Due to COVID-19 restrictions we were limited in the numbers we were allowed to entertain but that did not detract from the occasion; in fact it meant that the players (who after all are the reason the BRFPA was set up over four years ago!) got the full amount of time to be together again. This usually annual event invites former players to relive old times and to catch up with what is currently happening in their lives.
As usual the Kendleshire Golf Club proved to be excellent hosts and we were honoured to welcome the following former Gas players back to the green grass of Bristol (well, South Gloucs…): Andy Tillson, Paul Hardyman, Paul Tovey, Billy Clark, Andy Sandell, Pete Aitken, Geoff Twentyman, Bob Bloomer, David Mehew, Danny Coles, Craig Hinton, Andy Rammell, Martin Paul and Tom Stanton. We were especially glad to welcome Andy Sandell to his first BRFPA event!
We witnessed another first as well, with several former Bristol City players joining us, resulting in Tommy Doherty, Joe Burnell and Rob Edwards forming a team led by ex Rovers and City defender Danny Coles.
And last but certainly not least, we were honoured to have with us the family of former Rovers player Graham Day who sadly passed away in February of this year. Graham’s brother Terry, one of his sons Matthew, and his nephew Nick Golding were all able to join us as a fitting memorial to Graham. As well as being a very popular player Graham was a great friend and supporter of our Association and we really miss him entertaining the fans (and us) at our events!
Despite us being unable to invite fans and sponsors this time the day was a great success and the weather held up.
For the record Martin Paul and his team (which included Andy Stewart, a BRFC YTS ‘Class of 1991-93’ alongside Birdy) were the winners of the golf so congratulations went to them but the real congratulations have to be reserved for BRFPA Committee Members Mo Bell and Simon Hedges for their hard work in making the event run so seamlessly.
All being well we can get back to holding a ‘full-blown’ event next year with everyone who took part this time around expressing a desire to return in 2022, when hopefully the world will be a rather safer and healthier place.
All of us at the BRFPA were sad to hear that our friend Graham Day passed away on the 8th of February, aged 67.
Graham was a genuinely likeable and humble man who always talked more about what he considered his rudimental football skills than the fact that he actually made an excellent career out of it, and played with or against many of the true world greats of the game.
After starting in the Bristol Senior League at Hanham Athletic and Bristol St George Graham became a Pirate in 1973 and made his debut in March 1975. Local lad Graham was often the steely yin to Stuart Taylor’s stately yang, making 148 senior appearances for us and enjoying three summers (1975, 77 & 78) in the USA whilst still a Pirate, playing around 20 matches each time with the newly formed Portland Timbers. No summer rest for Graham!
Gray was yet another Rovers defender who scored a solitary Gas goal, although in a strange way his lack of opportunity up top was a testament to his mobility, as rather like Steve Yates, he was the centre-back who was trusted to guard the half way line whilst his partner, usually the legendary Taylor, was sent up at set pieces.
His sole strike came in February 1977 against Fulham (the same club he had made his debut against two years previously), and he fully admitted that it flew in off his ear. Ouch!
After the 1979 summer season in America Graham signed for Bath City in September 1979, making 19 appearances before returning back across the Atlantic until 1981.
Compared to these two constants in his life the rest of his career was peripatetic though, wandering to Nailsworth and joining Forest Green Rovers for their famous 1981/82 season, winning the Hellenic League whilst letting in only 20 goals, and holding aloft the FA Vase at Wembley, defeating the brilliantly named Rainworth Miners Welfare 3-0.
Then he reunited yet again with Don Megson when he signing for AFC Bournemouth on 24th March 1983, the exact same day as George Best. Graham sadly only played in the Hampshire Cup Final, and even George made only five appearances before his retirement, although he did manage to more than double the home gate on his debut from 4,258 to 9,121.
Mr. Day returned to Twerton Park for the 1983-84 season under Bobby Jones, only to be injured in the opening game. This set the tone for the season and in the final league match against Barnet he suffered a broken leg which sidelined him for the whole of the next campaign. He wouldn’t make another first team appearance for the Romans though, ending with 53 appearances and a single goal overall.
After football Graham worked in Kingswood as a financial adviser for 14 years and later became a publican, running ‘The Globe’ and ‘The Rising Sun’ in Frampton Cotterell and, from 2006, the famous Kingswood pub ‘The Old FlowerPot Inn’. His sons followed him into local non-league football, with Ryan at clubs such as Forest Green and Longwell Green Sports, and Matthew at Oldland Abbotonians.
At the BRFPA Golf Day in June 2018, Graham, with typical Gray understatement, came over for the evening wind down and after a while produced a shabby plastic bag from under the table and asked if we might want some of his old memorabilia. It wasn’t much he said…
But from that bag came a solid gold winner’s medal from the 1974/75 Gloucestershire Football Association Senior Challenge Cup, and a solid silver runners up medal from the following season.
If any readers don’t know the history of the ‘Gloucestershire Cup’, whilst it started as a proper cup competition, it then morphed into a straight up annual final between Rovers and City, usually pre season, or occasionally post. They were big games back in the day, with large crowds and strong squads, and were certainly worthy of gold and silver craftsmanship.
But furthermore, those large hands then pulled out a curious bright orange football top in a cramped and tired frame. It had a large LA Aztecs logo on it (the Americans never did restrained…) and slowly he explained where it had come from. Mouths dropped and to be honest it took us a week or so before we realised what we actually held in our hands.
Graham had spent three summers ‘on loan’ in the USA with the Portland Timbers, and joined them permanently in 1979, staying until 1981. From 1978 they were managed by Don Megson, his ex-Rovers boss, and whilst in America he played with, or against, a few little players you might have heard of, like, err, Pele, Gerd Muller, Franz Beckenbauer, George Best and Carlos Alberto.
After the 1979 North American Soccer League (NASL) season had finished, the LA Aztecs (described as ‘The New York Cosmos of the east coast’; which were incidentally the other club Graham guested for on a tour), organised an Autumn exhibition tour of Europe, primarily to milk their star player, Johan Cruyff, who’d finished the regular season as the League’s Most Valuable Player (MVP).
As the tour was at a time when many of their foreign players had already gone off to play elsewhere, the Aztecs found themselves needing to bolster their thin squad. They negotiated special deals to temporarily bring in players both from European teams and fellow NASL teams, such as Clyde Best and Graham from the Timbers.
Graham was earning around £400 a week out there (very decent money) but Cruyff was on $700,000 a year!
Graham joined them at their first stop, Paris, where on 18th September they beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1. They then played six games in Cruyff’s native Holland before moving over to England to play, first, Birmingham City on 15th October (1-1) and then Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday 17th October 1979. 10,575 supporters turned up to see the Blues win 2-0.
The shirt was the one that Cruyff wore that night, and it was his final ever appearance for the Aztecs and also his last ever game on English soil.
And Graham was the one who backed him up; the steely yin to the great man’s masterly yang, and was also the number 15 to Cruyff’s famous number 14.
Graham will be sorely missed by friends, fans and family, and we wish he was still with us.
Graham Day R.I.P. (22 November 1953 – 8 February 2021)
What is it exactly that stirs football enthusiasts to follow the game in so many different ways? How can it be that supporters see the same match but experience such a varying range of responses? Why do some watch the game for fun, others become engrossed in tactics, and others hide away in trivia?
In an exciting and enthralling match on Saturday week, Rovers gave a very good impression in running Premier League side Sheffield United close, losing an FA Cup tie 3-2 behind closed doors.
Our club has a reasonable track record in recent years against The Blades. Indeed, the only time I have seen a Rovers player score a League hat trick was against the very same United in the 1970s; I was right behind the goal at the Muller Road End at Eastville as, with two minutes remaining, Wayne Powell rose to head home from close range a curling right wing cross and seal a 3-1 victory.
Other stattos gleaned further details via this Cup clash. Two former RB Leipzig players were in the opposition side, in Ethan Ampadu and Oli Burke, and the former is one of only 41 players who made their Football League bow before their 16th birthday, the most recent being Exeter City’s Ben Chisene against Cambridge United in January 2020. This exclusive list, maybe against the odds, includes two players in blue and white quarters (Ronnie Dix and Scott Sinclair).
But the nugget of glistening trivia I gleaned from this FA Cup encounter was to do with twins. You see, Ben Osborn, who featured for Sheffield United, has twin sisters, Bethan and Holly; but why on earth would that be of any interest to anyone?
Well, because there is a long tradition amongst all clubs of celebrating those from all walks of life and those from so many backgrounds, and believe it or not, twins do play a role in Rovers’ long and complex history.
Not one but three separate pairs of twins have played alongside each other against Rovers in Football League matches. George (died 2015) and John Fisher (died 2013) were born on 19th June 1925 and both played in the two Millwall games against Rovers in 1948/49. 25th September 1956 marks the birthday of Paul (died 2016) and Ron Futcher, who played together for Luton Town against Rovers on six occasions between 1975 and 1978. And finally, identical twins Ian and Roger Morgan were born on 14th November 1946 and played three times together for QPR against Rovers between 1964 and 1967.
In addition, the recent League Cup tie at Craven Cottage, in which Ellis Harrison’s goal saw Rovers defeat Fulham 1-0, featured Fulham’s 17 year old twins Ryan, who came on as substitute, and Steven, who played from the start.
Twins Alan Reeves (Chester) and David Reeves (Carlisle United and Bolton Wanderers) never played alongside each other but both scored Football League goals against Rovers, and Phil Turnbull, who played for Gateshead against Rovers in December 2014, is a twin of Stephen Turnbull, formerly of Hartlepool United.
But are any Rovers players twins?
Well, yes, they are. Twins Gary and Craig Clarke, born in Boston, Lincolnshire in November 1960, were both on Rovers’ books, although only Gary played for the first team. Ray White, who played three times in goal for Rovers in 1968/69, has a twin brother Peter. Frankie Prince, virtually an ever present through the 1970s with Rovers, has a twin sister Ellen, and in the final season before World War One, Joe Caddick (1884-1956) scored seven goals in 27 games with Rovers; whilst his twin sister Mary did not feature…
Billy Wilson (1910-98), whose twin sister was Winifred Irene Wilson (1910-2002) played in six League games for Rovers between 1934 and 1936. Stan Green (1928-2006) played in just one game, against Torquay United in April 1952, and had a twin sister Elizabeth.
There are more. Phil Lythgoe, who played in six games on loan at Rovers in the autumn of 1978, and his twin brother Stuart were the sons of former Bristol City player Derrick Lythgoe and his wife Brenda Green. Meanwhile Keith Williams, who scored freely for Rovers before his career was ended by the infamous life ban from football in 1963, and his twin sister Margaret were born on the Wirral in 1937 to John Williams and his wife Mary Owens.
Last season Rovers fielded Rollin Menayese who was born in Cwmbran in December 1997 with his twin brother Elvis; whilst on Rovers’ books this season is James Daly, who was born with his twin brother Joel in January 2000.
Several other Rovers players had siblings who were twins. Goalkeeper Bert Densley (1903-82|) was the fifth of six children, with twins as older siblings; Errington Kelly’s younger twin brothers, Tony and Nyerere, were both on Bristol City’s books; Bill Roost had twins amongst his older brothers and sisters, being the tenth of eleven children to Oliver Roost (1881-1955) and his wife Emily Lewis (1889-1956); goalkeeper Jack Weare (1912-94), who died in Zimbabwe, was the eldest of six children including a set of twins
Back in 1892/93, Philip Lucas played 11 times for Rovers – his sisters Lilian and Violet were twins; John Cook, who played for Rovers shortly after World War Two, had twin sisters, one of whom, Hazel, married in 1944 Cliff Baker (1924-2010), who played as an inside forward in five games for Rovers in 1947/48.
Corporal Henry Preedy and his Japanese born wife Helen Lyne (1867-1941) had nine children, including a set of twins, and their sixth child Charlie Preedy (1900-78), who was born in India, played for Arsenal in the FA Cup Final and played in goal for Rovers in the Football League.
Several Rovers players have fathered twins. Ian Holloway has daughters Chloë and Eva; Tony Ford has Darren and Louise; Harry Bidwell (1879-1924), who only played in one game for Rovers, married Mary Taylor in 1902 and their twin daughters Florence and Dorothy were born in 1907; Jack Rumney (1898-1969) and his wife Laura Hall had twins Florence and John in 1926; Bob Scorer (1898-1971) married Elizabeth Attwood in 1920 and they had twins, Evelyn and Robert; and in recent years, popular players Jeff Hughes, Giuliano Grazioli and goalkeeper Mike Green have all fathered twins. Devon White, who in 1990 scored the first goal Rovers ever scored at Wembley, has six children, including twin boys.
Last Saturday week, Rovers gave a first game to goalkeeper Joe Day, whose excellent performance masked a sixth minute own goal (he’s not the only one – Johnny Hills, Sonny Parker and Bob Harris all conceded own goals on their Rovers début).
In February 2019, Joe’s wife Lizzie went into labour as he was due to play for Newport County against Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough side in the FA Cup. Whilst Joe helped County reach the fifth round for the first time in over 70 years, Lizzie was giving birth to twin girls, Sophia and Emelia, and as his team mates celebrated Joe was seen sprinting off the pitch, heading for the Royal Gwent Hospital.
Twins? That’s nothing. When Rovers met York City in the FA Cup in November 2013 the visitors fielded Sander Puri, an Estonian who furthered his career in Greece, Poland, Hungary and Finland. Puri, one of only two Estonians to appear against Rovers in any football match, was to win 78 caps for his country. He is also one of triplets; his brother Eino Puri won five caps for Estonia at football and their sister Kadri Puri is an accomplished volleyball player.