The Supporters Club cap initiative is a scheme whereby we present a cap to every player who has appeared in the Football league for Bristol Rovers and last Friday, 8th March, we were able to present 12 more.

The occasion was the Bristol Rovers Former Players Annual Dinner and the following players received their caps; Wayne Carlisle, Trevor Challis, Ryan Clarke, Richard Dryden, Mike Green, Alfie Kilgour, Christian McClean, Wayne Noble, Phil Purnell, Gary Smart and Bobby ‘Shadow’ Williams.

In addition, we were delighted to be able to present a cap to the family of Malcolm Norman who sadly passed away last October at the age of 89. His wife and three sons were in attendance and were presented with his cap.

The caps, by the way, bear the Bristol Rovers logo and the number on the back of the cap represents the number that player was when he made his debut (we are currently up to 1005 players to have represented the club in the league).

Unfortunately, statisticians give priority to league appearances only, so those players who have only appeared in cup ties or in our Conference season are not included.

The feedback we have received from players who have received their caps has been very positive and we have already received a number of enquiries from former players since our dinner asking when they can receive theirs!

The first presentation of the evening was made to Malcolm Norman’s family. A goalkeeper by trade, Malcolm made his Rovers league debut against Leyton Orient in December 1958 when Rovers lost 3-1 at Eastville. He was the 338th player to represent Rovers in the league and it was the first of his 69 league games for Rovers.

Keeping up the goalkeeper theme, next up was Ryan Clarke, who made his debut at Rochdale back in 2002. I was at Spotland that day and it was agreed, beforehand, that Scott Howie would play in the first half to preserve his 100% appearance record for the season but that he would make way for Ryan at some point in the second half.

And so it was that Ryan appeared for an eventful final 14 minutes of that game. He saved a late penalty but, unfortunately, the referee ordered the spot kick to be retaken and he was beaten at the second attempt and Rovers lost 2-1. Ryan became the 687th player to play league football for the club and went on to appear in 23 league games.

Next up came a defender who arrived at the club from Queens Park Rangers in the summer of 1998 and who made his debut against Burnley, at Turf Moor, on 8th August, Trevor Challis becoming the 621st player on the list.

Unfortunately, his debut ended in a 2-1 defeat, but it was the first of 145 league games in a Rovers shirt. One of a number of players who moved to the area when he signed for the club, Trevor has never moved away, though nowadays he can be found across town as he’s a coach for the Bristol club that plays in red!

Staying with the red half of Bristol, our next guest enjoyed a stellar career at Ashton Gate where he made 187 league appearances, scoring 76 goals in the process.

Bobby ‘Shadow’ Williams, earned his nickname for the way he ghosted past opponents and was described as creative and ingenious. On leaving ‘The Gate’ he signed for Rotherham and it was from there that he signed for Rovers in March 1967.

Coming in at number 391, his debut came in a goalless draw against Grimsby Town at Eastville and was the first of his 29 league games in a Rovers shirt.

He moved on to Reading, played in Belgium and then for Weymouth, though his playing career ended following a serious car crash.

It wasn’t the end of his football journey, though, as he went on to spend 25 years coaching Reading’s young players, one of whom was future England midfielder Neil Webb.

We then moved on to a player who is truly one of our own, central defender Alfie Kilgour who joined our Academy as an eight year old.

He seemed destined for a debut at a young age but suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury when playing for Rovers in a Gloucestershire Senior Amateur Cup tie at the Mem against Slimbridge.

Undeterred he fought his way back to fitness, went out on loan to Hungerford and to Maidenhead. Recalled early from that last loan he was handed his debut as a late substitute in a 1-0 win at Gillingham.

Number 920 in the grand scheme of things, he won Goal of the Month in February 2020 for his goal against Blackpool. Underwent knee surgery in March 2022 and joined Mansfield Town in January 2023.

Alfie was followed by Wayne Noble, whose debut, against Bolton Wanderers, on 4th February 1986 saw Rovers win 2-0 and his career was up and running.

The 516th player to represent the club in the league would make just 21 league appearances whilst with Rovers, his career hugely affected by injuries. He picked up injuries in pre-season training two years in succession which undoubtedly hampered his progress.

He had been an England Youth squad member at the same time as Tony Adams and David Rocastle and had, according to many people, the ‘sweetest left foot ever’.

He enjoyed a non league career with a number of clubs and worked in the club’s Community Department. There was also a short time spent as kitman and as Wayne was, and still is, a bit of a joker, there was never a dull moment when he was around!