Around Rovers

August 13, 2008

It has to be said, maybe finally by me anyway, that we were gutted when the news that the student let preferred option, Opal, had pulled out at the last, indeed beyond the last minute, regarding the stadium regeneration project. I was travelling to join supporters at the Whaddon Road open day when the news broke to me. I still went there on the Saturday and linked up with those who had taken the trouble as well.

I communicated as best as I could at the time. It was as upsetting as it was hard. There is an old saying that everything comes to those that wait. Maybe so but in my experience in education and in business everything comes to those with vision and who are prepared to believe and work very hard to achieve the desired outcome. We have no choice but to dust ourselves down and push on with what is a highly viable project without at any time putting our football club at risk. The overriding aim of a Championship football club in a Championship stadium still stands.

The tour of Denmark and Sweden in late July was as hectic as it was successful and a milestone in terms of taking us forward as a football club with a well defined aim. It followed closely on from the press conference which revealed that Bristol Rovers are to relocate to new training facilities back in Bristol from around the end of September.

I have to say that the tour of the excellent facilities at West Town Lane lifted my spirits hugely. All credit to Nick Higgs who has worked very hard over the past twelve months or so to bring it about. The dedicated outside training areas have been laid to very high specifications and the indoor gym, changing and other facilities for players and staff are really quite excellent. Pitches to be available for our Under 16 and Under 18 teams to play their home fixtures is an added bonus.

The tour was so well organised to the extent that there was not a single hitch by way of transport, accommodation, training facilities and match preparation. I say not a hitch but Phil Kites medical kit did suffer a little bit on the flight and Phil spent the early hours of Monday morning retrieving all that he could. The timing of the itinerary was spot throughout the whole week. Even the delayed flight from Gatwick made up the lost time.

 The first day was tough. By the time we had checked in at the hotel and got our heads down it was two ish in the morning and we had a game scheduled in nearby Denmark in the afternoon against FC Copenhagen. All credit to the players for a decent performance in that one, especially in the first half when we saw a fine goal from Jeff Hughes.

The hotel was selected by the tour operators for its fitness for purpose in that it specialises in accommodating touring sports groups including professional football clubs from many European countries. A club from the Netherlands had been staying in the week previous. The facilities for kit storage and preparation were excellent even though by Roger Harding’s own admission the shirts had a few more creases in them than as is normal.

The team were supported by fans living in exile in Copenhagen as well those who travelled from the UK. The match venues in Copenhagen and Malmo were such that supporters were allowed close contact with the players and staff after games. Many fans were photographed with players and enjoyed chats with all in the period of leaving the respective dressing rooms and embarking on the team coach. Thank you most sincerely to those who followed the tour and for lending the players so mush encouragement and support.

Other match highlights included a four goal spree from Josh Klein Davis in the midweek game against Malmo Anadolu, and the very fine goal from Daryl Duffy in the game against Limhamn Bunkeflo; notwithstanding of course two very excellent clean sheets.

Many congratulations to Josh for his inclusion in the Welsh Under 19’s squad and to Joe Jacobson for making the bench of the full Welsh senior team no less. The injury to Joe marred the trip somewhat but the players rallied round to support him on the flight back home. It has to be said that Joe was unwell to say the very least.

It is very pleasing to close by adding that the hotel management and staff went out of their way to tell us that the Bristol Rovers touring party were among the most courteous and likeable group that they had ever had staying at the hotel. The players especially represented Bristol Rovers in a most exemplary way.

My eyes were opened yet again to the work ethic and discipline of the staff on the one hand and the very high team spirit enjoyed in the dressing room on the other. Players new to the club fitted in almost seamlessly to the extent that it was as though they had been with us for a couple of seasons. It all bodes well for the future on the playing side at the very least.

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