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.
Rovers’ club captain in 1992-93, Gary Waddock, played in 71 League matches for the Pirates, scoring once. He had joined the club in November 1992 and later moved on to Luton Town.
Waddock also enjoyed eighteen months at the Belgian club, RSC Charleroi, whom he joined from QPR in December 1987. He won 21 full caps for the Republic of Ireland, scoring three times.
Bobby “Shadow” Williams, signed for £16,000 from Rotherham United in March 1967, scored five goals for Rovers in 28(+1) League matches and moved on to Reading in August 1969. He was to sign for Oostende in July 1971, his year at that club including one goal in the Belgian League, as Zottegem were defeated 2-0 in October 1971.
Diminutive winger Tony Obi was also on the books of Oostende, whom he joined in August 1987. He had previously joined Rovers on a free transfer from Plymouth Argyle in August 1985, playing in one League game prior to moving to Oxford United that October.
Lancashire-born Martin Paul also enjoyed a brief spell in Belgian football. After coming through the ranks with Rovers, he scored once in 11(+11) League games before a July 1996 move to Doncaster Rovers.
Unable to break into their League side, he had moved to an unspecified club in Belgium that October, but was with Bath City before Christmas 1996.
In addition, the Rovers full-back Johnny Hills taught at the British International School in Brussels for several years until 1969. Signing from Spurs in July 1961, he had played seven times at full-back before leaving for Margate twelve months later.
Despite the current crop of top Belgian players gracing the Premier League, twelve Premier League-based players being selected in Belgium’s initial 24-man squad, no Belgian national has ever faced Rovers in a competitive fixture.
Various players have, of course, furthered their careers in Belgium, amongst them Dominic Foley, who played in Watford’s 3-2 victory against Rovers in February 1998 and was in the Cercle Brugge side defeated 3-0 by Gent in the 2010 Belgian Cup Final.