NEW FEATURE! Rovers Legends In Profile
January 13, 2006
This month sees the start of a series of historical articles provided by Gerry Prewett. Gerry will be profiling Rovers greats from yesteryear and starts this month with Paul Randall.
20th August 1977, Bristol Rovers start a new Second Division season with an away match at Cardiff City. The 7,000 Ninian Park crowd see Rovers debutant Paul Randall score from an easy six-yard header. Most at the ground don’t realise what a phenomenal talent this 19 year-old is about to become. Since their promotion in 1973-74 season a Rovers team inspired by Bruce Bannister and Alan Warboys had hardly set the Second Division alight.
In their first season back in Division Two they finished 19th courtesy of a last day Jim Eadie penalty save at Millwall. The following season saw an 18th place finish, with Rovers winning just one of their last ten games.
In 1976-77 the Warboys/Bannister partnership was broken when both players left the club. Bannister went first, to Plymouth Argyle in exchange for Jimmy Hamilton. Warboys followed soon afterwards going to Fulham just five days after Rovers had defeated them 2-1 at Eastville. Rovers finished 15th that season but lacked a goal scoring leader of their attack. Warboys finished top scorer with just 11 and David Williams next on ten from his mid-field position.
[image2] Rovers’ fans could hardly have had high expectations from their new young striker. He was signed from Frome Town, where he’d been scoring goals in the Western League. Young Randall showed that his scoring debut was no fluke when he repeated the dose in his home debut on the following Tuesday with a goal in the 2-2 draw with Notts County. He failed to score in the next game, a 0-0 home draw with Fulham and then missed the 3-1 loss at Blackpool.
He showed that he still had the goal scoring magic by scoring in the next two games, both 2-1 defeats. Whilst he was out of the team Rovers signed the very experienced Bobby Gould (who was once described by Bill Shankley as a player who couldn’t trap a bag of wet cement!). Gould had an immediate effect scoring a hat-trick on his debut as Rovers thrashed Blackburn 4-1. The following game, which Randall was lucky to miss, was the embarrassment of the 9-0 defeat at Tottenham in late October.
He was soon back in the team but didn’t score until 27th December in the 3-0 defeat of Crystal Palace. His prestigious talent blossomed quickly under the influence of both new Manager Bobby Campbell and his strike partner Gould.
[image3] Randall started scoring goals for fun. Between the 27th December 1977 and 28th January 1978 he scored eight goals in seven games, failing to score in just one of those games. It was during this spell that he shot to national prominence. He scored a wonderful double against First Division Southampton on a muddy Eastville pitch. His first goal finished runner up on the “Big Match” goal of the season, a cheeky half-volley from all of thirty yards, over the advancing Peter Wells in the Saints goal. A remarkable strike from a remarkable young player. His second goal was hardly less audacious as he skipped past a seemingly static Southampton defence on a long mazy run to slide the ball in the bottom corner of the net.
Randall ended up the season with a total of 22 goals from 32 (+3 substitute) appearances for the season. When he started the 1978-79 season with a goal in the 3-1 victory over Fulham it was inevitable that attraction would be gained from First Division teams. His prestigious goal scoring continued and he notched hat-tricks against Blackburn (in another 4-1 home win) and another against Charlton (in a remarkable 5-5 home draw). Randall’s last game for Rovers was in a totally unexpected but thrilling Boxing Day victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Two days later he was snapped up by Stoke City for a £180,000 fee.
Most Rovers fans although feeling disappointed to see him go realised he was destined for bigger and better things. Whether Stoke City realised just what a talent they had on their hands was quite a different matter. They insisted on playing Randall out wide on the right hand side. He was always at his best chasing a long through balls and taking on the defence for pace (of which he had an abundance). Two relatively unhappy years at Stoke was ended when Rovers’ supporters helped to fund the £50,000 transfer to bring the prodigal son back to Eastville. [image4]
Randall didn’t prove to be the returning Messiah that struggling Rovers required, he took three games to score (both goals in a 2-1 home win over Bolton Town at Eastville). He managed just one more goal in a total of 15 appearances in that season as Rovers returned to the Third Division.
For the next five seasons Randall was to feature heavily in the goal scoring charts for Rovers. He ended up with a total of 105 goals in 258 appearances. As a real Gashead Paul seemed to love nothing more than scoring goals at Ashton Gate and few will forget his game turning goals in the 3-1 FA Cup defeat of Bristol City on 8 December 1984. Rovers had been soundly beaten at Ashton Gate less than a month prior but few had reckoned on the devastating pace of Paul Randall at his best.
It was unfortunate that Paul seemed to lose his appetite for the game at an early age. He played his last game for Rovers on 4th March 1986 in a 0-0 draw at Notts County. His last goal had been scored in a gutless Rovers display at Bournemouth where they went down 6-1 in October 1985. Lost to League football at the tender age of 28. He finished his career outside the league at Yeovil Town and Bath City. A remarkable talent indeed.