Next Tuesday, 31st August, marks the 25th anniversary of our first game back in Bristol following a ten year exile in Bath, playing home games at Bath City’s Twerton Park.
The club’s homecoming was delayed by a couple of weeks, which meant that and the first game of the 1996/97 season was played at Twerton, against Peterborough United.
There were away games against Luton Town and Preston North End before that historic first home match at the Mem though it was thanks to the club’s supporters that the game actually went ahead as planned.
Three days before the match, against Stockport County, Bristol City Council’s Trading Standards Officers refused to grant a safety certificate for the Memorial Ground.
The club issued a plea to supporters to help get the venue ready for the game, asking them to turn up at 8.00am the next morning armed with brushes, spades and wheelbarrows for a big clean up.
Jobs needed to be done included removing rubble from around the ground, painting gangways, providing more exit signs and improving the fire alarm system.
Many of the so called 250 strong ‘Broom Army’, among them John Cursiter the ‘Bard’ of Horfield, worked until midnight on Thursday and were back at 8.00am on Friday to make sure that everything was ready for another safety inspection at 11.00am.
This time, the necessary Safety Certificate was issued, much to the delight of those who had helped get the Mem ready for the historic return to Bristol.
Vice Chairman Geoff Dunford had been one of those getting his hands dirty and he was delighted with the response from the club’s fans, saying; ‘We were always confident that the inspection would be a formality, but the magnificent help we have received from Rovers’ supporters has undoubtedly helped a great deal.
‘It is what we have come to expect from our fans in the last 10 years. That is why the management and players at the club work so hard for them.’
I wonder how many of the ‘Broom Army’ are still attending games at the Mem, and what their memories are of the big clean up. It would be good to hear from anyone who remembers those times as we look ahead to celebrating 25 years back in Bristol!
It would also be good to hear from anyone who attended that first game, so why not share your memories (and photos you might have taken) with us, by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will post what you send us on here, with a match report to follow on the actual anniversary date.
Here’s a small selection of photos taken 25 years ago as supporters attended a first competitive Rovers match in Bristol for ten years at what was then a two sided ground, as the current West Stand had not yet been completed and there were no seats or terracing at the South end of the ground.
The photos here show supporters at the first game, John Cursiter (the Bard of Horfield), the shell of the West Stand and a group of former players pictured before kick off on 31st August.
Those players are; (Back L-R) Alfie Biggs, Ray Kendall (former kitman), Jack Pitt, Harry Liley, Bill Roost, Joe Davis, Robin Stubbs, Stuart Taylor, Mike Green, Vaughan Jones, Paul Randall, Peter Terry (former secretary), Harold Jarman.
Front (L-R) Phil Bater, Bobby Campbell (former manager), Doug Hillard, George Petherbridge, Tom Stanton, Ray Mabbutt, Peter Sampson, Graham Day.