Throughout the season we’ll be introducing the BRFPA team of volunteers to you, and today we rather embarrassingly focus on myself!
Martin Bull is the BRFPA’s Webmaster & Newsletter aficionado, and chirps in with anything to do with words, research and history.
With no previous Rovers blood in the family Martin feels himself very fortunate that 28 years ago he consciously chose the best club in the world. Murderers often get shorter sentences though… and the food is probably better as well.
As a nine year old his Spurs supporting Dad took him to Eastville twice, but they were to see his Second Division boyhood favourites West Ham United (Martin always favoured the underdog). He vaguely remembers a sunny day on the vast concrete Muller Rd Terrace resembling the Rome Coliseum and a Land Rover driving around the greyhound track throwing out sweets for little kids. Either that or he’d had a very psychedelic dream!
As a teenager Martin watched Bath Rugby (entrance 70p, later REDUCED to 50p, for the best team in England) and went to quite a lot of away games which may go some way to explain his love of away adventures, fuelled by long periods of exile (including a few seasons in Ethiopia). His first book on Rovers was fittingly ‘Away The Gas’ and he writes an occasional blog entitled ‘football by footpath’, chronicling feral trips to away games via alternative routes, such as footpaths and canal towpaths.
As Martin got older and Bath Rugby got duller some spice was needed to jazz up his very plain diet. Along came Mark Drew, a Gashead in his Hall of Residence at Reading University, whose youthful enthusiasm made Rovers sound exciting. Martin was sucked into the Sodom and Gomorrah of Rovers life, and unlike Lot’s wife he’s never looked back.
Twerton Park was easy to fall in love with, and being able to walk to the ground from his childhood home in Weston was a rare pleasure that many football supporters never get to experience these days. Past the RUH, down Chelsea Road, over the Ha’penny Bridge, past the pubs and the Twerton Chippy, and up the little alleyway by Gateway (remember them?).
Surely even a Buddhist monk couldn’t have experienced a more evocative habitual pilgrimage to a cowshed of hopes?
Standing near G pillar on the Popular Side led many years later to his weekly online article for the Bristol Post being entitled ‘G is for Gas’. He started in April 2014 assuming that in the following season he would be chronicling yet another dreary struggle in League Two. As karma dished up a humiliating relegation it also invited a tilt at redemption, and the 55 un-edited articles from that unique season formed the basis of his fifth book, ‘Print That Season!’, the antidote to obedient season reviews, with none of the hindsight that most football writers rely on. ‘Double Darrell’ shamelessly mined the same format a season later.
He’s been involved in charities and publications on and off for almost 30 years and back in 2006 was the first to offer (free) tours around London’s most arty streets and wrote, photographed and published ‘Banksy Locations & Tours’ the first independent book about the Bristolian artist Banksy.
With seven books under his belt, sales of over 100,000 copies (mainly via his own publishing), and regular articles in this programme, Martin’s eyes lit up the first time someone ever called him a ‘wordsmith’. Up to then the word was usually just geek…