Well, last year wasn`t too bad, was it?
A trip to Cardiff for the Paint Pot Trophy after we`d beaten City to get there.
A nice little FA Cup run and a very unlucky exit at the hands of Derby County .
Then a crazy end to the season which ended in a play off win at Wembley Stadium.
On the pitch, 2007 was pretty damn good. What will happen in 2008?
As it happens, plenty will happen.
After a poor start to the season, things seemed to have clicked on the pitch with back-to-back wins against Carlisle and Southend, allegedly two of the better teams in the division. Whilst a run at the play offs is a big ask, I simply cannot envisage anything more than a temporary visit to the bottom four. It is not going to happen.
I said back in August that mid table would do me. Director Barry Bradshaw was more bullish when he was asked pre season about our prospects. “Let`s go for it!” he declared, not clarifying exactly what or where ‘it` might be, although he obviously meant promotion. Consolidation, he implied, was something in which we were not interested. Trust old Barry to get carried away when things are going well.
I still think mid table would represent real success. Something, as everyone in football says, to build on. I believe that is where we will end up.
There was plenty going on off-the-field too, what with the successful planning application for redeveloping the Memorial Stadium accepted by Bristol City council on 17th January. Almost a year on, we still await the signing of the Section 106 agreement (look it up yourself) but it`s a formality.
The board of directors have always said that the redevelopment will commence in May and that all the funding is in place. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we have to take them at face value. By the summer, the Memorial Stadium will resemble a heap of rubble, so no change there then. Then we go somewhere else for two years.
The last I heard, we were off to Cheltenham`s Whaddon Road ground for a couple of years, Bristol City having already rejected our overtures to groundshare with them. Big shame if you ask me. Yes, I know Ashton Gate is the home of the reds – even I have noticed that – but think about it. City is just across town, it`s not for long. Cheltenham is across someone else`s town and a fair old trek up the M5 too. During the long evenings of summer, it doesn`t seem so bad but when the sun is setting at 4.00 pm it sounds bad enough to me.
It`s true that some people will simply not go to see us at Ashton Gate but there are many more who will not go to Cheltenham (I am guessing).
And what if there were delays in the Mem re-build? What if we were at Whaddon Road and after a year Geoff Dunford announced the project would take an extra couple of years? Two years away is long enough. But three? Four? It doesn`t bear thinking about. Don`t do it Geoff.
One of the great achievements of the board is that they have managed to ensure that the Rovers will not be affected by the worldwide credit crunch, the hike in the cost of building materials and the predicted economic slowdown. They have obviously done their planning and everything is on time and on budget.
When the idea of the new stadium came along, it was vital that the new stadium when complete would leave the club debt free and with income streams. Despite the doubts of some people, again there has been nothing to suggest that this will not happen.
So, with a bright young coach and a wily old director of football (whatever that means) at the helm, the future looks bright.
Our on-the-field fortunes changed when Geoff Dunford stood down from a somewhat less than glittering time as chair of the club. In contrast, sprightly old Ron Craig has completely changed our fortunes. I don`t know what influence Geoff continues to wield, or how much power Ron really has, but it doesn`t matter. This current board is going nowhere and there is not another board in waiting.
What I would really like to see is a more united club, off the pitch.
When Ron Craig took over as chair, he said he would do everything in his power to bring people together. Now that was back in April of last year and we`re still waiting.
As it only affects a small number of people, maybe he quietly ‘forgot`!
I think there are some good people out there who can do a job for the club and to have a rainbow coalition all working together for the benefit of Bristol Rovers would surely be A Good Thing.
‘Dream on` you can (rightly) say because as Geoff said on Radio Bristol when Ron was appointed, “Ron will do things his way” and a few moments later Ron agreed.
Gottle of gear, anyone?
Happy New Year!