Sometimes, you have to be careful what you wish for – because you might just get it.
After all those years that so many of us called for a new stadium while we were at the increasingly-dilapidated Belle Vue ground, we finally got what we wanted with the Keepmoat Stadium.
But with a bigger, better stadium comes the challenge of filling it with fans and atmosphere.
I was there on New Year’s Day back in 2007 as part of a capacity crowd to watch Donny’s first ever home game there, against Huddersfield Town. It was an intense, exciting encounter that saw no less than three red cards and three goals – fortunately all from the Rovers, as we won 3-0. The red and white colours across the crowd formed by the free commemorative t-shirts available on each seat presented an impressive sight. But even on that day, the visiting supporters got one over on us, singing “You only came for the t-shirt.”
Of course we have to make the Keepmoat Stadium a “fortress” and, while the on-pitch performances have to live up to that, the off-pitch support needs to help inspire it.
To accommodate this, there needs to be a good relationship and dialogue between the supporters and the club so that, in turn, the club can enable and empower fans to be vocal not just about club issues, but on match days too. Back when the Keepmoat Stadium was opened, the Viking Supporters Cooperative was still in its infancy and it remains as an effective way for fans to have their say, given its purpose, and its frequent meetings with the chief executive and other key figures at the club.
The VSC has been very vocal about singing sections, drums and fan expression in general.
We have also been in talks with the internationally-renowned Fan Experience Company to help supporters get together and express an agreed consensus to the club on how they can enable fans to improve the atmosphere and move closer to making the beautiful stadium feel like home. Perhaps even one day, it will become a fortress.
This has never felt so pertinent as we prepare to host Sheffield United, who always bring thousands of their own fans with them into the Keepmoat Stadium to very vocally support their side.
It is so often a numbers game – and we have to encourage as many people to come along to games to support Doncaster’s only team, rain or shine, and make sure we’re in it for the long haul. With the right support, the Rovers can continue to grow and become something special, which is no less than what our town deserves.