By Keith Brookman
One of the jobs I have been tasked with, since joining the committee of the Bristol Rovers Former Players Association, is to attempt to recruit new members and let them know about us and the events we organise.
We currently have over 120 players on board and recent additions to the membership have included Paul Trollope, Howard Radford, Rory Gaffney, Andy Collett, Ellis Harrison, Byron Anthony and Michael Smith.
We thought it might be a good idea to profile new members as and when they join and to add a photo gallery to go with each article, so we are starting with Paul, one of the newest recruits. As time goes by (good song title that!) the intention is to build up a library of profiles and photos for every member.
Paul Trollope, now assistant manager at Brighton & Hove Albion qualifies for membership on two counts, as a player and as a manager and it’s great to have him on board.
Signed by Ian Atkins, Paul’s career began with his hometown club, Swindon Town but he moved on to Torquay United before being given a first team opportunity with the Wiltshire Robins.
It was at Torquay United where he learnt his trade and after over 100 league games at Plainmoor he was transferred to Derby County in December 1994, a loan move that was made permanent a month later.
There were loan spells at Grimsby Town and Crystal Palace before a move to Fulham in November 1997 and by the time he left Craven Cottage for Fulham in March 2001, he had scored five goals in 80 league appearances.
He spent a short time with Coventry City at the end of the 2001/02 season and signed for Northampton Town in July 2004 and it was from The Cobblers that he joined Rovers in June 2004.
Capped nine times by Wales, he went on to score twice in 30 league games for The Gas, but it’s as a manager that he will be best remembered by Rovers supporters as his partnership with Director of Football Lennie Lawrence signalled the start of some exciting times at The Mem.
He took over the managerial reins, initially on a temporary basis and with John Anderson as his assistant, in September 2005. When the Board of Directors had the foresight to appoint a Director of Football to assist him, they turned to the experienced Lennie Lawrence and it proved to be an inspired choice.
With Paul able to concentrate on playing matters and Lennie keeping the Board sweet, the duo led Rovers out of the league’s basement division in a truly remarkable 2006/07 campaign.
Under their guidance Rovers reached the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy but lost to Doncaster Rovers in the last English final to be played at The Millennium Stadium on 1st April 2007.
That wasn’t the only final the club reached that season as they clinched a League Two play off place on the final day of the season following a remarkable run of results that saw them lose just twice in their final 15 league games.
Rovers then breezed past perennial play off bridesmaids Lincoln City in the play off semi finals and became only the second club, after Chelsea, to appear in two major cup finals at different stadia in the same season as they beat Shrewsbury Town 3-1 at Wembley in the play off final.
The following season, their first back in League One, saw a respectable 16th place achieved and an FA Cup run that took us all the way to the quarter finals where, to be honest, we were outplayed by West Bromwich Albion, losing 5-1 at The Memorial Stadium.
Season 2008/09 saw an improved league placing of 11th, though that was still 13 points off of a play off spot and further investment in the squad might have changed things in the following campaign.
However, one of the most popular players to pull on the quarters in recent times, Rickie Lambert (also a member of the BRFPA) played, and scored, in the opening day defeat at the hands of Leyton Orient. That weekend, though, he was on his way to Southampton and made a goalscoring debut for them three days after his final appearance at The Mem (a 2-0 home win against Northampton Town)
In spite of losing their talisman striker Rovers survived another season in League One, again finishing in 11th place with only one point less than they managed in the previous campaign.
Lennie Lawrence departed the club in May 2010 (did he leave or was he pushed? – we may never know!) and so ‘Trolls’ was left with the task of not only maintaining the club’s League One status but also mounting a serious challenge for a play off place.
By the time Rovers played Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on the second Saturday in December, they had lost a First Round League Cup tie 6-1 at Oxford United and been beaten in the FA Cup First Round by non league Darlington. Six more goals were conceded against Wednesday, and the 6-2 defeat left us in 21st place in the league.
The following Tuesday Exeter City were the visitors to The Mem, in the Southern Area Semi Final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie and we were beaten in a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw.
That was Paul’s last game at the helm and he departed having been in charge for 284 league matches, the second longest manager in the club’s history.
As we know, the season didn’t improve and relegation to League Two arrived at the end of a season when Darren Patterson (Caretaker Manager), Dave Penney (Manager for just 13 games) and Stuart Campbell and Craig Hinton (joint Caretaker Managers) tried and failed to prevent the drop.
Since then, Paul has gone on to be Assistant Manager to Chris Hughton at Birmingham City and Norwich City, coached at Cardiff City and for Wales and been manager of Cardiff City. Now back working with Hughton again at Brighton, he’s enjoying life in the Premier League.
It’s been fascinating to follow his career and although it’s taken a while, we are delighted that he has agreed to become a member of the FPA and we hope to see him at one of our events at some point in the future.
Welcome aboard, Paul!