February 4, 2018
What is it about the second half of the season as far as Rovers are concerned? Yet again it seems that Darrell and the boys have to get Christmas out of the way before hitting top form, especially away from home. So it was last Saturday at Doncaster when, roared on by seven hundred Gasheads, came back to register a first win on the road since the demolition of Northampton nearly four months ago. It was of course also the third time in the last four matches that Rovers have had to fight back from a goal down against tough opposition and the lads have now gone six games without defeat. All very exciting stuff and let’s hope the boys can continue their great run of form in this afternoon’s really stiff test against the ‘Shrews’. The Shropshire side have proved to be the big surprise team in the Football League this season and have defied all the critics as Town have chased the most unlikely of promotions. It should be a great contest!
The one thing I have been most proud of during my many (too many probably!) years as Chairman of the Supporters Club has been our sponsorship of Rovers’ Youth Academy. We really started to make a difference around a decade ago when Rovers appointed Paul Trollope as Manager and he immediately wanted improvements to the Club’s then youth policy. The big Premiership clubs were starting to get their act together with the setting-up of academies for their young starlets whilst transfer fees were beginning to rocket up to the fantasy levels that we see as commonplace today. Rovers were light years behind and needed transport to convey the under-18 team to the regular youth league matches that were becoming more and more important. Around the same time I first became acquainted with Ken Masters who had just been elected to the post of Supporters Club Director on the Board of the Football Club via the Share Scheme agreement. Thankfully Ken shared my passion for improvements to the Youth programme and we set off with our first tranche of 50/50 Draw funding to purchase a decent bus to convey the team in. Our search and travels ended up in Walsall where a specialiest firm provided us with a choice of coaches suitable for the job and, with the then Head of Youth Darren Patterson also on board, we plumped for a two-year old but ‘top of the range’ Mercedes coach fitted with the necessary full-height luggage compartment for all the kit. Darren and Paul were delighted with the purchase and the ‘Merc’ has done us proud ever since although it has recently gone the way of all mechanical things and has now been retired. In the decade or so that the Supporters Club has been sponsoring the Youth Academy we have also helped out with kit purchases, tournament travel expenses and the like. This season Rovers started our first Development Squad under the leadership of Chris Hargreaves and we have now taken this under-23 team under our sponsorship as well. As both the under-18s and the Development team play regular league matches and require transport to and from games and training etc we are on the lookout for another bus. However our funding is now done on a regular payment basis so that the playing management have an idea of what is possible to do so we may be looking to lease something this time round. Ken and I think it is important to let our members and the purchasers of the 50/50 Draw tickets know what is happening to their donations so you can see how valuable your contributions are. A club like Rovers can only thrive if we continue with a good youth development programme that produces great ‘home-grown’ players like Chris Lines, Ollie Clarke, Tom Lockyer and Ellis Harrison – all lads we can be proud of. I hope you all think along the same lines and you keep buying those tickets!
Up the Pirates!