All of us associated with the Bristol Rovers Former Players Association are sad to learn of the passing of former Rovers defender Joe Davis, at the age of 80.
Joseph, who attended Staple Hill School and played for Gloucestershire Boys and Soundwell as a youngster, had a trial with Chelsea before signing for Rovers in 1956 and later played for Swansea Town [now known as Swansea City] before taking on coaching roles with Rovers.
Born in Bristol on 24th August 1938, Joe went on to score four goals in 211 league games for Rovers.
A central defender/full back, he made his first team debut on 25th February 1961 in a 4-1 home win against Luton Town, watched by a crowd of 13,102.
When on trial at Chelsea he boarded with Roy Bentley but decided that London wasn’t for him and returned to Bristol, spending the majority of his playing career with Rovers.
His National Service was spent at Devizes with Pay Corps, for whom he played in the Services Cup Final, which was lost 1-0 to the REME (The Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers).
He was Rovers’ Player of the Year in 1964/65, and became the first substitute used by the club in League football, when he replaced Ray Mabbutt in the ninth league game of the 1965/66 campaign. That match was a 3-0 win against Walsall at Eastville on 2nd October 1965, watched by a crowd of 9,357.
A natural right footer, he worked on improving his ability with his left foot and scored all four of his Rovers goals with that foot and all were from the penalty spot!
He left Rovers in March 1967 and signed for Swansea Town but made just 38 league appearances for them as an Achilles problem disrupted his progress at the Vetch Field.
On his retirement from the game Joe became a newsagent and then was employed by the Bristol Evening Post for 30 years, working from 1973 as field sales manager. He was also a committee member of Rovers’ Ex-Players’ Club.
Joe also returned to Rovers and, at different times up until 1978, was a scout, youth coach, A team coach and assistant chief scout. Many players who came through the ranks at the club, such as Gary Penrice, Ian Holloway, Steve White and Paul Randall, received a helping hand from Joe as their careers progressed from youth team to first team football.
Joe often played alongside his cousin, Bobby Jones, for Rovers and always spoke fondly of his time with the club.
I was fortunate to meet Joe on many occasions whilst I was employed by Rovers and he loved to get along to as many home games as possible and was always grateful to the club for making sure he had a ticket for those games.
A modest and kind man, he was good enough to let me borrow some of the photos he had from his time as a Rovers player, a couple of which have been reproduced here.
Joe will be missed by many and the thoughts of everyone go out to Joe’s family and friends at this sad time.
Joe Davis (left) and Graham Day (right) receiving a warm entrance at the 1st BRFPA Former Players Dinner in April 2017 [Photo by Martin Bull]
How sad it is to be reporting the news of Kevin Austin’s death, from pancreatic cancer on Friday 23rd November, at the age of 45.
The Hackney born defender was with Rovers for two years, from the summer of 2002 until June 2004 during a turbulent time for this football club.
His early career saw him play for Leyton Wingate and Saffron Walden Town before he signed a pro contract with Leyton Orient in August 1993. Three years later, after three goals in 109 appearances he was on his way to Sincil Bank and Lincoln City for whom he was to score twice in 129 league games.
His three years with The Imps was followed by spells with Barnsley, where he suffered an Achilles tendon injury that kept him out of action for ten months, Brentford and Cambridge United before he pitched up at BS7 in June 2002.
In June of that year he began training with Rovers and said that he arrived at Rovers thanks to a phone call from assistant manager John Still; ‘John knew of me when I was in non league with Saffron Walden Town and when I was at Lincoln he was there as assistant manager.
‘I was at home when John rang and told me to come down. I had a fair idea of what the club was about, so it was nice to be wanted.
‘The last couple of years have been an absolute nightmare for me trying to get fit but now I can hopefully get a pre-season under my belt and kick on from here.
‘I have played about half of my games at left back, but recently I have played centre back but I don’t really mind which of the two positions I play.’
It took a while for Kevin to make his Rovers debut after he picked up a toe injury in training and although he managed to complete the first half of a pre season game against Clevedon Town his progress was hampered due to tendonitis.
When I interviewed him before our first game of the 2002/03 campaign, he said; ‘It’s a new start for me and one that I have a good feeling about. The management team [Ray Graydon and John Still] are very positive here and this is a big club with a lot of potential.
‘When I joined I never thought that I would be able to walk straight into the team. I’ve got to work hard, I know, but although I’ve been injured for much of pre season and missed a lot of training, I’ve still been made to feel that I’m very much a part of the squad.’
His Rovers debut finally arrived on 28th September 2002, against Kidderminster Harriers at The Mem, when he went on as a 72nd minute substitute for Trevor Challis and he went on to appear in 56 league games for The Gas before his departure, to Swansea City, in June 2004 where he helped them win promotion from League Two in their final season at the Vetch Field in 2004/05.
He was also part of the squad that lifted the League One title under Roberto Martinez in 2007/08, as well as the 2006 Football League Trophy.
He made 150 appearances, in all competitions, during his four year spell with the Swans, and was also capped by Trinidad & Tobago.
After Swansea Kevin played for Chesterfield, Darlington and Boston United and when he retired from playing he went into coaching, which included time spent in Scunthorpe United’s Academy.
A popular player with his peers and supporters alike whilst he was with us, not only was Kevin a very good footballer he was, quite simply, a very nice guy.
You only have to read the tributes to him, from his former clubs and team mates, to appreciate that, and, like so many others mourning his passing, we offer our condolences to his family and friends at this very sad time.