My Take On Recent Events
January 1, 2000
I apologise to those of you who have been desperately scouring through this site trying to find something new and original to read, especially if you have just come across this article, but I am trying to put into words how I feel about the current state of our club.
It has not been easy. The end of the 2005/2006 season could not come soon enough for me, if I am being honest. Despite a flirtation with the play offs, I never really believed we were going to get in them. We were better when Ian Atkins set off once more for his garden but I had no real faith in the team to take us very far.
They seemed a decent, committed bunch, although for various reasons they are largely remote from the fans in a style to which we have become accustomed in recent times. And a decent, committed bunch who weren’t very good. When the summer came, I reasoned, the new managerial team of Lennie Lawrence and Paul Trollope would be able to revamp the squad; to build a team in their own image, whatever that means.
So, after many of our Neanderthals had ended the season with the now traditional ritual of hurling objects at visiting supporters, I sat in my favourite armchair, poured a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and pondered a stress-free summer, punctuated by the happy news of a new signing every few weeks.
It was the close season. I would take a break from the fans forum and sit in the garden, watching several inches of weeds and grass, knowing that I really should be out there with the lawnmower. And then came chaos.
I am not a money man, that’s for sure, because I don’t have very much of it so I leave it to the experts, like my partner who proves year in, year out that it really is possible to do more than one thing at a time, if you are a woman that is. We’ve all known for many years that Bristol Rovers is skint. The general view seems to be we are around £4 million in hock to various creditors which is not a figure that would trouble one of Chelsea’s reserve team players but to a little club like ours it is a King’s ransom.
I remember not that long ago (a poor excuse for not having much a memory for dates) when Mike Turl was appointed as Managing Director of the Rovers. Not only that, he would do the job for nothing. The chairman, Geoff Dunford, seemed delighted by the appointment and after years of losing vast sums of money the club seemed to be headed in the right direction to the extent that we might not lose quite so much money every year.
But then a bombshell.
Mike Turl came up with a financial strategy which was rejected by Geoff Dunford and, to cut a long story short by missing out numerous time-consuming facts, he then resigned and in the weeks that followed three other directors resigned too. It was all a bit bewildering for me. Far from chilling out, I was on the edge of my seat. Not because we were going to sign a new player (although a big welcome goes out to Ryan Green and Andy Sandell), but the daily puzzle as to which director would resign next. There was plenty of talk on the internet forums and from the former directors in the media. But precious little from the club itself.
Oh, I know there is nothing much going on at the moment, apart from the small matter of selling season tickets and new replica kits, but the lack of clarity and leadership from the top is totally confusing and dispiriting to an ordinary bloke like me.
Mike Turl came up with a plan which was never even put to the board of directors and it was rejected. Then, people started to walk away.
To cut a long and complicated story short (because I am not even going to attempt a sensible explanation), with a few days to go before the new fixtures come out and a lot less than two months until we kick off the new season I get the impression that the club is in a mess. I know that my head is a mess just trying to work it all out.
The word is that with just a couple of signings made, the playing budget has already been spent renewing the contracts of the players who weren’t good enough last year because we ensured they all had clauses on their contracts to keep them at the club, regardless of whether they were any good and some of them were most definitely not any good. I wonder how Paul Trollope feels because he is known in the game as a consummate professional. It is his first big job in football (if you can still call being first team coach at Bristol Rovers a big job, that is) and he will selecting from a side in the image not of himself but of Ian Atkins.
It’s fortunate for us, and indeed Paul, that Lennie Lawrence is his number two because, in the nicest possible sense, he has been around the block a bit and he will need to show what he is made of in the coming weeks and months if we are to avoid the collapse in confidence we have all endured roughly every year or so when another season went tits up.
I’m in such a state of concern that I wonder if we will even make the new season, never mind do well in it.
The Turl plan, from what little I know of it, certainly represented something new and something different and now that it has been rejected before it was even discussed the old board must convince the rest of us that they have something at least as good to put in its place. And, as Diana Ross once said, I’m still waiting.
In fact, I shall remain in the realms of song titles by saying that my current, maybe normal some might argue, state is dazed and confused. Geoff saved our club, Mike wants to take it forward. That’s how I see it and all I want is to enjoy a year of success, like we had in 1974 and again in 1990, because they don’t come very often. If something isn’t sorted and sorted soon, the crowds will be down to late Eastville, early Twerton levels.
The drop in our crowds last year was almost a collapse if you look at the raw figures and I remain convinced that there is not a lot of spare money sloshing about in the economy, so people are thinking how to spend their money. A new pair of trainers of Macclesfield at home? Hmm. That’s a tough one, especially if you can go to the pub and watch some decent football on the telly for nothing.
I wonder how you are all feeling about the new season. I hope you are not like me because if you are the razor blades will not be far away. The internal ructions, allied with the prospect of watching the same players as last season, fill me, the ultimate pessimist, with even more dread. It shouldn’t be like this, should it? We should all be gazing at the new fixture list when it comes out next week with a sense of hope and expectation but how can we?
This is Bristol Rovers, you see, and it never comes easy. But I have never felt worse about our prospects than I do now.