November 6, 2016
Raymond William Mabbutt
The post war years were among the very best for everyone associated with Bristol Rovers. The 1950’s were an outstanding decade and one that will live in the memory of all of us who were lucky enough to have been around at that time in our history. We have told our children about it, our grand children and even our great grand children.
We were second tier for the very first time and we were very good in the second tier. We had Eastville with a capacity of nearly 40,000. We had an exceptional manager in Bert Tann, attendances in the twenty thousands and even into the thirty thousands, along with players that were among the best in the League. We had Bradford, Bamford and Biggs, Pitt, Petherbridge and Hooper, Sampson and Meyer, Warren, Watling and Ward; others too many to mention; legends all.
In season 1957/ 58 we were joined by yet another. Young, bubbling with enthusiasm and fresh faced. Raymond William Mabbutt appeared in a team photograph for the first time. Ray did not have to wait long for his debut. It was Derby County away, on the 4th of September 1957. It was not the result Ray would have wanted; a 2-1 defeat. Ray would go again just a few days later, Sheffield United away, but still not the result Ray was looking for; this time a 2-0 defeat.
Ray could not have possibly have imagined what was to happen one week later. Home to Blackburn Rovers and 22,822 in to watch and enjoy the game. The team was announced and the Rovers boys took the field in the famous blue and white quarters. Bradford was there, so was Bamford, Watling and Pitt. Biggs was there and Ward and Petherbridge and there too was young Mabbutt. Raymond William Mabbutt embarked on a journey, a wonderful journey for Ray and his for family; indeed, for all of us who were there on that magical Eastville day. We were privileged, totally privileged and we will remain so.
We were ecstatic. The game was won by four goals to nil; Bradford with a brace, Biggs chipping in to make it three, such happy days. And the fourth? Well it had to be; Ray Mabbutt was on the score sheet for the first time in his Rovers career. Ray was up and running, the journey had started. Ray had come from away but he had arrived he had come to stay. Just short of 400 appearances, every position on the park apart from centre half including covering in goal and a spell up front, 27 goals including a wonderful hat-trick at Northampton Town in October 1967.
Ray had come to stay and he did stay. He stayed with us to marry and to raise his children. Ray stayed with us until his end; he came from away but he came to stay. We embraced him as one of our own because he became one of our own. Ray Mabbutt, one of our own; thank you, rest well, rest in peace.
God bless Ray Mabbutt and take him into His care.