2019 Former Players Dinner with Rickie Lambert – Get yer Tickets NOW!

Oh, yes, it’s back!

The 3rd Annual Former Players Dinner will be dancing its way into town on the evening of Thursday 28th March 2019.  We are again supporting our club financially by holding it at the Memorial Stadium.

This is our whopping great event where around 32 former players / first team staff , and some current employees / Directors, join us for food, fun and mingling.

This years Special Guest is none other than former Rovers, Liverpool and England striker Sir Rickie Lambert!   Back of the net!

The price has been held as the same as last season, at £380 for a table of eight guests (up to two former players will join your table), or £50 per head (subject to availability).

There are only a limited number of tables available so please book your place as soon as possible, by emailing Mo Bell, the BRFPA Secretary at mo.bell@brfpa.org.uk

rickie-lambert-bristol
Rickie Lambert of course…

The evening includes:

  • Guests start arriving from 7pm, and are then seated at 8pm in the Poplar Insulation Hospitality Suite. 
  • A delicious three course meal and access to a late licensed bar
  • The attendance of up to 32 former players / first team staff from across the eras.
  • The presence of current and former Rovers staff, and BRFPA President & Rovers stalwart Billy Clark.
  • An uproarious after dinner performance from comedian Austin Knight
  • A raffle and auction of superb football memorabilia, mainly Rovers related.

Guests in the two previous years have included Jamie Cureton, Graham Day, Steve Elliott, Gerry Francis, Bobby Gould, Barry Hayles, David Hillier, Harold Jarman, Vaughan Jones, Phil Purnell, Paul Randall, Andy Reece, Martin Thomas, Andy Tillson, Geoff Twentyman, Josser Watling, and all the way from Spain, David Pritchard.

Updates on the guest list will be given via social media and on our dedicated page on this website HERE

Getting the New Year off to a Good Start?

By Keith Brookman & Stephen Byrne

Welcome to 2019, everyone, and to a big day in the football calendar.

But playing on 1st January appears to be a recent tradition with today’s game being only our 29th game on this date.

True, Rovers played their first game on this date way back in 1898 when they won 3-1 at Eastleigh in a Western League fixture.

On that occasion Rovers recorded a comfortable victory thanks to goals from George Green, Jack Jones and Jim Cottrell, in what amazingly remains, over a century later, the only time the club has won a fixture on this date by more than one goal.

There were just three more games played on this date before the club was elected to the Football League in 1920 and none of them were won. There was a 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace in 1910 and a 1-0 defeat by the same club in 1915 and sandwiched between those two matches was a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Cardiff City in 1914.

The first New Year’s Day fixture as a Football League club was an away game against Luton Town, in 1921, and ended with a 2-1 win in our favour. A crowd of 6,000 saw a little bit of history made that day as Luton defender Alf Tirrell became the first player to score for both sides in a League match featuring Rovers. Sid Leigh scored Rovers other goal that day.

There was only one more New Year’s Day match before the outbreak of the Second World War, and that was in 1938 when we lost 2-0 in a home game against Watford.

In 1966 we were beaten 4-3 at Brighton, the highest number of goals scored in a New Year’s Day game involving The Gas, while the only goalless draw on this date came against Barnsley, at Oakwell, in 1972.

In total we have played 28 New Year’s Day games, winning 11, drawing five and losing 12.  Of those 28 games, 13 have been played at home and 15 on our travels.

A few milestones have been reached by Rovers players on this day. For example, Ray Warren scored twice in a match for the only time in his career and his brace helped The Gas record a 3-2 home win against Notts County on this day in 1949.

Peter Aitken scored his first Gas goal in the 1-0 win against Luton Town, at Eastville, on New Year’s Day 1977, while in 1983 Les Bradd scored his one and only Gas goal in his only appearance for the club, a 3-1 defeat against Cardiff City at Ninian Park.

Peter Aitken - scored his first Rovers goal on New Year_s Day 1977 - no credit
Peter Aitken – scored his first Rovers goal on New Year’s Day 1977

And who can forget that famous 1-0 win at Ashton Gate, against our nearest and dearest back in 1987, recalled here by Stephen. I’m sure that many Gasheads who were there have their own stories to tell of that game, but they won’t be too dissimilar from his account.

 ‘There are many of us who will still list this match amongst the top three Rovers games we have ever witnessed.

‘Whilst City were going strongly in Division Three, Rovers dawdled agonisingly close to the relegation zone. Taking three friends to the 11.30 am kick off at Ashton Gate, I found myself apologising for the fact that The Gas were about to be trounced, fearing a four or five goal margin.

‘Oh ye of little faith! My memory tells me that, from the outset, the Robins pounded Rovers’ goal, hitting the woodwork and having at least one goal disallowed. After half an hour, incredibly, it remained goalless, although it was difficult to see how.

‘At this point, Rovers lost goalkeeper Tim Carter through injury and, in the days of just one substitute, midfielder David ‘Boris’ Mehew went in goal. Although Carter later returned, Rovers were on the end of a pummelling, but the elusive first goal would not come.

‘With three minutes remaining, just as even the most ardent Rovers supporter was beginning to believe an unlikely point could be won, young Rovers midfielder Gary Smart picked up the ball some thirty yards out and let fly with a speculative strike which looped just under the bar. Incredibly, before a crowd of 17,122, Rovers had snatched a hugely unbelievable victory from the jaws of a heavy defeat.’

Gary Smart - taken after he_s moved on from the Gas and was playing for Bath City - photo credit Neil Brookman
Gary Smart – taken after he’s moved on from the Gas and was playing for Bath City                    [photo credit Neil Brookman]
I don’t think I can top that one, but I can recall two New Year’s Day games in recent history for very different reasons.

In 2013 we beat Plymouth Argyle 2-1 at The Mem, with Joe Anyinsah and Matt Lund scoring for Rovers and Conor Hourihane netting for Argyle.

A crowd of 7,332 saw Rovers, who were in the bottom four of League Two at the time, pick up three valuable points in the fight to preserve their Football league status and what was John Ward’s first game in charge in his second spell as manager saw the last game in charge for Argyle boss Carl Fletcher.

Matt Lund on his way to scoring against Plymouth Argyle in 2013 credit JMP
Matt Lund on his way to scoring against Plymouth Argyle in 2013  [Photo Credit JMP]
Fletcher had been summoned to the Rovers boardroom after the match and was late arriving for his press conference. When he did, he broke down when asked the first question and revealed that he had just been sacked. Not sure that Argyle’s timing can be described as impeccable in that instance and it shows how cruel a game football can be.

Former AFC Bournemouth player Fletcher has since resurfaced at the club and, after spells as the club’s U-18 manager and, more recently as U-23 manager, he accepted a new position in November 2018, becoming the club’s Loan Player Manager.

One year ago, there was a crowd of 10,014 here at The Mem for another 2-1 win, this time against Portsmouth.

Pompey took a 64th minute lead when Oliver Hawkins gave the visitors the lead, but Rovers kept searching for an equaliser and that duly arrived on 85 minutes when Stuart Sinclair was on hand to pounce after goalkeeper Luke McGee could only parry a Billy Bodin shot straight to him.

That set up a grandstand finish and, with 90 minutes on the clock, Rovers were awarded a free kick some 25 yards from goal. Lee Brown touched the ball to Liam Sercombe, whose shot found the bottom corner of the net to secure a dramatic Gas win.

Bristol Rovers v Portsmouth 010118
Liam Sercombe celebrates his late, late winner against Portsmouth a year ago today              [Photo credit JMP]
The only Rovers player born on this date, is Micky Evans who scored four goals in 21 league games for us in 2000/01. He came into the world on this day in 1973.

In addition to Les Bradd, Adam McCall, Roy Carter, Steve Mildenhall, Tom Hitchcock and John-Joe O’Toole also made their Gas debuts on New Year’s Day.

Former Rovers players have also recorded personal milestones on this day. Alan Gow, then at Falkirk, scored a 26 minute hat trick against Dundee United in 2007, Dennis Bailey grabbed a hat trick in QPR’s 4-1 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford in 1992, while Paul Randall scored five for Yeovil Town against Heavitree United in 1987.

Let’s hope that we record another New Year’s Day win in our 29th game on this date when we take on Burton Albion at The Mem at the beginning of 2019.

Happy New Year, everyone!

A Festive Treat – The Full Monty

By Keith Brookman

The Christmas festivities continue today, which gives me an opportunity (an excuse to be honest) to look back in time to analyse the Christmas and Boxing Day matches we have played since our formation in 1883.

Yesterday we looked at the remarkable games played over this period in 1956/57 and 1957/58, but today it’s an overall view of our festive fixtures.

Assuming this afternoon’s away game at Walsall isn’t called off, we are hopeful that we can register festive win number 61!

The Early Years

In the early years following the club’s formation, there are records of matches played on Boxing Day, the first of those that I can find being the 3-2 win against Bradford on Avon in 1890.  However, Stephen Byrne tells me that we played Bristol St George in a Boxing Day match in 1885, but as the game was abandoned it was expunged from the records.

That was before Rovers entered a league competition and so their first competitive festive fixture appears to have been in the Bristol & District League on Boxing Day 1892 when we were beaten 3-1 by St George.

Rovers became members of the Western League in 1895 and in that inaugural season at that level they played a friendly match on Boxing Day. St George were again the opponents and they won again, this time by a 2-1 scoreline.

The first Christmas Day fixture I can find is the one played against Trowbridge Town in 1897, when we were 3-1 winners in what was known as the Western League Professional Section.

The first season of Southern League Football, in 1899/1900 saw Rovers take on Bristol City on the final Boxing Day of the nineteenth century and, sad to say, our red rivals were 1-0 winners on that occasion.

It seems as though the first ever Southern League Christmas Day fixture was a home game against Bradford Park Avenue in 1908 when Rovers were 2-1 winners at Eastville watched by a crowd of 10,000. To be honest, I’m not sure what they were doing in the Southern League and I’m pretty certain they won’t have enjoyed travelling down to Bristol in a Charabanc or whatever mode of transport was used in those far off pre motorway days!

Although they finished in 13th place that season, seven places and six points behind Rovers, Bradford PA, along with Tottenham Hotspur, were elected to the Football League for the 1908/09 campaign.

During the inter war years, Rovers played a friendly match against Bristol City on Christmas Day 1916 and won 2-0 in front of 2,000 fans. The sides met again 24 hours later as well and Rovers again won, this time 1-0 and again the attendance was logged as 2,000.

The sides met each other in Christmas Day friendly matches for the next two years and in their final Southern league season, 1919/20, Rovers played Christmas and Boxing Day games against Swansea Town, losing 2-1 in Wales on Christmas Day and drawing 3-3 at Eastville 24 hours later.

So, to summarise the festive fixtures played prior to our elevation to the Football League in 1920, totalled 12 matches on Christmas Day, winning seven, drawing one and losing four.

The biggest winning margin on 25th December was the 5-2 victory against Swindon Town in 1913 in a game watched by 12,000 at Eastville, although there was also a three goal winning margin in 1916 when Bristol City were beaten 3-0.

Heaviest Christmas Day defeat came in 1914 when we suffered a 3-1 home loss at the hands of Queens Park Rangers.

There was a total of 21 Boxing Day fixtures before 1920, of which ten were won, ten lost and there was one draw.

The 7-1 win against Merthyr Town in 1912 in which Jim Brogan score four of those goals, watched by 8,000 at Eastville, was the biggest winning Boxing Day margin while the 5-0 loss at Swindon Town the following year was the largest defeat.

Strange one, that, as we had beaten the Wiltshire Robins 5-2 just 24 hours earlier!

Rovers team photo from 1912-13
Sadly, I don’t have the photo legend for this Rovers team photo from 1912/13, so am unable to point out Jim Brogan, the man who scored four Boxing Day goals against Merthyr Tydfil.

Into the Football League

And so it was into the Football league in 1920, and the first festive fixture of the new era took place on Christmas Day of that year when Swansea Town were 2-1 winners at Eastville, though the sides drew 2-2 at The Vetch Field 48 hours later, on 27th December.

Our first Boxing Day fixture as a league club took place in 1921 when Brighton & Hove Albion also visited Eastville and left with a 2-1 win under their belts. It was the middle one of three festive fixtures, all lost, that year as we were beaten 4-2 by Brentford on 24th December and lost the return fixture against Brighton 3-1 on 27th December.

The surprising fact, for me when researching this article, was the number of times Rovers played three games in four days over the Christmas period and I guess it was the same for almost every club in the country.

Down the years Rovers have been involved in some high scoring festive games. On Boxing Day 1925, for example, we were 7-2 winners in a home game against Bournemouth when Jonah Wilcox netted four and the following year we won a Christmas Day fixture 5-1 against Southend United.

There were also a couple of heavy defeats in the 1920’s as Boxing Day 1928 saw us lose 5-2 at Crystal Palace and on Christmas Day 1929 we lost 6-2 against Fulham at Craven Cottage. We did beat them 4-1 at Eastville the next day, though!

Our first Christmas Day fixture of the next decade brought a Christmas Day 3-3 draw against Brighton & Hove Albion at Eastville and on the same date in 1937 we were 5-2 home winners against Walsall.

The Next War Intervenes…

In 1939, with the league season suspended because of the outbreak of War, we played a Christmas Day Regional League South West Division fixture against Swindon Town at Eastville and drew 3-3.

When league football resumed with the introduction of the unofficial Third Division (South) in 1945/46, we lost a Boxing Day 1945 match 4-2 over in Wales against Cardiff City in front of a crowd of 18,000.

In terms of goals, the remainder of the 1940’s was pretty unremarkable and that really only changed in the mid 1950’s.

On Christmas Day 1956 Rovers lost 7-2 at Bury yet beat the same opponents 6-1 at Eastville just 24 hours later. It was a similar story a year later when Rovers played on Christmas Day for the last time. Having lost 6-4 at Swansea Town, they turned the tables the following day at Eastville and won 3-0.

Since the 1957/58 campaign, Rovers have only played Boxing Day fixtures, as have most other clubs. The last Football League fixture to be played on Christmas day was in 1965 when Blackpool beat Blackburn Rovers 4-2 at Bloomfield Road.

The first festive fixture of the 1960’s saw Rovers lose 4-2 at Southampton, though no other Boxing Day during that decade saw as many goals scored in a single game involving The Gas.

It was a similar story in the 1970’s, the highlights, on scores alone, being the 4-2 home win against Plymouth Argyle in 1973 and the 4-1 home victory against Swansea (by now City instead of Town) in 1979.

Worst Boxing Day result of the 1980’s was the 4-0 defeat at Wigan in 1985, which came after a 3-0 away win at Brentford in 1984.  There was also a 3-1 win against Fulham in 1987, our first festive fixture at Twerton Park.

The Modern Era

In the 1990’s we lost a Boxing Day fixture 4-1 at Portsmouth in 1992, when Guy Whittingham scored all four of the home side’s goals. There were four single goal wins for us during that decade, the last of which was a 1-0 win against Millwall at The Mem in 1999 which attracted a crowd of 10,077.

In 2001, Nathan Ellington’s hat trick helped us beat Leyton Orient 5-3 at The Mem, one of only three Boxing Day wins in the ‘noughties’.  The 2007 1-1 draw against Luton Town at The Mem probably deserves a mention, if only for the fact that the visitors had three men sent off and still hung on to claim a point, much to the dismay of the Rovers supporters in the 7,556 crowd.

In 2014 we were again, albeit for one season only, a non league club. However, our Boxing Day fixture was against Torquay United, the team we had accompanied from League Two to The Conference and we came out on top, winning 2-1 at Plainmoor.

There was a 4-1 win in 2016, and another hat trick, as Billy Bodin scored three to help us see off Coventry. Of the Rovers side in action that day, only four of the starting lineup, Lockyer, Leadbitter, Lines and Ollie Clarke are still with us. One more, substitute James Clarke is also still at The Mem.

bodin - - Photo Credit Neil Brookman
Billy Bodin is all smiles as he collects the match ball following his Boxing Day 2016 hat trick against Coventry City  [Photo Credit Neil Brookman]
Last year saw a goalless draw against Walsall at the Banks’s Stadium and we are there again this year. Hopefully a better result and a better home journey for the players as the team coach broke down just outside the stadium and the homeward journey was completed in minibuses and taxis!

Our overall record for Christmas Day is – Played 36, won 15, Drawn 7, Lost 14

While the Boxing Day record is – Played 104, Won 45, Drawn 20, Lost 39

This makes the overall festive fixture record – Played 140, Won 60, Drawn 27, Lost 53

Boxing Day’s match against Walsall will, therefore, be our 105th game on this date and our 141st festive fixture.

These figures include ALL games played on the respective dates, whether they be league matches of friendly fixtures and include all the matches I have been able to trace played on Christmas/Boxing Day.

Any errors are my own!

 

Thanks to Stephen Byrne and Mike Jay, whose work I have referred to when compiling this article.