet highly talented, he missed only one League game in the 2007-08 season and despite struggling with an injury he starred in the League One Play-off campaign, culminating in success in the Wembley final. He was highly influential in keeping Rovers in the Championship during the 2008-09 season and moved on to Leicester City for over £1,000,000 in 2009. He returned to Rovers following their promotion back to the Championship in 2013 and produced some outstanding displays. In all he made 199 appearances for Rovers, scoring 15 times. He is now manager of Swindon Town.
After an impressive career as a striker, which took in Notts County, York City and Burnley amongst others, Paul arrived at Rovers in the summer of 2001 at the age of 33. His first season was frustratingly disrupted by injury, but when he did play, he gave hints of what he could achieve. In 2002-03 he enjoyed an Indian Summer, scoring 26 goals in 47 appearances, helping Rovers to earn promotion from the Football Conference to the Football League via a thrilling Play-off campaign. He scored a vital equaliser in the second leg of the semi-final at Chester, a tie Rovers eventually won on penalties, then had a hand in Francis Tierney’s Golden Goal in the Final against Dagenham & Redbridge. His goal tally for the season (26) was the best since Peter Kitchen’s 27 in 1976-77. He played a few matches in 2003-04 for Rovers in the Football League before moving to non-League Tamworth. In all he scored 34 goals in 86 games for Rovers.