The Great Derby Day Robbery
Our second visit from a former player this season was local lad Gary Smart, who was warmly welcomed at the Mem for the Fleetwood Town match.
Unlike many young lads Gary didn’t join Rovers until he was almost 22 years old and burst into the team in the autumn of 1986. His most famous hour came a few minutes from time in the Bristol Derby on New Years Day 1987.
Rovers had won only three times in the previous 14 games and City relentlessly battered them, with David ‘Boris’ Mehew even having to go in goal for 15 minutes whilst Timmy Carter (R.I.P.) got his vision back after a kick in the head. The tide of red failed to breech the defences though and 17,000 bleary eyed, half sober football fans (early kick off!) could hardly believe their eyes when Gary smashed in a 25 yard screamer to pull off the greatest theft since the Great Train Robbery in 1963. City missed the play-offs by just one point that season and Rovers avoided relegation by just six, so that goal made a big difference!
After 13 starts, 10 sub appearances and 4 goals Gary joined Cheltenham Town in August 1987 and a season later was back at Twerton Park, this time in the Black & White stripes of our old friends at Bath City.
Gary has got to be one of very few players outside of Barcelona to score 25 goals in a season yet still be only his clubs’ third highest goalscorer! In the maelstrom of Rovers’ own stellar 1989/90 season, where we swaggered to the Third Division Championship & reached Wembley for the first time ever, Gasheads can be forgiven for not realising that Bath City themselves gained promotion back to the Conference, fuelled by a staggering 51 goals from ex-Pirate legend Paul ‘Punky’ Randall, 36 from John Freegard, and Gary’s paltry 25 (joke!).
Gary spent eight years with The Romans making nearly 300 appearances and scoring 71 goals. Following his departure from City he had spells with Forest Green Rovers, Gloucester City and Newport County before returning to the club as assistant player manager to Alan Pridham in June 2001. When Pridham was sacked in November 2003 he was briefly caretaker manager but left when Gary Owers was appointed to the Roman hot seat.
Gary is still a massive Gashead and is often found on the Thatcher’s Terrace and at away matches willing our latest crop of players on: ask him about THAT goal and watch his eyes light up!