Ray Green: Doncaster Dons will never forget gentleman John Sheridan

Secrets: John Sheridan
Secrets: John Sheridan

THE Doncaster Rugby League community is mourning the death of former Dons team boss John Sheridan.

Sheridan, who was 78, died in a care home earlier this week.

Former Dons’ chief executive Ray Green told The Star that Castleford-based Sheridan, who had suffered a serious stroke, would always be remembered by the club’s supporters.

“The club wasn’t in a good place when he took over in 1984,” recalled Green, who is still associated with the club.

“The Another Bloody Sunday television documentary on the club was still fresh in the minds of a lot of people and we had no money.

“At his first training session only eight people turned up and John thought that only two of them were rugby players and went home that night intending to pack in and he probably would have done but for his wife persuading him to give it a go, which he did.

“Within a week he had ten players and he borrowed a couple from Castleford and it all kicked off from there.

“He was a fantastic guy and he had so much knowledge of the game, but he was never arrogant with it. I used to sit near to him in the main stand at times and he’d tell you what was going to happen before it did and more often than not he was right. He could read a game better than anyone I’ve ever met.

“He was around 50 when he first came here and he’d always been a No 2 and had never been in charge of a team before. Some people might have said that his coaching methods were a bit old fashioned, but he told me that rugby league was a simple game complicated by poor coaches.

“John believed in keeping things simple and he made it easy for the players to understand and they in turn enjoyed playing for him.

“He based his tactics around the players he had to work with rather than, as some coaches do, coming up with a game-plan and making them adapt to that.

“His coaching methods,and the fact that he was such a likeable bloke, were the secrets of his success.”

He was replaced by his No 2 Graham Hepptinstall after a few years but a players’ revolt saw him come back for a second spell. When he thought he was too old to carry on doing the coaching, he became football chairman and later worked alongside coach Tony Fisher when we won promotion in the the early mid-90s and our season in the top flight.

“The two of them got on very well and there was a mutual respect. Tony used to pick out the players he was interested in and John would try and sign. He was so respected within the the game that he was able to persuade players to join the club who might not otherwise have come.

“When it all went pear-shaped that season, he was snapped up by Hunslet.”