By Stephen Byrne
The Fifa World Cup begins in Brazil on 12th June and we will be looking at Rovers’ connections with all participating countries.
Two members of the Australian squad for the 2014 World Cup have played against Rovers: Massimo Luongo and Tim Cahill.
Luongo was in the Ipswich Town side which played Rovers in a League Cup-tie in August 2012. With Millwall, Cahill played in six League games against The Gas between 1998 and 2001, scoring and then being sent off when Rovers lost a League One fixture 3-0 in February 2001.
In May 1974, with promotion to Division Two secured, Rovers undertook a tour of the Far East which included four games in Australia, two in Sydney and one each in Melbourne and Perth.
Amongst these games was a 9-1 victory over a Coalfields XI; Alan Warboys, David Staniforth, Bruce Bannister and John Rudge all adding a brace of goals to a Tom Sneddon own goal.
Two Australian-born players have appeared for Rovers in the Football League. First, striker Danny Allsopp, born in Melbourne in August 1978, played in 4(+2) League fixtures. A former Port Melbourne player, who later enjoyed many years in Australian League football, he also won three full caps for Australia, against Uruguay, Ghana and Indonesia, between 2007 and 2009.
The second Australian to play for Rovers was Aaron Downes, who appeared in eight League fixtures after joining on loan from Chesterfield on New Year’s Day 2012. The tall, dominant defender spent the 2012-13 campaign with Torquay United, scoring against Rovers at The Mem and setting up a goal for Ryan Jarvis in the return fixture at Plainmoor.
Prior to these two players, Rovers had an Australian on their books in the 1965-66 campaign. However, unable to break into the League side, Jim Wood returned to Australia at the end of that season and still lives at Lake Macquarrie on the far north coast of New South Wales.
Australian-born in May 1968, Lee Howells played for Rovers in the Gloucestershire Cup Final of 1988. However, unable to make the League side, he returned Down Under, before returning to appear in the League against Rovers in the colours of Cheltenham Town.
Trevor Morgan, who scored 24 goals for Rovers between 1985 and 1987, had previously played for St George Bucharest, an Australian side, and he later returned to Perth to coach Sorrento alongside his former Bristol City team-mate Steve Neville.
Welsh international defender Jeff Hopkins played in just 4(+2) League games for Rovers in 1991-92 before playing in Australia for Morwell Falcons in Gippsland, Victoria from 1998 and later for Eastern Pride.
Tom Wyper, who scored twice in eleven games for Rovers in 1933, emigrated to Australia in January 1949 to run a hotel in Alice Springs. He died at Eagle Point, Australia in January 1974, three years after the former Rovers full-back Harry O’Neill had died in Sydney.
Billy Murphy, whose Rovers career comprised just three League fixtures in the 1950-51 campaign, emigrated to Australia at the end of that season and signed for SC Hakoah. Sandy Allan, another Rovers striker, emigrated to Australia in the 1970s before settling in South Africa.
Right-half Malcolm Thompson, who played alongside his brother Bill for Rovers between 1892 and 1896 and appeared in sixteen games for the club, scoring once, died in Australia in 1943.
Other Rovers players whose careers were furthered in Australia include Billy Foreman in 1978, Jimmy Hamilton and Mick Channon in 1981, Graham Withey in 1989, Bradley Andrews in 2000, James Thomas in 2009 and Stuart Nicholson in 2011.
On an Australian theme, the former Rovers inside-forward Wally Hammond scored 251 for England against Australia in the Second Test in Sydney in 1928, as well as captaining the touring England side which visited Australia in 1946-47.
Rovers’ full-back Hubert Ashton scored 75 in seventy-two minutes for an English amateur side against Australia at Eastbourne in 1921.
Outside-left Stan Prout’s Rovers debut was delayed because of the Australian cricket team. After a day’s play at Hove between Sussex and Australia, Rovers’ match with Brighton in August 1934 kicked off at half-past six, Rovers losing 3-1.
When the FA touring party visited Australia in 1951, Rovers’ full-back Harry Bamford was in their squad. Although not a goal-scorer of note, he scored three goals during the tour and appeared in the 17-0 victory over the national side that June.
The aforementioned Allsopp is one of fifteen Australian internationals who have opposed Rovers in the Football League down the years, in addition to Stan Lazaridis, who played for West Ham against Rovers in the League Cup in September 1996.
The most-capped Australian to appear against Rovers was Lucas Neill, though Tim Cahill has also won more than 67 caps. Cahill is one of five men to have scored a goal for the Socceroos and also opposed Rovers in the League, the others being Jason van Blerk, Joel Porter, Danny Tiatto and Paul Agostino.
In addition, a number of opponents ended up in Australia later in their lives, such as Tommy Johnston, Orient’s forward who played against Rovers in the 1950s and died there in September 2008.
Henry Higginbotham, who played at Eastville when Luton Town visited as far back as February 1922, was born in Ashfield, New South Wales, in July 1897.
In recent years, the number of Australian opponents has continued unabated, James Meredith playing for Bradford City against Rovers in April 2013 and Ryan Williams for Oxford United in November 2013.
Thirty-two Australian-born opponents have faced Rovers in the Football League. Still others have played against Rovers and furthered their careers Down Under, such as Reading’s Liberian Mass Sarr and Francis Jeffers of Newcastle Jets and Accrington Stanley.
Englishman Mark Hughes, once of North Queensland Fury, played for Morecambe against Rovers over Easter 2014.