The BFD And Me Part 1

May 14, 2006

[image1] Once again this year, the Bristol Fans Derby match was played this time at Ashton Gate.

Despite the Rovers fans team going down to a jubilant City fans team, the real result was a boatload of cash raised for the Childrens Hospice South West appeal and a tribute to two sets of rivals able to put their differences aside to help those less fortunate than themselves.

Simon takes up the story…

2004 was the year I first started posting on the BRFC forum and the first time I’d heard of the Bristol Fans Derby.
I’d seen photos of previous years and really wanted to have a go. I attended the trials in April 2005 and played in central defence but despite scoring in the first game, didn’t feel that I did all that well. When the squad was announced I didn’t have any expectation of being selected. I scrolled down the list of names and my heart sank as I saw that I wasn’t in the first 16 but then there I was, number 17 in a 16 man squad! I looked again and realised there was no number 13. I’d made it!!

 We played a couple of warm up games and despite getting the chance to play in my more familiar right back position, I didn’t feel that I’d done enough to make the starting XI over some of the established players who’d played in previous years.
A few days before the big match we had a training session at the Mem with James Hunt and Dave Savage (A pair of genuinely nice blokes). It was good experience and gave us a chance to get the feel of the place from the other side of the barrier. We did an exercise where James Hunt stood near the penalty spot and we had to pass the ball to him, run in on goal, he’d lay the ball off and we’d have a shot, or a ‘one-two’ in short! It was a great feeling when I buried the ball past Robin Van der Gas into the top corner in front of the Blackthorn End. It was an even better feeling when Hunt applauded and said “Great shot”. I nearly blushed!

When the big day came I was up early and arrived at the Memorial Stadium with my heart pounding. My daughter Charlotte was with me and together we explored the previously unseen dressing rooms and corridors.
In the home changing room the famous blue and white quartered kit was hanging up in numerical order all ready for us. It’s a strange feeling to be able to move freely around what is usually a restricted area. As you walk in, on both sides there are the usual changing facilities you’d expect but with a bit more space than I ever had playing the level of football I’m accustomed to. The changing room is quite long and narrow with a huge plunge bath on the left then showers and toilets to the right and treatment bench further on down.

[image2] We had a wander around on the pitch then returned to the changing rooms to get ready for the match. Again, it was a weird feeling to sit in the home dressing room at the Mem and put on the Bristol Rovers kit in readiness for a football match.
Once we were changed, we got out on the pitch again for the warm up. People had come to watch! The ground was filling up, Nick Day was doing his thing and there was me on the pitch, wearing the Rovers kit, football boots and getting ready to play. Surreal is the only word to describe how it felt. As kick off approached, I still didn’t know if I was starting but assumed as nothing had been said, I’d be on the bench. I didn’t mind, I was just delighted to be there and to be involved.

After the warm up we returned to the changing rooms once again. It was now about ten minutes until kick off. Ian Chappell gave his team talk and told me to tuck inside from right back if we were attacking up the left. Oh my God!! I’m starting!!! Now the nerves really set in. Apparently the team sheet had been stuck on the wall but I’d missed it completely in all the excitement! We lined up in the tunnel alongside the City lads and sung ‘Irene’ at the top of our voices. Even the City boys joined in, albeit with slightly different lyrics. We walked out onto the pitch ‘Champions League’ style and lined up for photos.
The game itself flew by. Once the first few minutes had passed, the nerves went out of the window and my mind focused on the match. You are aware of the crowd while you’re playing but the chants and shouts all seem to blend into one another so it’s just a noise. When the game stops it comes into focus and I could hear some of the banter between the fans and the general stick being directed at Aaron.

I did ok first half but came off at half time. I didn’t mind, the old legs were beginning to creak and it gave me the chance to have a chat with Richard Walker who was running the line. I went back on about 20 minutes into the second half at centre back and made a clearance off the line. We were leading 1-0 after Chris Watkins’ goal and were desperately hanging on. City equalised in the 90th minute and I thought then that we’d probably blown it. One of their players had been badly injured, needing lengthy treatment and City were fired up and we were tiring by the minute.

We had a corner about 3 minutes into injury time and I made my way forward. The ball came across and I could see that the slightest flick-on would carry it to me on the edge of the box. I shouted ‘flick-on’ and someone responded. I couldn’t have visualised it better. The ball was falling perfectly for me to hit into the top corner, just as I’d practised with James Hunt. I did what every player should do and shouted my name so no team mate went for the same ball. I wound myself up to hit it, I was going to score the winning goal when….a team mate stuck his foot out and deflected it behind for a goal kick! My moment of glory had been cruelly snatched away. My agony was short lived though because soon after, just as it looked like we were going to have a penalty shootout, Dave White broke clear and scored. I think it was about the 96th minute! I had no energy to join the mass celebration, I applauded Dave from 50 metres away and hoped the ref would blow the final whistle quickly. Thankfully he did and the victory was secured. My daughter ran on the pitch to congratulate me and it felt like we’d won the FA Cup.

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We lined up and Geoff Dunford shook my hand and presented me with my winners medal. We had some photos taken with the trophy then back to the dressing room. Everyone was in the plunge bath and I too jumped in. The atmosphere was fantastic and I didn’t want to get out, well, until the water started to look decidedly murky! So I had a shower and made my way to the bar for the post match raffle and presentations.
That night I went to sleep with a big cheesy grin on my face. What a day!

The real reason the game took place of course was to help raise money for local charities. I felt immensely proud to have been a part of it and was determined to do the same the following year. When Ian, Shane and Robin announced that after 3 hugely successful years, and having raised over £16000 for charity, they intended to step down from their BFD involvement, I hoped that I could get more involved. I spoke to Ian about the task then put my name forward.

There were some silly comments flying around the forum at the time and some moments of friction during the changeover but I must say that through it all, Ian Chappell and Robin Schols rose above it all and were incredibly helpful. There were several of us initially interested and we had a couple of meetings to decide who was gonna do what. At that time the committee consisted of Rob Bayliss, Sprout, Aaron and I, with several others in the background. Our first task was to meet up with the City lads and get a date set for BFD 2006.

It was late September 2005 when we met up with Tom Ford and Rich Mackinnon for the first time. We had a beer and talked about what we wanted to achieve. There had been more negativity on the forum and an argument had broken out about the website and it’s lack of updates since May. Tom and Rich had actually said they didn’t want to do it anymore if it was gonna be so negative and at one point it looked like the BFD was a thing of the past. But I was determined that wouldn’t be the case so offered to take over the upkeep of the site and do whatever needed to be done to get everything back on track. We got most things sorted and decided that we would ask each player to guarantee a minimum of £100 in sponsorship in order to qualify for the squad. This would put at least £3200 in the pot straight away and give us a great launch pad for the fundraising drive. We also agreed that players must have been regular contributors to their teams forum for at least 12 months. This would stop the use of any ‘ringers’ or especially gifted players being recruited and registered on the forum just to play in the big game. We made no rules about number of posts because in the end, it’s quality not quantity that counts. Some people read more than they write but they’re just as much a part of forum life as someone who posts hundreds of times a week. It was a good meeting and Tom & Rich agreed that they’d get on to City and get a date finalised…..

By January 2006 Bristol City still hadn’t given us a date to stage the match. It threatened the future of this important charity match and we had plenty more on the horizon to challenge us over the next few months too.

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Keep watching this site for the next instalment of the BFD and me, written by Simon Matthews.

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