by Keith Brookman
How sad it is to be reporting the news of Kevin Austin’s death, from pancreatic cancer on Friday 23rd November, at the age of 45.
The Hackney born defender was with Rovers for two years, from the summer of 2002 until June 2004 during a turbulent time for this football club.
His early career saw him play for Leyton Wingate and Saffron Walden Town before he signed a pro contract with Leyton Orient in August 1993. Three years later, after three goals in 109 appearances he was on his way to Sincil Bank and Lincoln City for whom he was to score twice in 129 league games.
His three years with The Imps was followed by spells with Barnsley, where he suffered an Achilles tendon injury that kept him out of action for ten months, Brentford and Cambridge United before he pitched up at BS7 in June 2002.
In June of that year he began training with Rovers and said that he arrived at Rovers thanks to a phone call from assistant manager John Still; ‘John knew of me when I was in non league with Saffron Walden Town and when I was at Lincoln he was there as assistant manager.
‘I was at home when John rang and told me to come down. I had a fair idea of what the club was about, so it was nice to be wanted.
‘The last couple of years have been an absolute nightmare for me trying to get fit but now I can hopefully get a pre-season under my belt and kick on from here.
‘I have played about half of my games at left back, but recently I have played centre back but I don’t really mind which of the two positions I play.’
It took a while for Kevin to make his Rovers debut after he picked up a toe injury in training and although he managed to complete the first half of a pre season game against Clevedon Town his progress was hampered due to tendonitis.
When I interviewed him before our first game of the 2002/03 campaign, he said; ‘It’s a new start for me and one that I have a good feeling about. The management team [Ray Graydon and John Still] are very positive here and this is a big club with a lot of potential.
‘When I joined I never thought that I would be able to walk straight into the team. I’ve got to work hard, I know, but although I’ve been injured for much of pre season and missed a lot of training, I’ve still been made to feel that I’m very much a part of the squad.’
His Rovers debut finally arrived on 28th September 2002, against Kidderminster Harriers at The Mem, when he went on as a 72nd minute substitute for Trevor Challis and he went on to appear in 56 league games for The Gas before his departure, to Swansea City, in June 2004 where he helped them win promotion from League Two in their final season at the Vetch Field in 2004/05.
He was also part of the squad that lifted the League One title under Roberto Martinez in 2007/08, as well as the 2006 Football League Trophy.
He made 150 appearances, in all competitions, during his four year spell with the Swans, and was also capped by Trinidad & Tobago.
After Swansea Kevin played for Chesterfield, Darlington and Boston United and when he retired from playing he went into coaching, which included time spent in Scunthorpe United’s Academy.
A popular player with his peers and supporters alike whilst he was with us, not only was Kevin a very good footballer he was, quite simply, a very nice guy.
You only have to read the tributes to him, from his former clubs and team mates, to appreciate that, and, like so many others mourning his passing, we offer our condolences to his family and friends at this very sad time.