The night Billy Sharp put football into perspective

Iconic picture: Heartbreak and courage for Billy Sharp
Iconic picture: Heartbreak and courage for Billy Sharp

DONCASTER Rovers’ Championship game against Middlesbrough at the Keepmoat Stadium on Tuesday night will be talked about in the town for years to come.

No future book on the club will be complete without what is sure to become an iconic photograph of record signing Billy Sharp dedicating one of the best goals he has scored in a Rovers’ shirt to son Luey Jacob, who had tragically died, just two days old, at the weekend.

England squad: Rachel Williams

England squad: Rachel Williams

Having put Rovers ahead on 14 minutes with his third goal of the season, Sharp lifted his shirt up to reveal a red T-shirt with the words ‘That’s For You Son’ printed in white letters.

The 25 year-old pulled out of Saturday’s home game against Coventry but made what must have been a very difficult personal decision - and will have come under no pressure from the club to do so - to play against Boro.

Rarely can a footballer have pulled on a Doncaster shirt in such heartbreaking circumstances.

Even though he requested it, it must have been an incredibly emotional experience for Sharp as the took to the field and both clubs and both sets of supporters joined in a minute’s applause in memory of a son who will sadly never see him play.

It speaks volumes for Sharp’s character that he was able to play so well given the mixture of emotions that must have been going round his head during the game.

Sharp’s goal gave Rovers a deserved lead and, given the circumstances, I’m sure many a Boro fan wouldn’t have been too upset had it proved the winner on the night - or at least earned Rovers a share of the spoils.

Not that the result of a football match seems terribly important at such times and I’d like to take this opportunity to express my sincere condolences to Billy and Jade and their family and friends.

It would be good to see an above average crowd at Castle Park on Saturday (2.30) when Doncaster Knights take on London Welsh in what promises to be an entertaining Championship clash.

Despite now playing in the second tier of English rugby, and being renowned for their open style of rugby, Knights have struggled to significantly build on their traditional support base with average crowds this season hovering around the 1,000 mark.

What I’ve always found surprising on my many visits over the years is how few of the hundreds of junior players involved on a Sunday, and their parents, actually watch first-team games.

If the club are to realise their dreams of bringing top-flight rugby to Castle Park - and they will rarely have a better chance than this season - then crowds need to increase substantially.

The club have done all that could be reasonably asked of them, and more, in recent years to improve what was an already impressive facility.

The £3m 1,650 seater main stand, opened just under three years ago, is the envy of most Championship clubs .

It provides a comfortable seat with a good view of the action from wherever you sit, but the facility also boasts high quality corporate boxes and an excellent range of drink and food outlets on the ground floor.

The food is of a very good quality and is sensibly priced. There is plenty of car-parking on site (£2) and at nearby Danum School it is free.

You can also be assured of a warm welcome and if you aren’t a rugby union buff and unsure what’s going on at times, I’m sure that someone sittomh near to you will be only too pleased to point you in the right direction.

In a bid to try and improve their support base, the club are offering a special two-for-one deal this weekend.

So Saturday’s game, which sees sixth entertain fourth, represents the ideal opportunity to give Knights a try.

Doncaster Lawn Tennis Club have earned themselves an enviable reputation for serving up a good Bonfire Night celebration at their Saxton Avenue base.

The event, which is open to members and the general public, is one of the Bessacarr-based club’s top money-raising events.

The bonfire is due to be lit at 6.30pm with the fireworks scheduled to start around 7.15pm.

Tickets £3 (adults), £1 (juniors) can be purchased from the club in advance but people will also be able to pay on the night at both entrances to the complex.

The clubhouse bar will be open and there will be a selection of hot food on sale. There will be very limited car parking available on the night.

It is perhaps a reflection of the fact that Doncaster Rovers Belles’ are no longer the dominant force in the domestic womens’ game that they once were, that no Doncaster player is included in Hope Powell’s England squad for the UEFA Euro 2013 qualifiers return against Serbia at the Keepmoat Stadium on November 23.

The nearest thing to a Doncaster player in Powell’s squad is striker Rachel Williams.

Williams served the club well for several years, after being snapped up from Leicester by Belles’ boss John Buckley, before joining big-spending Birmingham City Ladies ahead of last season’s inaugural FA Womens’ Super League.

Williams was surprisingly left out of Powell’s squad for last summer’s World Cup in Germany, but impressed for the Blues during the WSL campaign.