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.
Unlikely though it may sound, one former Rovers player scored a hat-trick in the Greek First Division. Paul Bannon scored eight times in 27(+1) League games for Rovers between 1983 and 1985, before playing for PAOK Thessalonikis and Larissa between 1987 and 1990.
His nine goals in 19(+1) matches for Thessalonikis included three against Levadiakos on Valentine's Day 1988.
Nathan Ellington, who scored 35 League goals for Rovers in 76 (+40) games between February 1999 and March 2002, joined the Greek side Skoda Xanthi in December 2009.
He was joined at Xanthi in June 2010 by Jordan Stewart, who had been on Rovers’ books early in his career, playing in 1(+3) League matches, and by Sam Sodje, who returned to the UK in time to be in the Notts County side that faced Rovers in March 2011.
The former Rovers defender Steve Yates, now kit man at the club, emigrated in 2007 to Rethymnon on Crete. Jack Beby, Rovers’ keeper in 1932-33, coached AEK Athens in 1950.
It would appear that the only Greek-born opponent to face Rovers in League football was Demetrios Konstantopoulos, who played in goal for Hartlepool against Rovers in December 2006. Born in Thessaloniki in November 1978, he won a solitary full cap for Greece.
The only manager of the Greek national side who has opposed Rovers in the Football League was Billy Bingham. He played in the Port Vale side which defeated Rovers 1-0 at Vale Park on Boxing Day 1963 and was manager of Greece from 1971 to 1973, as well as managing PAOK Salonika in 1977.
Several opponents have tried their luck in Greek football. The earliest example appears to be Ivor Powell, who played four times for QPR against Rovers between 1946 and 1948 and coached Panionios in the mid-1960s.
Mick Quinn, who played three times for Newcastle against Rovers and scored the winning goal at Twerton Park in August 1991, joined PAOK Thessalonikis in 1994. Roy Carroll, a Wigan Athletic goalkeeper against Rovers in the late 1990s, joined OFI Crete in 2011. Jimmy Brown, in Villa’s side as a teenager against Rovers in 1970, was with Ethnikos from 1978 to 1980.
Bartosz Tarachulski, who scored for Yeovil Town against Rovers in February 2005, joined Varia in August 2006 and later played for Kavala, Diagoras and Kalloni.
Carlos Fangueiro, who joined Ionikos in January 2007, had represented Millwall and Walsall against Rovers; also at Ionikos was Dani Rodrigues, a Portuguese player who played for Bristol City against Rovers in a Football League Trophy game in January 2002.
Lomana Trésor Lua Lua, who scored twice when Rovers lost 5-4 at Colchester United in January 2000, later played for Olympiakos.
Tommy Langley, who played for Chelsea and Aldershot against Rovers, played five times for AEK Athens in 1983-84. Derek Spence, in the Oldham Athletic side against Rovers in 1972 and the Southend United side in 1980-82, was with Olympiakos in 1977-78. Terry Curran (Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday) and Gareth Roberts (Doncaster Rovers) were both at Panionios.
Mike Small played 31 times, scoring nine goals, for PAOK Salonika in 1989-90 before playing for Brighton against Rovers on Boxing Day 1990. Marek Saganowski played for Southampton against Rovers in both League and FA Cup before joining Atromitos in 2011. Leon Knight (MK Dons) and Craig Rocastle (Port Vale) were both at Thrasivoulos for the 2008-09 season.
Alassane N’Dour, who played for Walsall against Rovers in April 2008, played seven times for Doxa Drama in the 2009-2010 season.
The Icelandic player Einar Danielsson played for Stoke City against Rovers in December 1999, having scored once in thirteen games for OFI Crete earlier that year; his countryman Rikhardur Dadason played in both fixtures against Rovers for Stoke in 2000-01 and scored once in ten matches for Kalamata in 1996-97.
Febian Brandy, sent off against Rovers with Swansea, was with Panetolikos in 2012 and Liam Lawrence, who scored for Mansfield at The Mem in November 2011, is currently with PAOK.
Colin Kazim-Richards, who played for Bury against Rovers in March 2005, was with Olympiakos in the spring of 2012. Ray Wood played five times for Huddersfield Town against Rovers and was in goal when Manchester United famously lost 4-0 at Eastville in the FA Cup in January 1956; he was manager at Trikala in 1973.
Three players with Panionios at the end of the 1990s also featured in games against Rovers: Marco Gabbiadini played for York City, Derby County and Northampton Town against The Gas, Mark Robins was in Rotherham United’s side in March 2001 and Paul Tisdale was Exeter City’s manager for both fixtures of the 2010-11 season.
Gambian Njogu Demba-Nyrén played for PAS Giannina, Aris Thessaloniki and Panathinaikos as well as Notts County against Rovers in March 2011.
The Frenchman Youl Mawéné, who was in the Derby County side which played Rovers in the FA Cup in January 2002 and who played for Fleetwood Town against Rovers in September 2012, played nineteen times for Panserraikos in 2010-11.
Laurie Sanchez, who played five times for Reading against Rovers between 1981 and 1984, is currently manager at Greek side Apollon Smyrni, where his side includes Lee Cook, who played for York City against Rovers in October 2002.
Les Shannon, a member of the Burnley side knocked out of the FA Cup in 1958 by Rovers, was a manager in Greece for many years. He was with PAOK between 1971 and 1974, leading them to two Greek Cup Final victories, Iraklis (1974-76) and OFI Crete (1979-80 and 1982-84) either side of spells at Olympiakos Piraeus and Aigeleo.
Luciano Zavagno, an Argentinian in the Derby side defeated in the FA Cup by Rovers in January 2002, was with Ionikos in 2006.
Bob Houghton, Bristol City’s manager against Rovers in 1981, had been manager at Ethnikos the previous season, whilst Ronnie Allen, who played for both Port Vale and Crystal Palace against Rovers, was manager of Panathinaikos in 1980.
This season, Rovers have been opposed by York City’s Sander Puri, who scored once in 21 games with Larissa in 2010-11, and Bury’s William Edjenguele, who contributed three goals in 46 games with Panetolikos between 2010 and 2012.