Jim’s Jottings

Oct 19, 2020 | Jim's Jottings, News

Another home game comes round today with the stadium empty except for those playing staff and others who are directly involved with the game itself. It has been said elsewhere but it does seem illogical that fans, certainly a reduced number of them at least, cannot attend a game once or twice a week in the open air when hundreds can congregate and drink in enclosed bars and pubs on a nightly basis. I understand the argument is that football fans gather (as indeed we did in pubs and bars!) before and after matches and can therefore spread the virus. So I don’t understand the difference and will have to go ‘non-League’ in order to get a live ‘footie fix’ if not watching my favourite team on a dodgy internet connection! Perhaps the latest moves by the EFL.and others will bear fruit before too long and some limited attendance at League games will finally be permitted but I am not holding my breath on that! Stay strong everyone.

I made mention of the passing of my old friend and Rovers legend, Gordon Bennett, in the Northampton programme and said that I would write a little more about him in this column. What many younger fans who may have heard of him but not be aware of was that before he became nationally famous within the game he was just an ordinary terrace supporter. Gordon first came to prominence in the mid 1960’s when he led a raucous group of teenagers nicknamed the ‘Hooter Boys’ who gathered in the South Enclosure at Eastville adjacent to the players tunnel. ‘Hooters’ they may have been called but they were in fact traditional hunting horns and Gordon had the longest horn of them all! The group was probably about fifty strong and made a big impact in support of the team which was then in more or less the same position as the current Rovers – lower mid-table in Division 3. As a fanatical teenager myself at the time, about a year younger than Gordon, I just had to join them and purchased the necessary brass horn from a second-hand shop and I was accepted into the group. 

Whilst we know the players greatly appreciated the extra support and publicity given to them up and down the land that was not quite the case with the club’s management and directors whose box was situated in the front of the stand above the terrace we inhabited. Not wishing to cause offence despite being deafened every other Saturday afternoon (the noise produced was unbelievable!) Gordon was asked by those in charge if there was something more constructive that he/we could do – and indeed there was much achieved in the following years. The ‘Hooter Boys’ were soon transformed into an official teenage support group called simply ‘The Pirates’ – not to be confused with the current day ‘Young Pirates’. Gordon was a member of the Supporters Club as were most of us and we were soon taken under their wing although left to run our own affairs. All adults were suspicious of teenagers in the ‘swinging sixties’ but once Gordon got everyone organised there was much useful collaboration between the Board of Directors, Supporters Club executive and the newly-formed committee of The Pirates. Early meetings were blessed with the attendance of such Rovers’ luminaries as Bert Tann, by then General Manager, and Eric Godfrey, founding Chairman of the Supporters Club and later FC Director. Gordon was into everything Rovers, organising 6-a-side football tournaments for teenagers all over the city, home and away 11-a-side matches against opposing clubs on the morning of corresponding League games, and various fund-raising activities. The latter culminated in Gordon undertaking two ‘marathon’ walks the length of the country visiting every host ground of the 1966 World Cup then every League ground in an effort to raise funds for the club. As by then the Secretary of The Pirates it was my job to keep in touch with him on his travels and I still have a couple of postcards (no I-phones then!) that he sent me from obscure villages which he thought would tickle my sense of humour! Gordon’s work-rate for Rovers was incredible but unpaid of course and he continued travelling all over the country by train and in his trusty Hillman Minx Estate in support of the team. He was becoming famous, as was the Minx which was always running out of petrol as I found to my cost a couple of times, and it was not long before someone on the Board thought that Gordon would be more useful in an official capacity and perhaps I can relay that part of the story in the next ‘Pirate’.

Jim Chappell.