Supporters Club Man Of The Match

November 14, 2005

[image1] There can be little doubt that for the last few years there has been little continuous ‘unity’ between the players and supporters of Bristol Rovers Football Club. The last time such a spirit existed was probably during the failed promotion bid of 1999/2000, even in the last ten games of that season the players were still regularly coming into the SC bar to mingle with the supporters. Who can forget all the players and Ollie coming into the bar to all receive a bottle of wine as man of the match when they had just beaten City 2-0?

Gradually as the club’s fortunes continued to dip, the players stopped mixing with the supporters. It is worth remembering that even as our hopes of automatic promotion slipped away in 99/00 the fans remained solidly behind the players who continued to mix with us. I think it was only on the last day of the season at Cardiff that some finally lost patience when even the play-offs were missed. Things have never been the same since.

I have long been of the opinion that we stand a better a chance of moving forward as a Football Club if the playing staff feel a real affinity with the people who support them. Think back to the days of the late eighties when we all felt part of a collective effort that was to propel a group of seemingly journey men professional footballers into a championship team of which we were all fiercely proud. We the fans were part of the chemistry that made that team so special. Part of that spirit was forged because the players were not afraid to socialise with the supporters, and I know that some good friendships were forged that still hold good today.

Football has changed since then, we are now in a situation where players pass from one club to another and as we have seen, it is now unusual for anyone to stay beyond a couple of seasons. It is therefore harder for players to develop the affinity that once they did because they tend to move on so quickly.

On Saturday I helped Robin Schols with the hospital commentary service and we had as our guest summariser none other than Ryan Williams. I have little doubt that Ryan helped us out because of the support given to him by the Supporters Club during his time of trouble with the previous manager and also the very vocal support from all Rovers fans. No one more than Ryan understands what it means to have the real support of the people that follow Bristol Rovers. Have no doubt Ryan wants to remain a Rovers player and part of that is down to the support he has received.

On Saturday I arrived in the bar just after 5.00pm and the SC MOM vote had already been taken. A number of SC members approached me to tell me that they felt that Scott Shearer had received the greatest number of votes because there were people who wished to embarrass him. In view of the number of representations I received I felt it right to talk to Jim Staynings and get his view on what had happened. Jim explained that Scott was the overwhelming winner. I should explain that Jim walks around the bar and collects the votes and people also know that they can leave them at the table just inside the entrance. Jim is so busy at this time that he does not have time to check on the reasons why people might be voting. Once the votes are counted he goes down to the tunnel to pass a message into the dressing room to inform the winning player.

After some discussion and under my direction it was decided that Jim would not ask Scott to come into the bar to collect his award but that he would give him his bottle of wine so that Scott could go home as soon as he had changed. I returned to the bar to get the bottle of wine and by the time I had got back Jim had spoken to Scott, I am not going to repeat the exchange between them. Scott did not come into the bar.

For the last few weeks every time I have spoken to Paul Trollope I have asked him to encourage the players to visit the bar and mix with the fans and Kim has been on the case as well. When I met Lennie Lawrence last week it was the first thing I mentioned to him. Paul has been concerned that his players would get some stick and I have done my best to re-assure him that this would not be the case. Clearly I will need to speak to him again and tell him to forget it, I will also be speaking to Scott Shearer to offer my apologies.

If anyone thinks that I will put a young man (in the name of the Supporters Club) in front of an audience of over a hundred people some of whom want to have a go at him you are sadly mistaken. It is hard enough for someone to stand up and speak in front of that number of people at the best of times, I dare say that most would not have the courage to do it, let alone if they knew that the only reason they had been asked in was so that they could be abused.

We have an Executive Committee on Wednesday and doubtless will discuss this at a time when we have many other pressing matters to debate, I cannot rule out suspending the MOM for the time being. It is meant to be a bit of fun perhaps designed to make a player feel a bit special for a few minutes not make him the subject of ridicule. That brings me back to my original point, if we are to achieve that unity of purpose, which meant so much in 89/90, we will not do it by setting players up in the way that seemed to be the case on Saturday.

The correct way to approach this issue is for supporters to contact Kim Stuckey, who in turn can pass on that opinion to Paul Trollope. In the mean time get off Scott Shearer’s back, he is a Bristol Rovers player and needs support not abuse. 

John Malyckyj
Bristol Rovers Supporters Club

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