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Last Updated: Friday, 22 December 2006, 14:43 GMT
All change at Doncaster
By Charlie Henderson

Belle Vue
Rovers are 10 matches unbeaten in all competitions and nine at home
Doncaster Rovers chairman John Ryan is confident the club's move to a new stadium can help their promotion push.

Rovers bring down the curtain on 84 years at Belle Vue after Saturday's game against Nottingham Forest.

"We feel we've got a good chance of going up, we've lost only once in 14 games and I think the move will help us immeasurably," Ryan told BBC Sport.

"It will be very nostalgic and it's great we've got a glamour team like Forest - but I think we'll beat them."

Ryan is a self-confessed optimist and he needed to be having taken over the club when they were at their lowest ebb following relegation to the Conference in 1998.

And it seems that his infectious positive outlook has rubbed off on those around him.

"The new Keepmoat Stadium will be just fine for us at the moment and if we can get in the Championship that will be great," said chief executive Dave Morris.

"But if we get in the Premiership we might need a few more seats in there!"

While top-tier football may not quite yet be on the Rovers radar, restoring the club to Championship-level action is a clear objective with the new stadium now built.

Cost: 32m
15,000-capacity stadium
2 external floodlit pitches
3 floodlit seven-a-side pitches
8 floodlit five-a-side pitches
Athletics track with 500-seat mini-stand
Outdoor amphitheatre for concerts and plays

Donny will be the principal occupiers at the 15,000-capacity Keepmoat, which will also be a home to Doncaster Lakers rugby league team and the Belles ladies football team.

But before the first game there against Huddersfield on New Year's Day comes the final curtain call at Belle Vue, where they have lost just once this term.

"There will be all sorts of things going on," Ryan reveals.

"Martin Toal the opera singer and Red are there and there will be renditions of Abide With Me, You'll Never Walk Alone, there will be fireworks...and somewhere in it all there's a football match.

"There's also an 'End Of An Era' programme running to 130 pages. There are so many memories."

Ryan first watched Rovers in 1958 when they were relegated from the old Second Division, so a return to that standard under his stewardship would be apt.

"We had some great times in the sixties when I was only really a schoolboy and there was Alick Jeffrey in the team who was the leading scorer in the whole Football League one season," he reflects.

"Then in the seventies we had Brendan O'Callaghan, Peter Kitchen and Terry Curran as a forward line scoring loads of goals and got to the quarter-finals of the League Cup.

"They were nice times, and then in the eighties there were the Snodin bothers and a couple of promotions with people like Brian Deane playing for us before the gradual decline."

That came under the guidance of then-chairman Ken Richardson, who attempted to burn down Belle Vue in 1995 to boost his bank balance with an insurance claim.

Keepmoat Stadium
The new stadium is fantastic and pictures do not do it justice

John Ryan

And off-pitch turmoil was matched on it in 1998 when Rovers went down to the Conference - Ryan's worst memory of watching football at the ground.

"I thought that would be the very last game I ever saw after watching for all those years," he added.

"Everyone thought the club was going into oblivion, but then I decided to come in.

"It has been a long hard road with some great days thrown in.

"We got the golden goal against Dagenham and Redbridge to get back into the league after five hard seasons in the Conference and then the very next season, as relegation favourites, we swept all before us to take the title and promotion.

"Then we had that fantastic Carling Cup run last season, beating Manchester City and destroying Aston Villa before losing to Arsenal on penalties. That was a bitter-sweet night, a great performance but a shocking end."

Ryan numbers the win against a strong Villa side as his favourite Belle Vue memory, not least for the look on the face of opposing chairman Doug Ellis.

Now there is time for just one more Belle Vue memory on Saturday before the move.

"It has cost me 5m to sort the club out and when I took over they said they would build me a new stadium and eventually it has come to pass," Ryan said.

"I feel vindicated in what I did because to all intents and purposes Doncaster Rovers had died in May 1998. It was just about resuscitated then and now we're alive and kicking."

All aboard for the Championship challenge at the Keepmoat.

Doncaster 1-0 Nottm Forest
22 Dec 06 |  League One
Doncaster announce stadium name
21 Nov 06 |  Doncaster
Crowds flock to stadium opening
17 Dec 06 |  South Yorkshire
Doncaster 2-2 Arsenal (aet)
21 Dec 05 |  League Cup
Doncaster 3-0 Aston Villa
29 Nov 05 |  League Cup
Doncaster 1-1 Man City (aet)
21 Sep 05 |  League Cup
Doncaster sign new stadium deal
20 Sep 05 |  Rugby League
Public backing for stadium plans
17 Aug 04 |  South Yorkshire
Public have say on stadium plans
14 Aug 04 |  South Yorkshire


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