Around Rovers

January 6, 2009

On match day Saturdays and at other times I always try to pop in on the Young Pirates and to give them any support and help that I can. One of the highlights of the year for our young supporters and their families is the Christmas Party which was held this time on Wednesday December 10th in the Uplands Suite.

Many players give up their evening to join the children and this year around a dozen or so came along. Another dozen or so had been visiting children in local hospitals; another tradition which has been well maintained by players over the generations. Following an hour or so of music, games and paper hats the players are introduced one at a time. Photographs and autographs follow; the children take great delight and are very excited about being with players close up.

The party organisers usually ask someone who knows the players well to introduce them; as one mum said to me they look so different with their cloths on! This year the task fell on yours truly, after all I do know them pretty well having joined them on the tour of Sweden and Denmark back in July. I thought I knew them well, I do know them well but that did not prevent me making an awful gaff which embarrassed me more than anyone knew.

We have not had many players called Reece, in fact I think we have only had two in our entire 125 years of football. At the present time we have Charlie. Our man is a very promising young player who as I said when I introduced him, joined us having been at Aston Villa, plays in midfield and sports the number 30 shirt. The other one was Andy of course, another West Midlander who chalked up over 230 games for us between 87 and 93. Also a mid fielder, Andy was a key member of our 89-90 promotion squad to what is now the Championship.

So what did I do? You’ve guessed it, I only introduced Charlie as Andy. Now our Charlie is a proper one, so is Charlie Clough and now me. I felt a proper Charlie on the night so now we have three.

Actually we could have four. Peter Aitken is unique for being the only footballer to have captained both Bristol clubs, us of course the famous Bristol Rovers and Bedminster. Nicknamed “Charlie” by his team mates after Charlie Aitken the Aston Villa full back of the same time, Peter was also the key member of a Rovers promotion team. This time it was the team of 74 which again won promotion to what is now the Championship.

Could there be an omen here. Could it be that we need a Charlie in our side to gain promotion to the second tier once again. If that’s the case well good luck to Charlie Reece and to Charlie Clough, after all they are both proper Charlie’s unlike Peter who took the nickname and me who made myself feel like one.

It is Christmas and a traditional time for telling stories. Here’s one my grandfather told me on more than one occasion. I was a young pirate myself at the time and he used to tell me a lot of stories of Rovers between the wars and before. It was about this time of year, well nearly. On 14 January 1914 an “In Memoriam” card was produced in Bristol. It was for the cup replay between Queens Park Rangers and the other Bristol team. It read “In brightful memory of Queens Park R football team who were beaten in the replay of the first round of the English Cup at Bristol by (you know who) on Wednesday Jan 14th 1914.”

Alas all was in vain. QPR won 2-0 after extra time. I reckon there must have been a few proper Charlie’s up Bedminster that night!

Recalling the story made me think of my Gramp. He used to love Boxing Day, it was possibly his favourite day of the year. Win, loose or draw, the most important thing is that we have got our memories, the football club that we love so much and it’s future for those that follow on. It’s good to think that the young pirates of today will be passing on stories to their little ones in time. Maybe ones of the old Memorial Stadium before it was knocked down and rebuilt or ones of when we used to play in the lower leagues of The Football League; I sincerely hope so.

Enjoy your Christmas and a very happy new year to everyone. Of the south side? Well play fair, they are Bristol bless them; a happy new year to them too.

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