t has been an even busier than usual spell over the Christmas and new year holiday period thanks to a string of matches, both home and away, with Rovers still on the edge of the play-off positions and retaining an interest in two cup competitions at the time of writing. Not only that of course but the Club has appointed a new manager following the untimely departure of Graham Coughlan. I have yet to meet Ben Garner and it is likely that will remain the case as he has had an incredibly busy start to his first managerial job with so many games leading up to the opening of the January transfer window. Anyway, I wish him all the very best in his Rovers’ career and let’s hope that he has been able to ‘break his duck’ with a win over struggling Stevenage by the time you read this column.
AWAY THE GAS
It’s a bit of a quirk but all of Rovers’ F.A. Cup ties this season have followed the same formula to date with the ‘Pirates’ lucky enough to get drawn at home in rounds 1, 2 and 3 but only drawing on each occasion and having to win through via an away replay. This is written before the 4th Round draw and we have a very tough return visit to Birmingham, where we had suffered a comprehensive early League defeat to Coventry, before any further progress. The problem with these quite short-notice away games for the Supporters Club Committee is deciding what if any travel we can lay on for our members. Our general policy is to provide coaches whenever it is practical and we are prepared to suffer a ‘manageable loss’ in order to transport as much support as possible for the team. Most of our League games make a small profit on away travel although that is not the main aim which is, as I said, to get as much backing for the team as we can. A problem we have is that Rovers’ supporters, much more so I reckon than most other similar-sized clubs fans, seem to delight in ‘last-minute’ independent car travel so we end up barely breaking even on a coach or sometimes a second coach when we still take a huge following to a game. The 1st Round replay at Bromley was a classic example of this but the relatively small financial loss was compensated by another welcome victory for the team. Additional coaches are a bit less of a gamble because we usually make a healthy profit on the first, full one, but it can still be a worry because we don’t want to throw our funds away by making a big loss. All I can say is a big ‘thanks’ to our Travel Organiser, Leanne Hawkins, invariably backed-up by Treasurer, Sue Williams, for the effort put in to maintain suppport on the road for the team. To those members and non-members alike who are considering travelling to away games in both League and Cup ties please refer to our website which gives up-to-date news on our trips along with the ability to book seats ‘on-line’. Let’s hope we have a nice big ‘juicy’ trip to come soon!
In similar vein to the ‘away travel’ syndrome we always try to provide a 50/50 Draw at every first team home game although we have to reduce the number of prizes when for example the ground capacity is reduced for the ‘lesser’ cup ties, such as I’m sure was the case last Wednesday for the visit of Stevenage in the latest round of the E.F.L. Trophy. It’s a pity that this competition has been so devalued in recent seasons as it provides a rare opportunity for League 1 & 2 clubs to perform in the national stadium and that without the added pressure of a promotion battle. To get there now us ‘mortals’ now have to get past the Premier League’s up-and-coming ‘starlets’ but the E.F.L. were lucky last season when the two best-supported clubs in League 1 by a country mile fought-out the Wembley final. Perhaps Rovers will get another crack at it come April but meantime the Supporters Club will continue running a reduced 50/50 during the qualifying rounds. I’m sure fans appreciate having a few quid in their pocket after turning out to support the team against ‘less than glamorous’ competition on a cold Tuesday night. As for the League matches we are maintaining three prizes with 2nd place providing £100 and 3rd place £50 whilst the major prize is always dependent upon a 50% share of the takings after a small deduction for expenses. An equivalent sum is available for Rovers’ Youth Academy, Development Squad and Women’s teams as and when required so please keep supporting us for those to continue to thrive.