Simon Rogers’s Non League Journey

Dodworth defender Simon Rogers enjoyed a memorable season playing Non League football in the 2015/16 campaign

Dodworth Miners Welfare centre-back Simon Rogers has only played just one season in Non League Football, but boy it was some campaign filled with unforgettable moments.

Welshman Rogers was one of the seven players who infamously left Garforth Town for Ossett Town with manager Graham Nicholas in November 2015. That episode is one of the most controversial Yorkshire-based Non League stories of the past decade because the departures completely decimated Garforth and ultimately sent them tumbling from the top half and into a relegation battle.

Rogers played in Nicholas’ nine disastrous league games in charge of Ossett which left them staring down the barrel of relegation from the NPL. The defender then went from “zero to hero” by playing a key role in the subsequent and incredible Grant Black-inspired great escape. He also scored the ‘acrobatic header’ which effectively kept them up.

In this Non League Journey, Rogers has revealed for the first time why he quit Ossett to play local football, despite his status as a club favourite. 

Since 2016 he has played for Barnsley-based Dodworth, helping them rise up from the bottom of the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League to the top.

He’s not done bad for someone whose path into Saturday football started around the age of 26 in fairly unusual circumstances.

This is Simon Rogers’s Non League Journey:

Rogers in battle with Stocksbridge’s Paul Haigh during one of his first Garforth Town games in 2015

“I’m from Abergavenny in South Wales and I went to Uni at Teeside where I met my wife Tiff. She’s from Barnsley, that’s why I moved to Barnsley. Dodworth had a Sunday League side then (not a Saturday side) so I went to Dodworth around 2013 and in that side you had people like Aaron Brotherton, Danny Barlow, Jack Steers – all the Dodworth lads. So that was my first involvement with them. 

“Growing up I played for Hereford’s centre of excellence and then went to Uni. Playing football then was playing for Teeside Uni first team. I captained them and I played in the Bucs Cups. It was through a friend of my wife’s, a lad called Paul Youle, how I got put in touch with Dodworth as he was in with them all. He was like ‘come and play for Dodworth’. I actually live in Mapplewell which is other side of Barnsley so I’m a proper out of towner!”

An unforgettable five-a-side performance

“It is a funny story how I ended up going to Garforth because I met Graham playing five-a-side against him. His first words after the game to me were ‘who do you play for on a Saturday, come and sign for Garforth’. It was just a Monday night league game so it was a bit unconventional. He was going to come and see me on a Sunday, but it never happened. Clearly he was impressed, but Graham’s that type of person who likes to give anyone a chance. I think there was an element of roll the dice on me in pre-season and see what happens.”

Joining Garforth (July 2015)

Simon Rogers playing for Garforth
Rogers is always a combative performer

“I didn’t go there thinking I was a Sunday League player, I always felt I could play at that level (NCEL). I went down pre-season and I managed to get myself into the first team line-up. The pitch at Garforth is like a bowling green and the football we played was just outstanding. We had good players like Luke Mangham, Ross Shelton, Mark Simpson, Andy Hawksworth. We had great camaraderie and everything seemed to be going right. We were winning games consecutively. Cleethorpes away when we beat them stands out so does Bridlington which was a midweek game. Also my first experience of a midweek away game. It is strange when you say that I was only there four months, it seemed like longer. It is a good club and I really enjoyed playing there.”

Clipstone Away (a 5-0 defeat in October 2015)

“That was one of those days which was a bad day and we were all trying to blame something else for it (like the non arrival of the tracksuits). Everyone was peeved off that the tracksuits hadn’t arrived and we were already into the season. I always remember Tim Robertson stood stark naked in the middle of the changing room afterwards having go at Brian the chairman saying ‘where’s our tracksuits Brian’?”

Nicholas leaves for Ossett Town (November 2015)

Graham Nicholas is appointed Ossett’s new manager. He takes charge of one final match at Garforth – the FA Vase win over Hebburn – as Ossett have no game before leaving with initially five of his players. Two more departed before the end of the month. Rogers, Mark Simpson, Daniel Monfredi, Andy Hawksworth, Ross Shelton, Josh Moore and Luke Mangham were the seven players.

Graham Nicholas was manager of Garforth Town for two-and-half years before moving to Ossett Town in November 2015 with seven of his players, including Simon Rogers

“I remember we played Thackley the day before he was appointed. We were losing (4-0) when the game got abandoned because of fog. I remember leaving the ground and Graham said he had got the Ossett Town job and that he wanted me to go with him. I was loyal to him because he had brought me to Garforth so I thought I’d go with him. 

“We played in the Hebburn game on the Saturday and there was a sour taste because of the number of us that Graham wanted to take with him. It was hard for Graham because he was aware he was going into a job at Ossett and lots of players were leaving (Ossett). He wanted players he trusted, but he’d probably admit the way he went about things wasn’t right in terms of seven players more-or-less leaving at the same time. After we won the Hebburn game 1-0, the five of us who were leaving all went into the boardroom with (chairman) Brian (Close) and it was just hostile. You could cut the tension with a knife. The memory will stay with me for a long time. But it is water under the bridge now and I think Graham would do it differently if he had the chance to do it again.

“Everybody felt loyal to Graham because he was good to the players. He had a close bond with everyone. For me it is one of them – how many chances do you get to play at NPL level? A lot went through my head because I enjoyed playing at Garforth. A couple of weeks later I did start to regret it. It was proper controversial what happened, it shouldn’t happen really. It ruined Garforth at the time.”

Nicholas’ Ossett Town reign (November 2015 to February 2016)

Ossett draw their first league game under Nicholas, but then lose the following eight and he is sacked following the midweek 5-0 defeat away at Northwich Victoria. The poor run of form leaves Ossett just two points ahead of second bottom Harrogate Railway.

Nothing went right for Ossett during Graham Nicholas’ reign

“It was a disaster for him. It was a hard job for him because a lot of players left and it was a bad changing room. A lot of it wasn’t his fault. There was a bit of Ossett-Garforth divide in the dressing room and the longer it went on it got worse.

“The writing was on the wall (as the results continued to go badly) and it was obvious that it was going to be tough for him to turn it round. We were stuck in a rut. We played Farsley and I think we lost 5-2 and it was just terrible and the weather was terrible as well. The weather didn’t help Graham because of his style of football (playing out from the back). We had also gone (from the NCEL and) into the NPL where you get out-muscled and out-fought. If he had taken the job in the summer it could have been a different story for him. 

“The Northwich game was a shocker, the whole game. Nothing went right. You could see the inevitable (sack) coming. I sent Graham a text the next day saying ‘hope you’re alright’, etc. You feel partly to blame as a player. He gets remembered for managing Ossett and it is not fair. I think everyone is wishing him to fail sometimes which is wrong because he’s a brilliant coach and a good manager.

“His man-management is good and some of his coaching is the best I’ve ever. His training sessions, his tactics, the way he gets the ball moving and that pitch at Garforth suited a Graham team. He improved me as a player with the ball at my feet. He gave me the confidence to play out from the back.”

One memorable game under Nicholas at Ossett 

Rob Bordman celebrates scoring the winner for Ossett Albion in the derby with Ossett Town in December 2015. Picture: Mark Gledhill

“A memorable game when I was at Ossett was sampling the Ossett derby. Probably the biggest crowd I’d played in. We lost 3-2. My best mate Nicky Matthews was playing for Albion that day, so there was good banter building up to it. But I was up against Rob Bordman that day and we’d been giving each other hammer all game. Then he had last laugh when he scored in last minute to win it for Albion. He ran straight up to me and celebrated in my face. It was an absolute killer.”

The Great Escape under Grant Black

Simon Rogers went “zero to hero” during the Grant Black-inspired great escape at Ossett Town in 2016

“John Francis took charge of the next two games and he dropped me for the first one (the defeat to Radcliffe). I was a centre-back and we were losing games four or five-nil so I’m partly to blame. You see social media and that was my first taste of that level where you see criticism on Facebook and it is not nice. As players we were getting stick. At the end of the day they are supporters and they turn up and pay their money so they have a right to say their piece. When Graham left and I was dropped I thought I’m going to have another crack at it and prove people wrong.

“But I did think it may be the end of my time at Ossett (when Grant Black came in), but then I played in the Darlington League Cup game and I had a good game. We won it, but I came off injured towards the end so I was out for the next game (Black’s first game, the win at Burscough). It was the worse timing to get an injury. But we won that game at Burscough and it was the start of the Grant Black revival. After that we played Marine away and that was my first start under Blackie and I got man of the match. That was sort of the kick-start to get back into the side. 

“Blackie is the best manager I have ever played under. He knows how to get a changing room giving 100% and if you’re only giving 80% he’ll give you what for. He came in and brought in a lot of NPL experience and that’s what you need. We had Al Peterson, Frosty (the Iceman Danny Frost), Steve Ridley in that team. It was then an unbelievable changing room to be in then.

“Everyone outside the club were thinking (when Black took over) that we were doomed. Blackie said it was one game at a time and it was. I think we lost to Warrington early on, but you could see the results getting better along with the performances. 

His finest hour: Simon Rogers runs into the arms of saviour Grant Black after scoring the crucial goal Ossett Town against relegation rivals Harrogate Railway. The goal effectively kept them up. Picture: Mark Gledhill

“The Harrogate Railway game which we won was massive. That’s probably the biggest game I’ve ever played in. The winning goal I scored means so much to me, even now. It is still my cover photo on my Facebook page. It was a corner that got headed out and someone put back into the box. I remember reading the Twitter posts after the game which said it was an acrobatic header, but it wasn’t! It was just a ‘get my head on the ball and put it in the net’! When I scored I just wanted to run straight to Blackie. That’s my best moments in football.

Zero to Hero: Ossett Town defender Simon Rogers (second right) won the supporters’ player of the year trophy

“It was massive achievement by Blackie to keep us up with several games to spare. We kept winning and winning after the Harrogate game and I kept scoring. I think I scored three goals in four games. I went from zero to hero, that’s exactly how it was. I went from reading those posts on Facebook slating us to ending up winning the supporters’ player of the year.”

Leaving Ossett (summer 2016)

“People probably won’t know, but I struggle with anxiety. My second kid was born that summer and you know, the stresses of life, you don’t talk about it. I basically said to Grant Black that I wasn’t going to play anymore. That’s probably one of my biggest regrets, not talking to Blackie about it. He doesn’t know to this day why I packed in. It is a lot easier to talk about things like anxiety now than I felt it was at the time.

“The travelling was an issue too. You had Spennymoor away, Bridlington away, Marine away on a midweek when you’re worrying about family, childcare. It was a big commitment and that’s why I joined Dodworth. I don’t think people realise how hard it is juggling family life with football. Sometimes things like travelling take the fun away from it. People said I joined Dodworth for money, but that’s not what it was about. This summer we’ve had Connor and Calan (Rollinson), Jack and Liam (Owen) join us (at Dodworth) because of the travelling (in the NCEL) and loads of players are stepping down for that reason. I can relate to their decisions totally.”

The Rise of Dodworth (2016-onwards)

Rogers and family with the County Senior League Division One trophy in 2018

“So I knew the Dodworth lads and (then-manager) Darren Millington rang me to say he wanted to start Dodworth’s Saturday team up again. He said the ambition was to try and work our way up the pyramid. He said there was no travelling and it all sounded appealing and I wanted to play football again. Darren’s a passionate bloke about Dodworth and he wanted to take the club as far as he could. If it wasn’t for him the team wouldn’t be playing.

Rogers in battle for Dodworth
Dodworth defender Simon Rogers, who used to play for Garforth Town and Ossett Town, is a long thrown specialist

“We promotion in the first season from the Second Division (2017) and then promotion in the second season (2018) from the First Division. We had a good chance of winning the league (Premier Division) this year. Obviously Swinton were the favourites. We won 5-0 against Oughtilbridge in our last game and we could feel we were starting to click into place. At the start of the season we had new players come in like Jack Owen and it takes time to gel and I think we were starting to gel. If it starts up again next season and we can keep the same side together then we could give it a good go.”

League Cup Final (2017)

Dodworth won the County Senior League League Cup final in 2017

“We played in the League Cup final against Penistone Church reserves down at Emley. I know I said Harrogate Railway was my favourite game from a personal point of view, but that final is probably the craziest game I’ve ever played in. We were 1-0 up and then it went 1-1. They scored in the 91st minute to lead and Danny Barlow equalised about two minutes later. It went to penalties which we won. 

The flare
The flare

“All the Dodworth village went that night and it probably put Dodworth on the map. The club also got fined for failing to control the fans as a flare was set off.”

Caravan of Love (2020)

Current Dodworth assistant manager Craig Allen panting for breath as he struggles to keep the pace with young prodigy and future Dodworth star Calan Rollinson in 2017 in a friendly against Worsbrough

“We now have a ritual of playing Caravan of Love after we win. It is like our club anthem to get everyone going in Tappers. After we beat Penistone away in midweek earlier in the season, we went back to Tappers and Calan (Rollinson) put Caravan of Love and the place erupted. That’s what brought us together. Calan’s a character, you can’t shut him up in the changing room unless he’s on the bench.”

Arrival of new manager Darren Young (February 2020)

Dodworth Miners Welfare manager Darren Young has chinned a few doors in the past few months

“We got to a point with Daz Millington where we felt we were finding it hard to get to that next level. The ambition at the minute is to win the Premier Division and we needed to freshen it up. Fair play to Daz he stepped aside and we have Daz Young now. He’s a future top manager. He’s brought in his experience from playing at a decent level and he has got the changing room bouncing again. He’s brought the banter back, but at the same time he absolutely hates it if I dribble it out of the back so he’s different to Graham!

“Blackie punched a few things (in the changing room) and so has Daz Young. He can punch a door. They’re very similar. They love a changing room rant. With Daz Young, I have my little ways like I have my favourite peg which I like to sit under. Daz is very much ‘you’re doing it my way’ which came as a shock to start with. I’ve got used to it now.”

Potential of Dodworth

Rogers in action for Dodworth against Hall Green United
Dodworth captain Aaron Brotherton overpowering Houghton Main defender James Byford in October. Picture: Alan Percival
Ex-Shaw Lane and Penistone star Danny Barlow has played for Dodworth for some time

“I’m vice-captain and all the lads joke saying you can only be captain if you are from Dodworth or Wales. Dodworth is such a tight-knit community and I’m so happy I’ve gone to Dodworth and being part of it. You have people like Aaron (Brotherton), Danny Barlow, the Severn’s (Ben and Sam) and they’re all Dodworth through and through which is what you need at a club like Dodworth. Danny and Aaron cut the grass and draw the lines on the pitch along with Craig Allen. That’s the effort they have put in since we started back.

“The lads have taken me in as one of their own. I don’t plan on moving to Dodworth though as my missus is from Mapplewell and it is hard enough trying to get her to buy a car from outside of Map. 

“I agree 100% that the club could take off. It has such a backing from the local community. We’re getting more and more people from the village coming to watch us every-week. We’ve had bigger crowds than what I’ve seen in the NCEL. As well with the players we have got (if we got floodlights) there’s no reason why we couldn’t go up and up.”

If you have enjoyed reading Non League Yorkshire over the past few months, please consider making a donation to the not-for-profit organisation NLY Community Sport which provides sport for children and adults with disabilities and learning difficulties. CLICK HERE to visit the JustGiving page. There is a video at the bottom of the page showing our work.

NLY Community Sport, run by James Grayson and Connor Rollinson, has always had combatting social isolation at the top of our objectives when running our Disability Football teams. When we properly return to ‘action’, our work will play an important role in reintroducing our players, who have disabilities and learning difficulties, back into society.

We have six teams, a mixture of Junior and Adult teams – Nostell MW DFC, Pontefract Pirates, Selby Disability Football Club and the South Yorkshire Superheroes (Barnsley) – across Yorkshire.

We have enjoyed great success over the past three years. Several of our players have represented Mencap GB in Geneva, including Billy Hobson from Selby and Greg Smith, whose story is quite inspiring.

You can learn more about the organisation HERE and on our Facebook page.

Watch the video below to see highlights from our three years as an organisation. The video was produced for our players at the end of March to remind them of good memories from the last three years.

3 thoughts on “Simon Rogers’s Non League Journey

  1. Top Lad. To come to a small town and get to know people and fit in like he does speaks volumes of his character…especially Dodworth which is a very close knit community they look after their own there its culture steeped in mining spirit and a credit to Barnsley itself.
    To have all the relocation and anxiety on top anyone and everyone should tip their hat to this lad.
    Massive credit and wish him all the very very best in not just football but life aswell from both myself personally and from Houghton Main FC.
    Best of Luck Mate…

  2. A great read simon goosebumps reading the part about us
    Fantastic player for me and ossett was a pleasure to work with a proper CB and a great kid
    Would have took him with me anywhere glad to see him open up about anxiety etc and hope that hes dealt with that all the best si

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *