bristol rovers

Bristol Rovers On Upward Trend

Two years ago Bristol Rovers were staring at the abyss, as they were unceremoniously dumped out of the English football league, after 94 uninterrupted years. For the first time in club history they would be a non-league side, facing huge turmoil going into their debut season in the Vanarama Conference.

Fast forward to the present day and the future could not possibly look more different for the well supported West Country club. After a dramatic injury time winner from left back Lee Brown, the club known as the Gas will be plying their trade in League One next season. Their victory and dropped points from Accrington Stanley ensured Rovers a nail biting promotion thanks to a marginally better goal difference.

Rovers have gone from facing the likes of Dover and Braintree to now facing the likes of Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United within two very short years. The club has changed dramatically in this time period, with a complete overhaul of the squad and whole scale changes in other key positions.

Manager Darrell Clarke was handed the management job with only seven games to go in the fateful relegation season, coming into a situation whereby it was almost impossible for him to stave off relegation. He looked to have completed a great escape going into the final day, only needing a solitary point at home to secure safety.

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Manager Darrell Clarke being comforted by a supporter after the clubs final day relegation in 2014. Photo copyright Getty Images.

The game will forever be etched in the memory of the supporters, who remember a hugely disappointing 1-0 defeat which sealed the club’s drop into the fifth tier of the football pyramid. Widespread change in the squad produced the necessary results after a slow start to the season, as the club found itself steadily rising up the league table as the season wore on.

After narrowly avoiding toppling Barnet as champions on the final day of the season, Rovers were forced to go through the play-off system if they wanted promotion. Local rivals Forest Green Rovers were brushed aside, as the club found itself finishing the season they way it had started, with a stalemate draw against Grimsby.

The national stadium of Wembley became the theatre for the over 30 000 Rovers fans as they narrowly won out 5-4 in the deciding penalty shoot out. The celebrations lasted long into the night, as the club found themselves back in the football league at the first time of asking, becoming the first club in over a decade to achieve this.

With a few summer additions, Rovers embarked on their League Two season, one that would prove to be as equally dramatic as their previous campaign. Good results ensured they were consistently in the play-off picture, edging slowly closer to the hallowed automatic promotion places. A draw away to Stevenage looked to have dented Rovers ambitions of a top three place, but going into the final game of the season on Saturday everyone at the club was dreaming of the unlikely.

Rovers needed to win with either Oxford or Accrington Stanley dropping points to go up, something that looked even less likely within the first ten minutes as already relegated visitors Dagenham & Redbridge produced a shock goal to silence the crowd and take the lead. The response from the home side was swift, but the vital second goal proved much harder to come by.

Despite a seemingly endless barrage of Rovers shots on target, they could not find the opening they needed. Entering stoppage time, Rovers looked destined for the lottery of the play-offs, that was until the second minute of extra time. League Two top scorer Matty Taylor saw his shot bounce off the post from close range for the second time, but before he had a moment to feel disappointed he would of seen the ball rolling straight to defender Lee Brown.

Staring at an empty goal net he tapped the ball home for the pivotal goal they needed. The final minutes were an agonising wait to see how the Accrington Stanley game would finish.  A similar miracle would not be repeated further north, leaving Rovers fans and player free to begin their delirious celebrations. Soon videos emerged of fans swamping the Memorial Stadium pitch, Rovers owner Wael Al-Qadi being carried on the shoulders by the jubilant supporters towards the local pubs. Traffic found itself being redirected as thousands of fans took over the majority of Gloucester Road close to the stadium.

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The Rovers players celebrate with fans on the pitch after securing a last gasp automatic promotion place into League One. Photo copyright Press Association.

The scenes on Saturday were as far away from what had occurred in the previous five years, with the credit for the revival mostly resting on Clarke and the squad he has assembled. Everyone involved has bought into the methods Clarke uses, and will now surely be garnering attention from further afield thanks to successive promotion seasons.

Things have been improving off the pitch also, with the club recently being bought by the Al-Qadi family, owners of the Arab Jordan Investment bank. With secure financial backing behind the team for the first time in a long while, the clubs improved finances and on field play have renewed hopes the club can build a modern stadium with the potential to move the club into the future.

From here it’s not known what will happen in the coming summer, but surely the aim will be to first maintain and then bring in some extra players to help for the rigours of the third tier of English football.

One certainty around the club right now is the fact for once the club has some positive momentum and is going forward, something that seemed impossible only several years ago. That is a testament to a remarkable achievement everyone at the football club has done in recent years, to the point now that some may argue being relegated was one of the best things to happen to the club in recent memory. Without it, it’s unlikely the club would of went through the shake up needed to get to it’s current position.

Any Bristol Rovers fans reading this article? What are your thoughts on the clubs recent promotion and ascendency in the past two years? Feel free to comment below and let me know your thoughts. Finally I want to say a huge thank you for reading and you can find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

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Bristol Rovers one step away

Admittedly, this is not the start to the season some Rovers fans were expecting, after playing poorly and being relegated on the final day of last season, many were expecting a triumphant return to the football league this season as either champions or by easily going through the end of season play-off’s.

Whilst this is a small minority their unrealistic expectations have led to an almost toxic atmosphere at the football club at the moment, something I was reminded of in the early stages of our latest home game against Wrexham on Tuesday night. Wrexham were unbeaten in their last 3 away games and started brightly against us, creating several chances and looking far more convincing in the opponent’s final third. At this point some of the fans started to voice their frustration with the team, with little encouragement coming from the Blackthorn end at this point.

From here thankfully things improved for Rovers as they edged their way into the game and took the lead with an Andy Monkhouse header from a corner in the 34th minute. Once we took the lead, Rovers fans showed themselves at their best as they began heartily singing and supporting the team from here until the final 10 minutes, when a edgy Rovers just managed to hold of a threatening Wrexham team. For the majority of the game Rovers fans showed themselves to be one of the loudest supports in the lower leagues, from League 1 downwards.

If Rovers fans could consistently match they hype surrounding their support, the team would have a hugely positive presence at every game cheering them on. Granted, recently this sounds like wishful thinking after early losses to part time teams such as Altrincham and Braintree. It’s not simply the losses but the poor manner in which we played those games, which have led a select view to voice their opinion that Darrell Clarke should be sacked. Whilst the games have not been great I personally can’t see any positives to sacking Darrell Clarke so early in the season, especially since he came into the worst possible situation before the final run-in last season.

Clarke has proved he can cut it at this level with Salisbury City, and deserves a full season at Rovers at the very least to prove his worth at the club during this transition period for Bristol Rovers. By far the biggest issue at the moment with Bristol Rovers seems to be emanating from the boardroom. The lack of investment in any other area apart from the new UWE stadium is worrying at the very least, with the recent news that Rovers are now suing Memorial stadium buyers Sainsbury’s shows all is not well with the stadium also.

It seems in my opinion that owner Nick Higgs has sacrificed financial investment to improve the results on the pitch, in favour of pouring money into this new stadium. Whilst the stadium is a brilliant idea and will secure a lot of money for the club in the future, the investment needed at the present moment seems to have affected the club. In calling for Higgs to invest more into the squad I’m not asking for him to sign Messi, Ronaldo or Bale I simply feel we need a slight investment to strengthen our already decent squad. Investment in players would also appease the fans and keep them on side for a time until the row with Sainsbury’s is resolved.

In conclusion, whilst I want the new stadium as much as anyone else, I will not be able to fully believe it until I see it with my own eyes. The potential is huge but so is the risk, something we can ill afford right now with our current position in the Vanarama Conference. It’s unlikely my hopes of squad investment in the near future will come to fruition, though I can still dream. Whatever happens with Bristol Rovers you’ll be able to find me on match day supporting the team from the Blackthorn end terraces, something that will hopefully drown out the doomongers amongst us who seemingly want Rovers and Darrell Clarke to go downhill. That would be a tragedy for Bristol’s finest sporting club, I admit I have no evidence on that and am writing from a totally biast standpoint yet everyone is entitled to their opinion.

What’s happening to Bristol Rovers?

A sentence I’ve uttered many a time since I started supporting Rovers. Yet for the first time I seriously ask myself this question as we face the very real possibility of dropping out of the Football League. What’s happening at Bristol Rovers?

Every season since we were relegated back into League 2 has started with not so quiet optimism and a bold prediction of a decent run this season.

Almost exclusively the players performances have not matched the lofty expectations of the fans, often leading to frustration at times. Whether this is the fault of the players not working hard enough or if this is simply the fans having far too high expectations is difficult to judge,yet something always appears slightly awry with Rovers since they’ve been in League 2.

One factor contributing to the current situation is surely the managerial merry-go round in the past few seasons, as we’ve hired and soon after jettisoned previous play off finalists in Paul Buckle, European and Scottish prem experience with Mark McGhee,old club favourite John Ward before the latest incumbent Darrell Clarke took the job a few weeks ago.

With all of these managers save from Buckle Rovers fans have seen renewed optimism as the new manager would come in and immediately there would be an upturn in fortunes, no doubt helping fuel the lofty expectations before every season.

Yet every new season see’s the same old Rovers as they struggle their way through the year until eventually the manager is sacked and someone else plugged in.

Another factor is the consistently small amount of money being set aside for transfers. Granted, Rovers are not struggling financially as our wage bill has always been near the top by League 2 standards. It does Appear frustrating for fans however as our only signings are loans and free agent players.

Whilst loan players are vital to a club like Rovers and can add depth to the squad it’s slightly frustrating personally to have one major signing in the past 2 seasons for an undisclosed fee.

The only major success for Rovers in the past few seasons has been our new UWE stadium being approved by the local council after a protracted battle with protestors. This is a major coup for the club as it will move it into the 21st century.

The stadium approval is not a complete bed of roses however as the protestors have forced a delay in the build which won’t start now until this summer.

Also if the unthinkable happens and Rovers are relegated to the Conference that will make it very hard to justify building a new 21,700 all seater stadium when attendances won’t get close to 7000 on average .

Whilst things may appear all doom and gloom at Rovers right now the team still has 4 games to save the season, plus our fate is still in our hands therefore it’s solely up to the team now. It’s in their hands, they just need to grasp it now.

For any further information on Bristol Rovers here’s a link to their website.

www.bristolrovers.co.uk