By Keith Brookman
With the 2019/20 season now complete and preparations finally in place for the beginning of the 2020/21 campaign, did you spot that former Gas players featured in all but one play off final and that there was even a Gas appearance in the FA Cup Final?!
The final match in the 2019/20 season was the Championship play off final between Fulham and Brentford, a West London derby in which Fulham came out on top as they won 2-1.
The former Gas player involved in this game was goalkeeper Luke Daniels who was on the Brentford bench where, apart from the odd cup game or three, he spent much of the season.
Daniels appeared in nine league games for Rovers between January and May 2011 when on loan from West Bromwich Albion. He had previously been on loan at five other clubs before arriving in BS7 and spent the first half of the 2011/12 season on loan at Southend before a permanent move to Scunthorpe United in January 2015.
He signed for Brentford in May 2017 after appearing in 101 league games for Scunthorpe and has, to date appeared in 13 league games for them. At least he will probably have a more luxurious bench to sit on next season when the club move from Griffin Park to their new home just down the road.
The League One play off final, between Wycombe Wanderers and Oxford United, saw former Gas players line up in direct opposition.
Wycombe skipper Joe Jacobson was the hero of the hour, scoring the penalty that gave his side a 2-1 victory and their first ever foray into the Championship.
At least he got to play in this final; when Rovers reached the JPT Final in 2007 he was unable to play because he had played in an earlier round for Accrington Stanley and by the time the Wembley play off final came around a few weeks later his loan spell had expired and he wasn’t able to play in that one either.
Cardiff born Joe made one league appearance for his hometown club and was then loaned to Accrington Stanley and Rovers in the 2006/07 season. He signed a permanent deal with the Gas in the summer of 2007 and remained in BS7 for two years. By the time he joined Oldham Athletic, in July 2009 he had scored once in 73 league games for Rovers.
From Oldham it was back to Accrington, initially on loan and then on to Shrewsbury Town in June 2011. He joined Wycombe in July 2014 and to date has appeared in 227 league games for them.
Matty Taylor, who left Rovers for our near neighbours City in January 2017, scored 61 goals in 118 league games for the Gas and it’s fair to say that his move across town wasn’t terribly well received by Gasheads.
44 of his 67 league games at Ashton Gate were from the bench and in August last year he was loaned to his hometown club Oxford United who moved quickly to sign him up following their play off final defeat against the Chairboys.
There were also former Rovers players in direct opposition in the League Two play off final between Northampton Town and Exeter City, which the Cobblers won 4-0, though all of them began the game on their side’s respective benches.
Northampton’s Chris Lines and Joe Martin stayed on the touchline, though Andy Williams did make it off the bench in the 88th minute and scored his side’s fourth goal with his first touch a minute later.
‘Willo’ joined Rovers from Hereford United in July 2007 and made a goalscoring debut in the first game of the 2007/08 season, against Port Vale at Vale Park. During his three years at the Memorial Stadium he was loaned back to Hereford and then made a permanent move to Yeovil Town in August 2010.
From Huish Park he moved to Swindon Town, in June 2012, and was loaned back to Yeovil for a short spell in August 2013. That preceded a permanent move to Doncaster Rovers in June 2015, and he signed for Northampton in May 2018.
He was released by the Cobblers following the play off final and not long afterwards he signed a deal with Cheltenham Town.
Joe Martin, son of West Ham legend Alvin, and brother of Hammers goalkeeper David, joined Rovers on loan from Stevenage in August 2018, having previously appeared for Blackpool, Gillingham and Millwall.
He scored once in 10 league games for Rovers before returning to his parent club. He joined Northampton prior to the start of last season and appeared in 17 league games during the course of the campaign.
Chris Lines, the third former Rovers player on Northampton’s books, should need no introduction to Rovers supporters.
This was the fifth promotion of his career, three of them with Rovers and one each with Sheffield Wednesday and, now, the Cobblers..
His first spell with Rovers came to an end in August 2011 when he joined Sheffield Wednesday. Following a loan move to MK Dons in January 2013 he joined Port Vale in July 2013.
There was a loan move back to Rovers in March 2015 and he helped the club back into the Football League, scoring one of the penalties in the Conference Final shootout against Grimsby Town.
Signed a permanent deal with Rovers in June 2015 and helped the club to a second successive promotion a year later. Remained at the Memorial Stadium until last summer, when he moved to Sixfields.
His career has taken him to well over 500 games in all competitions and he looks set to add a few more before he hangs up his boots.
We shouldn’t, of course, forget the Northampton manager, for Keith Curle is also a former Rovers player.
Keith began his career at Rovers and went on to play for Torquay United, Bristol City, Reading, Wimbledon, Manchester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield United, Barnsley and Mansfield Town. He also won four England ‘B’ caps and three full caps.
His managerial career has taken in Mansfield Town, Chester City, Torquay United, Notts County, Carlisle United and Northampton Town.
Now Chris Lines’ manager, he was also the manager of the opposition (Chester) when Lines made his Rovers league debut, against Chester, back in January 2006.
On the Exeter City bench at Wembley was former Rovers central defender, and skipper, Tom Parkes and he was sent on as a 51st minute substitute.
Parkes began his career with Leicester City and was loaned out to Burton Albion and Yeovil Town before his arrival at the Memorial Stadium, also on loan, in January 2012.
Signed a permanent deal with the club in August that same year and contributed to the successive promotions achieved by the club in 2015 and 2016.
Joined Leyton Orient in June 2016 and moved to Carlisle United a year later before signing for Exeter in July 2019.
Sam Slocombe’s Wembley visit ended in disappointment as his Notts County side were beaten 3-1 by Harrogate Town who become the newest club in the English Football League.
Sam joined the already relegated County in the summer of last year and went on to appear in 29 National League games for them during the regular season.
Started out at Scunthorpe United and made over 100 league appearances for them before a move to Oxford United in June 2015. One year later he signed for Blackpool and arrived at Rovers in July 2017.
Appeared in 25 league games during his two years with the club and also made five cup appearances for Lincoln City during a loan spell at Sincil Bank before departing for Meadow Lane.
Weymouth have been promoted back to the National League after winning their National League South play off final against Dartford, 3-0 in a penalty shootout following a goalless draw.
In midfield for Weymouth was Josh Wakefield who, although he never made a league appearance for Rovers, was once on the club’s books.
Began his career with Bournemouth, for whom he made three appearances, all from the bench. Spent time on loan with Dagenham & Redbridge, Welling United and Torquay United before arriving at Rovers in a one month loan deal in February 2015.
Followed that up with a loan spell at Yeovil Town. Joined Aldershot in August 2016 and Poole Town in January 2017 before signing for Weymouth in July 2017.
Hard as I tried, I couldn’t track down any former Rovers players involved in the National League North play off final in which Altrincham beat Boston United 1-0.
However, there was one more showpiece game in which another former Rovers player spent an afternoon bench warming.
Goalkeeper Matt Macey was an unused Arsenal substitute in the FA Cup final and watched his side beat Chelsea 2-1, so he now has an FA Cup winners medal to go with the youth medals he won with Rovers!
He joined Arsenal, from Rovers youth ranks, in October 2013 and although he has made two cup appearances for the Gunners he has still to make his Premier League debut.
Has enjoyed loan spells with three EFL clubs, namely Accrington Stanley, Luton Town and Plymouth Argyle and has appeared in 49 league games to date.