February 3, 2009
Our football club has now reached the one hundred and twenty five year landmark and I can’t help thinking that not only is business unfinished but it is never ending. At this present time we are probably in the position of playing catch up. I think this is particularly true regarding two main fundamentals.
For a football club situated in such a large area of population and capable of attracting forty thousand followers to trophy and play off finals we should be playing at least one notch up the League pyramid. To sustain that level of football, to attract families to our home games and to generate the levels of support week on week necessary to finance our ambitions we must be playing in a fit for purpose twenty first century stadium that will satisfy all of our needs and the needs of our supporters and sponsors for many years to come.
It is good to be working so very hard to achieve our aims and objectives and so to leave a legacy that will take our football club forward for at least the remainder of this century if not beyond. Nonetheless it is good to look back and to learn lessons from the past as well as to share fond memories of successful times. We often see competitions and such for best players in certain positions, best team selected from various generations and alike. Invariably and understandably names are put forward from known times, 90’s, 80’s, 70’s and perhaps the 60’s and 50’s as well; by my reckoning that accounts for only half of our history.
What about before the second war, between the wars and before that going back to the nineteenth century? I like my books very much on all number of subjects including history and football. Put the two together and I have found some fascinating reading. I have come across a book in my family collection that is smelly, falling apart and delicate to the touch. Written and published in the mid nineteen thirties is titled “The Football Encyclopaedia” and published by the then “The Leader” journal. There are many fascinating sections to the book and one gives a history of each English league club.
So how did we look in 1935? What did the first half of our history look like? If we were reading about us in 1935 what would it be telling us? I quote directly from the book.
Bristol Rovers (1883) Ground: Eastville, Bristol. Colours: Royal blue and white quarters, white knickers.
Originally known as the Black Arabs, Bristol Rovers was formed in 1883, so are older than their neighbours. When they played as the Black Arabs, they wore black shirts with a sash of yellow ribbon. From the Black Arabs the Rovers soon became the Eastville Rovers and remained such until 1897-98, when they participated in the professional section of the Western League, as Bristol Eastville Rovers. In the next season they were known as Bristol Rovers, and have since been known as that name.
For a number of years the Rovers colours were Badminton hoops of light blue and white, when the grandfather of the present Duke was president of the club.
When the Rovers turned professional in 1897-98, they played in the Birmingham and Western Leagues and later renounced the Birmingham organisation for the Southern League. It is affirmed that when Bristol City applied for admission to the second division of the Football League-and got it- membership was also offered to Bristol Rovers for election without opposition.
Bristol Rovers’ most successful season was the 1904-05 when they won the championship of the old Southern League holding the shield for one season.
Bristol Rovers have seldom done well in the Football association Cup. Their best season was in 1901-02 when they figured in ten cup ties knocking out Bristol City, Swindon Town, Millwall Athletic and Middlesborough before losing to Stoke City where at the end L. R. Rose, the Stoke goalkeeper was carried off in appreciation of his wonderful display.
When writing of Bristol Rovers, the name of Ronald Dix who was supposed to go to Everton but instead went to Blackburn Rovers and is now with Aston Villa , always comes to mind, because so much was said and written about this clever inside forward, the best ever turned out by a Bristol club.
Since taking over the management of Bristol Rovers Captain Prince-Cox has simply worked wonders and does not disguise the fact he hopes to take Rovers up into the Second Division.
No change there then but how about we could have been a Football League club at the same time as the South End! I wonder why we did not take up the offer. If anybody knows the answer please let me know. And what about Ronnie Dix? Scored for us in a League match at just 15 years and 180 days. Born in Bedminster (nicked him) and returned there to North Street when his career came to a close. The best ever? Well in the first half he appears to be.
Ronnie attended our centenary match at Eastville in 1983. God bless him and when you next draw up your best Rovers team of all time don’t forget to stick Ronnie in it.