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.