WBA programme notes
March 10, 2008
[image1]From the Chair
This unusually timed Sunday evening match is arguably the most important in Rovers’ recent history. I say arguably because it really is difficult to rank this high profile encounter against West Brom in amongst all the other big matches we have played since our F.A. Cup tie at Derby some fifteen months ago.
By my reckoning Rovers have played in no less than seventeen ‘all-ticket’ games, home and away, since that great display at Pride Park. This is certainly our most important F.A. Cup game for 50 years as it is that long since we last reached the quarter-finals and I reckon this is the best opportunity of the three games played at this stage for us to progress into the semi-final. Rovers were drawn away in both the other quarter-finals at Newcastle and Fulham back in the 1950’s – before most of us here today, myself included, started supporting the team. The ‘Baggies’ are bound to start as big favourites to progress because of their recent spell in the Premiership and resultant ‘parachute payment’ which has allowed many millions of pounds to be spent on players. Albion are clearly a great attacking side and our lads will have to be at their very best to stand any chance of an upset but, it has to be said, Rovers have been very near their best in just about every one of those big games since Derby. West Brom are right up there in the fight for a return to the top level but it should be remembered that we turned over the current Championship leaders, (another team in Bristol), in front of two full houses in the JPT area final less than a year ago and Rovers did not even concede a goal in reaching the final. Two other Championship teams have been brushed aside in cup competitions this season and of course Premier League Fulham went the same way as some sort of revenge for our 1958 exit. Much has been said about the pitch here and it was at its worst for the recent visit of Tranmere. However, the better the team then surely the better it is able to cope with whatever conditions apply on the day. I know that Rovers like to play a good passing game and our boys certainly thrive on the better pitches we regularly encounter on our travels and the playing record backs this up. So, no fears for a replay then if we have to but I’m not sure if our shop staff relish another 6,000 ticket sales in the next week on top of all the others currently selling at Pirate Leisure and Kingswood. Best then if we can finish the job this evening and become the first League team to return to the new Wembley!
The lads were not at their best last Saturday at the New Den in a game that seemed to be spoilt by a strong wind swirling around inside the stadium. However, another ‘Trolls’ ‘super sub’ did the trick with the short passing trickery of Sammy Igoe on the right flank being replaced by the raw pace of Lewis Haldane attacking down the left. Former Pirate Marcus Bignot was soon back-peddling, Lewis’ inch-perfect cross was met from seemingly nowhere by the glancing head of Craig Disley yet again and all three points were returning back with the Gas Army to Horfield.
The visitors this evening will not have played on a pitch like this and the ‘Baggies’ fans will not be used to standing on an open terrace or sitting in a ‘beer tent’ for a while so let’s make it worse by pumping up the volume again as we did against the ‘Saints’ in round 5. This may not quite be our biggest game ever but it’s up there with the best of them so it is important we supporters show the rest of the football world what being a Pirate is all about. Get behind those quarters like never before and we’ll get the Wembley tickets ready again!
Up the Pirates!
Carrying the Torch
A very good evening to all for what is a historic event and a significant chapter in the history of Bristol Rovers Football Club. We have the distinct possibility for a highly memorable occasion. The Memorial Stadium has not seen such a high profile football match as this in over eighty years of existence. This evening is a very rare encounter.
Quarter Finals of the FA Cup do not come round year on year. Some of us were lucky enough to be around in the fifties when we made it not just once but twice. In those days we were what would be now a very decent Championship outfit with a very fine young coach. The only difference this time round is that we are one division lower in the pyramid. The Newcastle United tie in 1951 was my first clear recollection of the club that was to become my lifetime passion.
I really do hope that this time around it will be the same for the young Bristol children of 2008. It is for this group of supporters that I feel most happy for today. There was a genuine warmth for us at the Football League Awards on Sunday evening. Representatives of clubs in the third and fourth tier wished us well. Maybe they see us as carrying the torch for them at this stage of the competition. We have got the game that most of us wanted; a home game that is a big draw, winnable and a game that could take us further than we have ever been before.
For the second time in as many weeks we are featured on BBC Television. The BBC tells us that in the order of 2.7 million tuned in to the fifth round defeat of Southampton. A further 2.8 million saw the highlights later in the evening. Brian Barwick, Chief Executive of The FA is with us again. We extend a special welcome to Sir Trevor Brooking; enjoy the game gentlemen and please come again.
Talking of special welcomes, a very warm welcome to the supporters of West Bromwich Albion. The Throstles or Baggies have lifted the cup on no less than five occasions and also have one League Cup success to their credit. Albion have a very strong history in the top flight of English Football and visit us this evening with their sites set firmly on a return to the Premier League. I think it is fair to say that the Baggies need top-flight football to satisfy their fans and to fill their redeveloped Hawthorns ground. It would be nice to think that they need this more than they do the semi finals of the FA Cup, but like all top rate football clubs they will be doing there best tonight to be sure.
They have worked really hard in the Sandwell Community over recent years. The Football in the Community and Study centre set up at West Brom is well established and highly regarded as one of the very best. I enjoyed my visit to the centre last year. I was made extremely welcome by Fraser Foster and his team and take this opportunity to thank him again for his time and for sharing the quite excellent work that he is doing up there.
As a football club we are moving forward on all fronts. The momentum, unity and togetherness about us has not gone away and if anything it is gaining in strength. A brand new twenty first century stadium, a growing an successful youth programme, better training facilities, a football club that does good work and is well thought of in the community and with an ambitious but achievable target on the playing side. It is all of this that we are working so very hard to bring about. Thank you very much indeed for your tremendous support.
Supporters Club representative on the football club board.
The month of February has, as you would expect, been exceptionally busy from a commercial point of view with both Pirate Leisure and the Kingswood shops experiencing high demand both for tickets and souvenirs/leisurewear and total income was more than double the corresponding period last year. It’s worth noting though that in February 2007 we had no FA Cup related ticket income (having been knocked-out at Derby in January) although there were the JPT Southern Area final games against City to bolster that month’s figures.
The merchandising income for February was up at Pirate Leisure and Kingswood shops by 55% and 50% respectively which is great news and testament to the efforts of Paul and Lennie on the pitch and the shop and commercial staff off it. Again, a big vote of thanks is due to all those involved.
Whilst it’s particularly enjoyable being able to report on month-on-month increases in merchandising and ticketing (not to mention FA Cup prize and TV rights monies), it is vitally important we keep in mind the leaner period coming up when we move out to Cheltenham as undoubtedly net income streams will be adversely affected. In today’s financial climate football clubs are finding the going ever tougher and we are fortunate (if that’s the right word) to be in the position where we are able, with a little prudence, to plan forward with some confidence.
On the website, I have reminded fans that applications for Supporters Club membership are currently not being taken as the benefit afforded to new members of Priority Group 2 status regarding availability of Cup tickets would, in the EC view, be unfair to existing members who joined earlier in the season. Whilst, arguably, there is no perfect system, the existing arrangements are long standing and easily understood. Looking forward to the redeveloped stadium, the use of smart cards amongst other ticketing/entrance/loyalty schemes is being considered and more information will follow in due course. I did plug Supporters Club membership at the beginning of the season and I will do again over the summer as, amongst other benefits, it is still a very cost effective way to ensure you achieve Priority Group 2 status!
Enjoy the game!
Share Scheme – Latest figures
If you would like to join or introduce someone else please contact Clare McDonagh at Pirate Leisure on (0117) 952 4001 [email protected] If you would simply like to now more about the scheme then please contact me:- [email protected] Your name will be included on the Roll of Honour which will be erected in the new stadium.
The current membership at the end of February 2008 stands at:-
The total monthly income was £5,892
Supporters Club representative on the football club board.