1956 Manchester United Evening Report

January 6, 2006

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A packed Bristol Room in the Memorial Stadium played host to the Supporters Club 50th Anniversary commemorative evening for the famous Rovers 4-0 win against the Busby Babes last night.

It was standing room only as supporters young and old gathered, some to re-live their memories of that day and most who came to get a sense of what it must have been like to have actually been there. Compere Nick Day asked for a show of hands and probably some 30 of the audience had been at the game that day. By an amazing coincidence, that number included Pat Oliver who was one of the cheerleaders photographed on the day with a 1950’s version of Captain Gas.

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The evening started with a moment’s silence in honour of Ray Kendall before four Gas legends entered the room to rapturous applause. Bill Roost, who played in the Newcastle United FA Cup quarter final match in 1951, was first to be introduced. Next up was Bobby Campbell who was Rovers coach and manager in the sixties and seventies and  finally two players from the Manchester United match – George Petherbridge making a return to the Rovers after several years and “The Baron” Alfie Biggs, who scored two goals in the game. 

Kim Stuckey gave the audience an insight into the Manchester United side that day by introducing player by player pen pics and stats, with a focus on manager Matt Busby and the legendary Duncan Edwards, who was injured for the Rovers cup-tie. This was followed by news clips of United games in the 50’s.

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Club historian Mike Jay then took a detailed look at the Rovers team that day, that included two Gloucestershire cricketers – Barry Meyer and goalkeeper Ron Nicholls. A highlight of the evening was some vintage Rovers footage from the 50’s, including a friendly against Cardiff played in front of Badminton House, the first team squad at the pre season training camp at Weston super Mare and the FA Cup 5th Round match “The Battle of Bristol” in 1958, Rovers defeating City 4-3.

The evening ended with a presentation of a Bristol Blue ships decanter to Alfie Biggs by the Presidents Club’s John Thornell, commemorating the two goals he scored against United that day. This was followed by a very lively question and answer session where Bill Roost had the audience crying with laughter at some of his Rovers (and war) stories, and we have since received requests for an evening with Bill Roost as a future event! 

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Judging by the feedback received from those present, it was a well received evening’s entertainment which attracted some faces not seen in the Bristol room for quite some time, and seemed to appeal across the age groups with a good spread of young and less young. Additionally, there were plenty of people eager to share old programmes and official letters from old Eastville with us and we will be contacting them in due course to catalogue this very important record of Rovers in the last century for fans to see in the future.

Our thanks go to the Evening Post and ITV  West for giving the evening extensive coverage, to Radio Bristol and GWR Radio and of course to our sponsors for the evening, Cowlin Construction. We would also like to thank all those that turned up to support what was a memorable evening.

We still have special commemorative mugs, tee shirts and of course the specially produced programme, which contains a reprint of the match day programme from that most important day in Rovers history, the 7th January 1956.

All these items are available in limited numbers for purchase from the Supporters Club retail outlets while stocks last.

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