Competition for places is healthy in football.
That’s the view of most managers who prefer the so-called pains of a selection headache to that of an enforced XI through injuries or suspension.
For players, though, the idea of a direct rival’s arrival – an extra body to overhaul – or a spell on the sidelines can be disheartening, or even disillusioning, and spell the beginning of the end at a club.
Not for Alan Rogers, though.
Far from worrying about the permanence of his Pompey playing position, the tricky wideman invited the competition for places he encountered, insisting the idea he was assured a starting role was ‘the worst thing ever’.
It’s a refreshing revelation that contradicts many reported modern-day prima-donna player demands but the simple fact was that Rogers revelled in the face of adversity.
One of six men to be signed by boss Frank Burrows in the 1979 close season, the £25,000 Plymouth arrival dropped down a division with the mindset that the fourth-division Blues would not be hanging around for too long.
Rogers was proved correct, with a nine-goal haul in 42 games ensuring he had scored more in one campaign than he had in six years with the Pilgrims, as Burrows’ men sealed promotion to the third division on the final day.
He missed that particular fixture at Northampton with flu as deputising winger Ian Purdie, who had pushed Rogers for a place in the latter half of the triumphant season, netted in a 2-0 success.
Ill Rogers would have been forgiven for feeling a little worse for wear when surprisingly informed by Burrows he would be made available for transfer.
Determined to prove the Blues boss wrong, though, he knuckled down in pre-season and missed just one game the following season through injury.
Rejuvenated Rogers earned a contract extension as promoted Pompey finished in sixth place.
Dropped again at the start of the 1981-82 campaign, though, the arrival of fellow wideman David Crown, described by Burrows as ‘the best winger in division three’ seemingly signalled the end, once and for all, for the 27-year-old.
But with the Blues headed towards an unexpected return to the fourth division as Crown failed to live up to his attributed tag, out-of-favour Burrows was sent on his way as incoming boss Campbell handed an immediate recall to resilient Rogers.
Campbell’s men rallied to finish in mid-table and the following season, with Rogers an integral part of the side, they won the title.
The arrival of former England winger Dave Thomas, had again proved to inspire Rogers, who turned in a number of eye-catching displays down the flanks, regularly setting up both Billy Rafferty and Alan Biley.
Rogers’ time at PO4 came to an end midway through the following campaign, though, as the lure of playing for ‘hero’ Bobby Moore – England’s World Cup winning captain – then manager of Southend United, proved too difficult to turn down.
Rogers reflected: ‘I was always a player who needed a kick up the backside.
‘The worst thing ever was for me to feel like my position was safe – I always needed pushing.
‘We signed Ian Purdie, another left winger, to push me and give me another challenge.
‘Funnily enough, all the time I was at Pompey, I performed better when I wasn’t assured of my place.
‘In my time there I remember David Crown was signed – he was quite a prolific goalscoring winger and I had to see him off.
‘Then they signed Dave Thomas, who was an England international, albeit at the end of his career.
‘I remember Bobby Campbell saying he was his best signing, but not in relation to Thomas’ play, just because of the way it made me perform in the 1982-83 season!
‘I always had that in-built destruction button where I could take my foot off the pedal.’
That was evident when Rogers was told for the first time by Burrows he had no future at the club, following a dip in form at the end of the 1979-80 promotion-winning season.
But only after he had survived the nail-biting experience of watching his team-mates seal the deal in a 2-0 win at Northampton.
He said: ‘The final game of the season I had flu and travelled with the squad to watch in the stands.
‘But I hated it and of course then we were relying on Peterborough winning against Bradford.
‘It was all a bit tense to say the least but in the end a massive relief – we deserved to go up.
‘We had hit the ground running and won 10 of our first 11 games but then started to stumble for a little bit for whatever reason, I think teams maybe worked us out.
‘My form wavered towards the end of the season also and Frank put me on the transfer list in the summer, I think really to shock me more than anything.
‘I started the next season (1980-81) very well, though, and was offered a new contract within a matter of months.’
The following 1981-82 campaign was to be Rogers’ most frustrating in a Blues shirt as he made just 16 starts – failing to score, with Burrows instead preferring to play new-man Crown ahead of him.
But with the arrival of Campbell came a sense of renewed confidence and belief, not least from the manager himself, who boldly predicted on the eve of the 1982-83 season that the Blues would win the third-division title.
Rogers was duly recalled and played a crucial part in realising those ambitions – nevermore than when he returned to former club Plymouth on the final day of the season to set up Biley’s title-winning strike in a 1-0 success.
He said: ‘We signed Alan Biley and Neil Webb, who were great.
‘Webby was only a teenager but you knew he was absolute quality – he made the game look easy.
‘Steve Aizlewood had joined at the same time as myself but was magnificent at the back for us that season and just in general really.
‘It was only when I left the club that I realised just how good Steve was – he was the best centre-half I ever played with.
‘I also had a good understanding with left-back Colin Sullivan who I’d played with at Plymouth and with the side Bobby had assembled I thought to myself: “This club could be going places now”.
‘Because we were successful there was also a great camaraderie among the group off the pitch.’
The season in division two was to be Rogers’ last with Pompey, as he made the £20,000 switch to Essex in March 1984 to play under a hero of his.
After a five-year stay at the Blues which heralded two promotions, 180 appearances and 17 goals, it was only natural that some Fratton fans who had appreciated Rogers’ direct approach, wrote letters to beg him to reconsider.
He explained: ‘Bobby Campbell had in his mind a certain way to play and it became apparent that I was not in his long-term plans.
‘Alan Ball was reserve-team manager at the time and had a soft spot for me, so recommended me to Bobby Moore at Southend.
‘For a player of my age, Bobby Moore was a god, so that was that.
‘I had lots of letters from Pompey fans when I left – all complimentary and nice to read.
‘I only wish I’d received them before I’d left as I might have appreciated them a bit more!
‘Unfortunately for me, Bobby Campbell left soon after and Bally took over, so there was that thought of “if only I could’ve stayed a bit longer” but it’s pointless going down that road.’
Following a three-year spell at Southend, Rogers represented Cardiff City before returning to native Plymouth to run the Swinton Hotel with wife Lorraine.
Now 60, Rogers has been welcoming guests for more than 28 years and indeed is already booked out for Pompey’s trip to Home Park next month.
ALAN ROGERS ON...
...NO ROOM AT THE INN
Me and my wife Lorraine stayed in a small hotel in Southsea by Canoe Lake when I played for Pompey.
We loved how it was run and it stuck in our minds really.
Then I went to Southend and stayed in a similar place and it just appealed to us to run our own hotel one day.
As a typical footballer, I wasn’t qualified in anything and in those days it was a wine bar or a pub but we thought to ourselves: We can do this.
When my playing days were over, the best property came up in Plymouth as it happened – The Swinton Hotel and we’ve been running it for 28 years.
We’ve loved it and enjoy having all the fans coming to stay – we’re all booked up for Pompey’s visit next month.
...MESSI & RONALDO V MARADONA & PELE
Are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo better than Pele or Diego Maradona?
Personally, I would say no because they don’t have to play on the pitches or against the thugs we used to play against.
Football has a completely different style and way of play nowadays and fantastic though they are (Messi and Ronaldo), give me Maradona and Pele any day.
...RUNNING THE RISK
It’s a bit cliched but you’d get the odd comments from opponents, like “I’ll break your legs” but you knew they didn’t really mean it – plus I was always good at jumping!
I took that as a compliment because they thought of you as the danger man and wanted to get rid of you – that never bothered me.