My recent article READ IT HERE >>>on three former Rovers trainees provoked a reaction from some of those mentioned
The infamous 1997 Youth Team photo, complete with great fashion sense! [Photo Credit Alan Marshall]
Luke Basford, for example, got in touch to explain that he hadn’t been released by Rovers but that he turned down the offer of a new deal and told me that; ‘After 20 games what I was offered wasn’t, in my opinion, enough. I had a great time in Bristol and wanted to stay, but felt I couldn’t.’
I have sent Luke some photos of his time with us and am pleased to report that he is the latest former player to become a member of the Bristol Rovers Former Players Association.
The article was liked by Bobby Zamora on his Twitter account, whilst a few days after publication Luke Williams left Bristol City to become the new assistant manager of MK Dons so we’ll see him on the touchline at Stadium MK on New Year’s Day.
There was a little bit of banter on Twitter regarding Ray Johnston. There were some not entirely complimentary remarks from his current club Hallen AFC, and from one of his former clubs, Odd Down FC, but I’m sure the former Gas goalie will respond!
There were also Facebook comments from Tony Court and James French who featured in one of the team photos in the article, mostly about their fashion sense from back then.
It’s always good to hear from those with Rovers connections and who have spent time with the Gas. Any player who has appeared in a first team game qualifies to become a full member of the Former Players Association, whilst those who didn’t will be made welcome as associate members. First Team staff are also given full membership.
We would be delighted to hear from any first team staff or any former players whether they played first team, reserve team or youth team football for the club, so please get in touch.
Pretty much everyone dreams of scoring the winning goal in the World Cup Final.
Or, at least, we do as kids and then pretend through our adult years that we are not actually still thinking it might be possible one day.
You know the story: you get on the end of a cross, the ball shudders against the back of the net, the partisan crowd goes wild, the trophy is lifted.
Martin Peters came so much closer to realising this dream than most of us.
After seventy seven minutes of the World Cup Final at a sunny Wembley on that glorious afternoon back in the summer of 1966, England, being held 1-1 by the Germans, won a right wing corner.
Scampering across to take it was Alan Ball, the pocket dynamo who would end his footballing career in the blue and white quarters of Bristol Rovers; ‘Ball, the effervescent, the irresistible [who was] unbelievably everywhere, like a wasp’, as The Times reported, delivered the ball and Geoff Hurst, whose earlier goal had equalised for England, struck in a shot which looped crazily off the leg of Franz Beckenbauer and fell to Martin Peters, eight yards out, who crashed the ball home.
All England had to do was to defend successfully for 13 minutes. That did not happen.
Some poor defending allowed West Germany in for a late equaliser to take the game into extra time. Once there, a combination of Hurst’s lethal shooting, the absence of VAR and the vocal support of a sellout crowd enabled England to seal a 4-2 victory and win the World Cup for the only time in the nation’s history. Peters features in the statue of Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy that afternoon.
Martin Peters’ long footballing career has seen him accorded the status of ‘trailblazer’ in the press, following his death on 21st December at the age of 76. His time with West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur certainly enabled him to live out many years at the top of his game and he scored 20 goals as an attacking midfielder in 67 appearances for England.
He appeared in 302 league games for the Hammers, scoring 81 goals before a move to Spurs in March 1970 when a fee of £150,000 changed hands and Jimmy Greaves travelled in the opposite direction. There were another 46 goals in 189 league games at White Hart Lane.
Five years later, at the age of 31, Peters signed for Norwich City and went on to appear in more league games at Carrow Road than he did at Spurs. His record for the Canaries was 44 goals in 206 league games and there are many Norwich City supporters who still regard him as their best ever player.
In July 1980 he moved to Bramall Lane as player/coach for Sheffield United and added four more goals in another 24 league appearances to his already impressive tally.
There followed a brief spell as manager of the Blades, from January 1981 until the end of the 1980/81 season.
There was a brief spell during 1974/75 when his Norwich side were in Rovers’ division but he never opposed Rovers in any of his 721 League appearances.
However, Hurst and Peters, who scored all four England goals between them, and captain Moore were all teammates at West Ham and all three played against Rovers in the League Cup in 1965.
In the Second Round of the competition, Rovers were drawn to play against the Hammers at Eastville, the tie taking place on 21st September 1965. First Division West Ham were the holders of the European Cup Winners Cup at the time and their visit drew a crowd of 18,354 who witnessed a pulsating tie in which the sides shared six goals.
Johnny Brown, Johnny Petts and Harold Jarman were on target for Rovers, while Geoff Hurst (2) and Johnny Byrne were on target for West Ham. Peters might have won the tie for Rovers as he almost scored an own goal but, fortunately for him and his side, the ball hit the post.
Three of the West Ham side, Bobby Moore, Peters and Hurst, would be World Cup winners with England in July of the following year.
The report of that game read; ‘As an entertainment this match had everything. Top class football as befits a team of West Ham’s calibre and pace, and no mean skill from Rovers.’
And so, it was back to Upton Park for the replay eight days later, on 29th September and while Moore was missing from the West Ham side for this one, Peters and Hurst faced Rovers for the second time in a week.
Indeed, Hurst scored again against the Gas as did Byrne, who weighed in with two. The Hammers were 2-0 up at the break, but Petts and Bobby Jones saw Rovers back on level terms by the 56th minute. Byrne’s second goal, with ten minutes to play, saw West Ham through to the next round.
The report of this match concluded that the Hammers were fortunate to win the tie; ‘They will not quickly forget how close they came, on two occasions, of being humbled by Third Division Bristol Rovers.’
Those games were the only ones that this World Cup goalscorer came into contact with The Gas on the pitch.
West Ham went on to reach the final of the competition where they were beaten 5-3 on aggregate by West Bromwich Albion in the last final to be played over two legs.
His passing means that five of the side that created history by winning the World Cup some 53 years ago are no longer with us. Moore, Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson and Alan Ball making up the quintet.
Peters was awarded an MBE in 1978, not for the part he played in helping his country win the World Cup, but for services to Association Football. Only Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst have received knighthoods for their part in England’s one and only World Cup win.
It’s too late, of course, to extend that honour to some of that side, but wouldn’t it be a magnificent gesture to make the other survivors of that glorious day knights of the realm. Liverpool fans already refer to Roger Hunt as ‘Sir’, so surely it’s time to make that official and also award the accolade to Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton and George Cohen before it’s too late.
The final home game of 2019 sees Rovers welcome AFC Wimbledon to the Memorial Stadium, the second time the teams have met on Boxing Day.
Four years ago, we travelled to Kingsmeadow and returned home with a point from a goalless draw. On that occasion AFC were reduced to ten men after only four minutes when Paul Robinson was red carded for a foul on Ellis Harrison.
In spite of their numerical advantage, Rovers were unable to pierce the AFC defence and the game, played in front of a crowd of 4,468, was a poor one.
There was a minute’s applause held in memory of Don Howe before proceedings got underway and there were a few familiar faces involved in the game. Adebayo Akinfenwa led the AFC front line, former Rovers player Sean Rigg was an 81st minute substitute for the home side and future Rovers loanee Ryan Sweeney was an unused substitute.
Ryan Broom was included on Rovers’ bench for the first time for a league game, and that’s where he stayed, alongside Tom Parkes who was an unused substitute for the fifth time that season.
It was Rovers’ second goalless draw of the campaign and goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall became the fourth Rovers custodian to keep a clean sheet, following in the footsteps of Will Puddy, Aaron Chapman and Lee Nicholls.
We didn’t have a game on the first Boxing Day of the decade and so caretaker manager Darren Patterson, appointed in the wake of Paul Trollope’s sacking, had a Christmas off and Rovers didn’t play a match between 14th December 2010 and 1st January 2011.
Boxing Day that same year (2011) saw us lose at home against Plymouth Argyle who went away from the Mem with a 3-2 win under their belts. Matt Harrold scored twice in three minutes in the first half to give Rovers what many thought to be unassailable lead.
Argyle had other ideas, though, and second half goals from Warren Feeney, Nick Chadwick and Ashley Hemmings saw them take all three points in front of a crowd of 8,090. Manager Paul Buckle was on the verge of being sacked at this time and lasted just two more games before his miserable spell in charge came to an end.
One year later and John Ward was in charge for the Boxing Day visit to Aldershot Town, a game that ended in a 2-2 draw.
Both sides were awarded, and scored, a penalty. Craig Reid for Aldershot and Rovers’ David Clarkson scored the spot kicks. Michael Hector and Eliot Richards, who scored Rovers’ equaliser three minutes from time, scored from open play.
Defender Michael Smith said afterwards; ‘The conditions were horrible, but I thought we adapted well and came away with a good point in the end.’ However, the Aldershot News & Mail said; ‘Aldershot Town were cruelly denied by a late Bristol Rovers equaliser for the second time this season.
It definitely wasn’t a Happy Christmas, as Rovers were left at the bottom of the table following this game.
Moving on to 2013 and Rovers were off to Plainmoor where they drew 1-1 against Torquay United. John Marquis scored Torquay’s goal from the penalty spot after only six minutes, while Matt Harrold equalised for Rovers with 27 minutes on the clock.
Former Rovers players Michael Poke and Aaron Downes were in the Torquay side as were future Rovers players Billy Bodin and Lee Mansell.
One year later, in our non league season, we again travelled down to Plainmoor where we won 2-1. Matty Taylor and Neal Trotman scored the Gas goals that day, while on loan goalkeeper Fabian Spiess managed an own goal for the home side’s consolation when he punched the ball into his own net.
On this occasion Rovers fielded two former Torquay players in their starting lineup in Daniel Leadbitter and Lee Mansell, who had become a Gashead in the summer of 2014.
The Torquay manager that day was Chris Hargreaves, now in charge of the Rovers Academy and he said after the game; ‘A couple of mistakes made at critical times have cost us in a game that was end to end at times. They were difficult conditions, difficult weather and a difficult pitch and they had a couple of players that just made the difference.’
Boxing Day 2015 is covered above and so we move on to 2016 when we met this season’s Third Round FA Cup opponents, Coventry City, at The Mem.
Billy Bodin scored a hat trick that day after Peter Hartley opened the scoring for the Gas, while Coventry’s response was a 56th minute goal scored by Jordan Willis.
‘It’s always nice to score your first hat trick,’ said Bodin afterwards, ‘and it will obviously be up there as a proud moment in my career.’
A crowd of 11,200 were inside the Mem to witness this one, Rovers first competitive match against the Sky Blues since 1964. It was the third time that season Rovers had scored four goals in a match.
In 2017 we made the relatively short journey up the M5 to face Walsall at the Banks’s Stadium where we played out another Boxing Day goalless draw.
Darrell Clarke was in charge of the Gas that day and James Clarke started while Stuart Sinclair and Rory Gaffney both made substitute appearances. All four are, of course, now with Walsall.
After the game Darrell said; ‘To start the second half of the season with an away point and a clean sheet from a game that could have gone either way is very pleasing.’
Last year saw Rovers travel back to Walsall to fulfil their Boxing Day fixture and on this occasion they ran out 3-1 winners.
Tom Lockyer, Alex Rodman and Tariq Holmes-Dennis were on target for Graham Coughlin’s side while Josh Gordon scored a consolation goal for the Saddlers.
Having beaten Fleetwood Town in their previous game, it meant that this was the first time that Rovers had recorded back to back victories since February of 2018.
We move quickly on, because I want to mention the seven Rovers players who have made Boxing Day debuts for the Gas since the Second World War.
Norman Sykes first pulled on a blue and white quartered shirt back in 1956, when Rovers were 6-1 winners against Bury at Eastville in front of a crowd of 19,672. Twenty four hours earlier the sides had met at Gigg Lane and Bury had won 7-2! Rovers would play on Christmas Day followed by a Boxing Day game just once more, in 1957 when Swansea Town were the opposition.
It was the turn of Carl Gilbert to make his Rovers debut on Boxing Day 1969 and there was a crowd of over 12,000 at Eastville to see Rovers draw 1-1 against Reading and to see Gilbert make a goalscoring debut.
Gary Emmanuel also made his debut on Boxing Day in 1978 and a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park made it a special day for him.
Goalkeeper Ray Cashley was on the losing side on his debut, as Oxford United were 3-2 winners at the Manor Ground on Boxing Day 1983.
In 2004 a young player by the name of Scott Sinclair his Rovers debut with a brief substitute Boxing Day appearance at the Mem in a 1-1 draw against Leyton Orient. There was just one more substitute appearance before he was snapped up by Chelsea.
Kayne McLaggon made his one and only league appearance for The Gas as recently as 2011 in a 3-2 home defeat by Plymouth Argyle which is mentioned above.
However, I’ve saved what I think is the best until last.
Step forward Harold Jarman, one of the few former Rovers players deserving the accolade of legend. Sixty years ago today Harold made his Gas debut in a Boxing Day clash against Swansea Town at Eastville and Rovers won 3-1 courtesy of goals from Geoff Bradford and Alfie Biggs (2) in front of a crowd of 16,501.
We are indebted to Harold’s son, Richard, for sending us this photo taken at that match.
Two days later Rovers travelled to The Vetch for the return fixture and Harold was again in the side, though on this occasion the Welsh side ran out 3-0 winners.
We are delighted that Harold is a member of the Bristol Rovers Former Players Association and trust that this article will bring back memories of the first of his 452 league games for the Gas.