With Rovers disappointingly back in the Second Division and former favourite Peter Fox available having recently lost his job as the head coach of Leeds, Rovers moved swiftly in the close season to bring this larger than life character back to Post Office Road for his second spell in charge. During his first reign more than decade earlier (1970 to 1974) Fox had enjoyed much success with a very talented homespun team based around a fearsome pack. He went on to enjoy success at other clubs, most notably Bradford, and also coached Great Britain, but faced a new challenge at his hometown team in reduced circumstances. With a nucleus of quality players around which he could build a team, Fox set to work.
Despite a couple of early hiccups and some mediocre form, Rovers were soon stringing together a series of wins which would take them to immediate promotion back to the top flight. With players such as Fox, Smith, Bibb, Lyman and Steadman that was only to be expected. The slow start to the season had cost Rovers a chance of the title which went to Oldham who also beat us in dramatic fashion at Old Trafford in the play-off final. A breath-taking game saw Rovers edged out 28-26 and a good chance of a piece of silverware had gone.
It was on our return to the first division that Peter Fox showed his true class. He shrewdly bought Jeff Grayshon and Trevor Clark to steady the pack. Rovers went on to exceed all expectations for a promoted side and claimed sixth place in the league. In the summer of 1989 the club was dealt a double blow with the loss of Steadman and Harrison but coach Fox rolled with the punches and reassembled his squad buying Price, Rose and Manning. After another solid season in 1989/90, the off-season recruiting that summer gave real cause for optimism. In came big money signings Leo Casey and Brendon Tuuta. Ikram Butt arrived from Leeds and then Owen Simpson signed. The squad was complete and another very successful campaign in 1990/91 saw Rovers finish 7th and go to the semi-finals of the Premiership with a famous win at all-conquering Wigan.
Not long into the following season (Fox’s fifth year in charge) He took the decision to accept the offer of a job from Bradford, a move that many Rovers fans found hard to take, smacking as it did of disloyalty, the very virtue that Fox prided himself on. When we lost Deryck Fox, Newlove and Clark to Bradford over the next year or so, feelings only deepened. Whatever the reasons, the effect of Fox’s departure was catastrophic. The side he had built lost its way badly. Allan Agar came in, but league form was in tailspin and a disastrous combination of results on the final day of the season led to a shock relegation.
Despite this, Peter Fox’s outstanding record must make him among the finest coaches the club has ever had. In two different spells he coached the club in more games (304) and to more wins (169) than any other coach. Only Harold Moxon could approach these figures.
Peter Fox’s coaching record (second spell only):
87/88: Won 27 Drew 2 Lost 10
88/89: Won 18 Drew 1 Lost 16
89/90: Won 15 Drew 1 Lost 20
90/91: Won 15 Drew 1 Lost 17
91/92: Won 5 Drew 1 Lost 3
Total: Won 80 Drew 6 Lost 66 = 54.61%