One way the BRFPA keeps in touch with the fans, the football club and the former players is by having a dedicated page in each official BRFC EFL matchday programme.
We’ll also add them in here after the game. Please tell us what you think of them and what you’d like us to focus on in the future…
BRFC Programme vs. Coventry City – September 2018
The official Bristol Rovers Former Players Association (BRFPA) was formed in May 2017 and it is the first time in the modern era that Rovers have had such an organisation. It is independent of the club, but has benefited from the real support of BRFC.
A fortnight ago we held our first ever Annual General Meeting (AGM).
With our constitution the committee has to resign every year at the AGM, and then stand for re-election if they wish to continue. The volunteers to take us forward now look like this.
Tony Mills has cheerfully remained as our radiant Chair. Tony’s first Rovers match was in September 1967 and he has also been a Match Officials Liaison Officer at the Memorial Stadium for the past 21 seasons.
Mo Bell thankfully remains as our Secretary and Membership Secretary. We have over 120 former players officially signed up, and many more who we are in contact with. Mo’s first Rovers match was in 1947 and she has a long history of being involved in innovative fan-based projects and also helped the renowned Keith Brookman with the matchday programme for over 20 years.
Clive Farquhar continues as Treasurer, and we are honoured to have an experienced accountant and super Gashead in that vital and trustworthy role!
I, Martin Bull, will persist with pretty much anything written, including our website at http://www.brfpa.org.uk, plus social media, publicity, event programmes and reports, newsletters, and these BRFC programme articles.
Dave Gilroy is continuing as a brilliant events organiser and former player contact, but Vaughan Jones has stepped down as the official Player’s Representative. Billy Clark though remains as our President, and also happens to be an all round great guy and a rock at the back.
There are also many other valuable Committee members, some of whom you’ll see on a match day as club volunteers as well, such as Alan Cockayne who is the erstwhile Host / PA in the main hospitality suite.
Hard working committee members like Simon Hedges, Bob Munro and Mike Tremlin are utterly invaluable, especially with their brilliant skills in organising, promoting and executing events, and securing sponsorship and auction items to raise funds. Without this talented trio the BRFPA would really struggle as an organisation.
Geoff Smith also helps out with the events, and has even dressed up as Captain Gas! Although Roger Brinsford is not technically a Committee Member, he deserves a special mention as the man who was tasked to set us up, and he remains as a loyal friend and mentor in the background.
Last, but certainly not least, we can announce that the legendary Keith Brookman has joined the committee. Back of the net! Keith of course is no stranger to you all, having been the club’s programme and media man for 20+ years, and he’s also not a stranger to former players; in fact the first person former players (and staff) always ask about is Keith! We are truly honoured to have Keith’s experience, in depth knowledge and gentlemanly humility in the building.
Finally, we say thank you to the former committee members who aren’t continuing; Roger Cooper, Steve Endicott, Vaughan Jones, John Kayes and Stewart Wolf.
As usual, you can keep up with everything we are planning via our web site – http://www.brfpa.org.uk
BRFC Programme vs. Plymouth Argyle – September 2018
BRFC Programme vs. Southend United – August 2018
Today the Mem sees the return of a recent former player, Jermaine Easter.
‘Jamma’ had a long career before joining us in our Conference season, and helped us back into League One before finally retiring. His debut proved to be a bit of a body shock though, managing only eight minutes on a pig of a pitch at Dartford in January 2015; it was almost as though grass had been made illegal!
Strangely enough his early Bristol history was rather quirky, first turning down a move to City when an emerging youngster at Stockport County and then later in 2006, at the almost height of his powers at Wycombe Wanderers, losing to a Rovers side whose opening goal was scored by his younger brother, Jamal. Jamal was on a short loan from their home town club Cardiff City, although Jermaine never actually got to play for the Bluebirds.
Jermaine scored goals at every club he played for (over 100 of them; goals that is, not clubs!) and even scored on his final ever appearance, that slightly crazy 4-3 loss to his previous club, Millwall, on the last day of the 2016/17 season.
My beautifully abiding memory of dear Jamma though is his part in the Browner goal that sent us straight up into League One. Whilst we all remember the aftermath, take a look at the build up…
Forgotten man Jake Gosling almost lost the ball whilst threading it through the legs of both a Daggers player and a leaping referee (my, what our history may have been if the ref hadn’t jumped…). Jamma’s sharp brain put in a delightful quick pass to Matty Taylor, but then watch as the Welshman involuntarily air kicks Taylor’s strike, AND Browner’s winner.
That is how much it meant to him, just as it meant the world to us supporters.
Mr. Easter we salute you Sir, and please visit us any day you wish.
BRFC Programme vs. Portsmouth – August 2018
The BRFC Veterans team (pictured) were managed by the legendary Phil Bater and consisted of (left to right) – Standing – Dave Gilroy, Phil Bater, Simon Bryant, Andy Gurney, Ross Weare, Steve Mildenhall, Barry Hayles, Joe Anyinsah, Steve Elliott (Captain), Mark McKeever, Sergio and Vitas – Crouching – Lewis Hogg, Danny Coles, Trevor Challis.
Update since the article was published – When everything was totted up, over £11,000 was raised by Ash and his helpers for St. Peter’s Hospice!
BRFC Programme vs. Accrington Stanley – August 2018
Ooh arr he’s a Latvian
Today BRFC and the Bristol Rovers Former Players Association (BRFPA) welcome back a player who has surely deserved an entry or two in the record books.
We have Ash Belsten to thank for this, as Ash has organised the amazing Martin Belsten Memorial Match in aid of St. Peter’s Hospice in Brentry. The game pits BRFC Veterans vs Fans and takes place tomorrow at Mangotsfield United. Gates open 12.30pm, with a 2pm kick off. Please get yourselves down there, get £5 out of your pocket, and enjoy a great afternoon.
Ash has arranged to help bring Vitalijs Astafjevs and his family over from Latvia for his game, and all are also joining us for today’s opening home match of a new season at the Mem.
Vitas has several potential entries in the Guinness Book of World Records starting with the evening of 19th August 1992 when he scored the first ever goal of the newly created UEFA Champions League; an 18-yard finish for Skonto Riga against KI Klaksvikin, of the Faroe Islands.
Years later Vitas told a reporter, “Of course we knew we were part of something really new; you could feel it. Suddenly we were playing against Chelsea and against Napoli and Inter Milan. It was unheard of for us and just the most incredible time.” Six years later he was their captain as they twice took the lead against Barcelona in the Camp Nou. They knocked Aberdeen out of the UEFA Cup, but after seven years in the Latvian capital, Vitas had several trials in England and Ian Holloway signed him just before Christmas 1999.
He bolstered a Rovers midfield hoping for promotion, but an almost unexplainable run-in left everyone disappointed, and a shock relegation the following season hardly helped matters. Former players though have testified that Vitas could do things with the ball that they’d never seen before!
With Latvia it was happier times, and in 2000 Vitas wore the armband as his country became the first former Soviet satellite to qualify for a major international tournament; the European Championships. Vitas won 30 caps whilst at Rovers, which is a record number for any Rovers player whilst at the club, but in 2003, after 128 games and 19 goals, he moved on to Admira Wacker in Austria.
Vitas skippered his country in three different decades before his 167th and final appearance for Latvia against China in 2010. It wasn’t until 2016 that his record number of international caps for a European player was equalled by Spain’s Iker Casillas, and although Gianluigi Buffon has since overtaken them both, they were both goalkeeper’s so don’t complete count do they?!
We also see the first return to the Mem for Sergio Ommel, a team mate of Vitas’s.
Sergio was brought in by Gerry Francis from KR Reykjavik in Iceland (where he had played alongside Moussa Dagnogo!) because Rovers couldn’t score for toffee (one goal in 10 League matches). After Gerry resigned on Christmas Eve 2001, Sergio or Nathan Ellington got their names on the score sheet in 12 of Rovers’ next 15 league matches, and safety seemed to be on the horizon.
Sergio had a brilliant record for Rovers with 10 vital goals in just 21 starts (and seven sub appearances), including the winner against Kidderminster Harriers on April Fool’s Day 2002 which in effect secured Rovers’ survival in the Football League for another season.
After a peripatetic journey around several other European clubs, Sergio worked his way back to his native Netherlands, where he still lives today.