These are the good times at Bristol Rovers.
Success, almost unabated, on the pitch with lucrative glamour match after lucrative glamour match for the fans to enjoy. After years of footballing misery it`s payback time for the loyal supporters who stood on the cold and wet terraces fearing Conference oblivion.
The odd good bit along the way, inspired by the likes of Rammell and Ellington, but mostly unremitting gloom.
Was it really two years ago that the money ran out and the club was forced to sell season tickets for the following season when the previous season was still the current one?
And then came Lennie Lawrence and Paul Trollope.
The older man and the fresh-faced blonde, a heady combination not initially favoured by everyone at Bristol Rovers, turned out to be the inspiration for the best football in BS7 since the near glory days of Ian Holloway. The fusion, not just off the pitch, of old and young took us to places unimagined, like Cardiff and Wembley. And of course the Third Division (League One).
Gradually, the tatty and largely empty old rugby ground became the tatty and much fuller rugby ground. The people who had stayed away, and others who had never even thought of going to watch the likes of Rushden and Diamonds, found something better to watch.
No more being out of every possible cup competition by the end of September, and even losing in a specially created preliminary round of the League Cup in August. Just as well the old ground is about to disappear.
For how long have we dreamed of a stadium worth the name? Eastville was a dump in the later years and no amount of sepia-coloured photos can change that fact. It wasn`t even our dump and when we were finally forced to move on it was to someone else`s dump, in this case Bath City`s. (Sorry if this sounds disrespectful to Bath City but just pay another visit to Twerton Park and tell me different.)
Finally, the boys were back in town at Horfield, a mish-mash of a ground which became ours when the rugby club went to the wall.
For reasons we all know, it became vital that the Rovers had a better ground. Local councils were largely unhelpful but Colin Williams, a director of Bristol Rovers until the summer of 2006, had a vision for a new stadium on the site of the current one. And now the vision is turning into reality.
From May 2008, the wrecking balls will be arriving at the Memorial Stadium. The Bass Terrace will be rubble, along with all the other parts of this barely functional ground. The draughty old tents will be off to Wimbledon and various golf tournaments for good.
It`s all good news.
A much respected management team, the best squad of players for many years, a healthy bank balance and the reality, not just the promise, of a ground fit for our magnificent supporters.
Just a couple of years at Cheltenham to endure and the Rovers will have a brand new state of the art stadium, quite possibly before City`s has even cleared the planning stages. A golden opportunity to become the big club in Bristol? I`d say say it`s not only a golden opportunity, it`s the final golden opportunity and the board knows it.
And the board has been crystal clear in its statements that the new stadium will be built on time, within budget and leaving the club debt free.
I think we have done all the arguments about the summer of 2006 to a tiresome death and it’s time to move on. In the absence of any line in the sand drawn by others, this is mine.
2007/2008 could yet be a season that will eclipse last year’s stunning successes. How many times have Rovers supporters been able to enjoy being in the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup with a real chance of getting into the Third Division play offs?
Add to the success on the pitch a stadium to watch it all and it just gets better.
These are the good times at Bristol Rovers all right.