May 20, 2016
JIM’S END-OF-THE-SEASON JOTTINGS
I deliberately left any comment on the most fantastic end there has ever been to a Bristol Rovers’ season because it was taking a while for everything to sink in.
Up until 5pm on Saturday the 7th May 2016, (surely a new date to rival the historic 2nd of May 1990), there was the possibility of having to prepare one more Bristol Rovers Supporters Club column in what would have been the final ‘Pirate’ – a home leg play-off semi-final against AFC Wimbledon.
That another programme was not required was of course down to a slice of last-day luck with poor old Accrington Stanley failing to score for the one and only time at home in their last match against Stevenage.
Not that Rovers relied totally on what was happening at the Wham Stadium of course because Darrell’s boys had to do the business here with yet another home victory against already relegated Dagenham & Redbridge.
Thankfully, they did it with just a minute or so to spare.
I didn’t see any of the goals ‘live’ because we were working on the 50/50 Draw when the ‘Daggers’ took a shock lead only for Rovers to restore parity a few minutes later.
Then I had my head in my hands after yet another Matty Taylor shot hit the post with what I thought was the last kick of the season only to look up and see the ball hitting the back of the net from a then unknown player.
Such were the celebrations in the Dribuild Stand that nobody could tell me who had scored and frankly nobody cared much either but how fitting it was that ‘unsung hero’ Lee Brown was the man to strike the ‘golden goal’ that meant so much to every Rovers supporter.
As mayhem broke out on the pitch and in every part of the stadium I met up with former Chairman Nick Higgs who told me how proud he felt having signed all the players involved on the day and how he still considered it to be his team.
While this is true and justifiable, the real credit must go to Darrell Clarke and his staff who have taken a collection of players from non-League to a second consecutive promotion – a simply fantastic achievement.
All the more disappointing then to learn on the Monday after the match that there was to be no open-top bus tour or any other type of celebration and suddenly the whole thing became just a bit of an anti-climax.
I contacted Chairman Steve Hamer to query this and ask for it to be reconsidered but I was told that we hadn’t won anything yet and we would have a tour when Rovers win the League One title.
I see the point but every other Rovers promotion has been followed by a bus tour of the city and the last two were only via play-offs and not automatically achieved – the latter of course allowing an extra three weeks to arrange everything thus negating the point made in the original press release that the club was ‘preparing for life in League One’.
Considering the President’s often commented remarks that the fans are such a vital part of the club it seems strange that such an opportunity to involve everyone in a fully justified celebration has not been taken up.
Anyone who turned out last season to witness the bus tour through the streets of East Bristol and/or then came to the stadium will remember what a great day it was with normal roles reversed and the players being paraded up in the West Stand to receive their promotion medals in front of around 5,000 fans on the pitch below to watch the ‘ceremony’.
Players, management, backroom staff, volunteers and fans joined together in celebration – what this club has always been about. It strikes me that the players must be due promotion medals – so how will they now receive them, by post?
A great opportunity lost and the Club could have benefited from bar and food sales as last year. Disappointing for all those who were unable to party at the final whistle due to work or whatever. So, no official celebration and we move on.
I want to thank again Darrell, his staff and the players who gave everything right up to the last minute of the last match.
I can’t remember a more satisfying season ‘on the road’ in all my fifty-odd years supporting the Rovers and so very few matches were a disappointment – Portsmouth and, ironically, Accrington Stanley as always, stick in the mind but so many great wins and fine goals more than made up for those, tenfold.
At home, after another shaky start, the Memorial Stadium has become a fortress for Rovers and a winning start in League One will equal a home winning sequence stretching back for the best part of a century.
Let’s just hope that the management/player staff list remains as potent as it did last summer when really only one major more-or-less straight-swop of Billy Bodin for the departing Andy Monkhouse came about and the real ‘team’ ethic continued throughout the squad for a second successful campaign.
A previous post on the BRSC website named and thanked all our staff and volunteers and I just want to reiterate my thanks to all those who do so much to help out.
Most supporters and, I reckon, club management and staff have no idea just how many volunteers we have working at “The Mem” on a match-day and people like Ron Thorne, who starts preparing the programme trolleys et cetera about 10am and yet misses every kick-off, are invaluable to Rovers.
Similarly, several Committee members and others work on the 50/50 right up to half-time and on the programme sales and shop receipts up to the end of day. Unlike the drinkers on Gloucester Road there is no ‘presidential’ visit for them to celebrate promotion so they all deserve a bus tour at least.
Finally, a very big thank you to every remaining member of the BRSC Share Scheme for continuing to contribute into the scheme that initially helped preserve Rovers’ existence at the Memorial Stadium.
This has funded the purchase of a significant shareholding in the Football Club and that in turn retains two elected ordinary supporters on the Board when all the other shareholders had to sell out to the Al-Qadi family.
I want the scheme to continue in future; although I realise that the members have not received very much in return.
It will be good if we can purchase the full 600,000 shares we are entitled to under the agreement, (circa 470,000 = 5.75% purchased to date), because we never know what might happen to the club in the future.
I feel it remains necessary and probably essential for supporters to have some financial say in Bristol Rovers’ future.
My thinking is that we could continue funding the BRFC Youth Academy in line with our successful 50/50 Draw whilst the new owners concentrate on player acquisition and of course the infrastructure improvements such as the new stadium.
Much remains to be discussed with the Board and I hope that we can arrange a meeting with members of the Bristol Rovers Supporters Club Share Scheme before the next season begins so please stick with us.
Enjoy the summer and look forward to English Football League Division One.
Might yet see you in Spain in July.
Bristol Rovers Supporters Club Chairman.