Date: 25th January 2008 at 8:45am
Written by:

I am finding it hard to remember a time when I was so optimistic about Bristol Rovers.

After many years of struggle, of playing terrible football in terrible stadia I have to come to terms with the fact that now, under Lennie Lawrence and Paul Trollope, we are playing some of the best football since the last great full year of Ian Holloway`s reign in the last century. And, on top of that, Bristol Rovers are about to redevelop the Memorial Stadium that will give the players somewhere more appropriate to play it.

I don`t know all the facts (but when did that ever stop me writing something?) but the last great act of the pre summer of 2006 board was to appoint Paul Trollope as coach and Lennie Lawerence as director of football. Not all of those on the last board were in favour of their appointment but – credit where credit is due – Geoff Dunford was one of those who was.

And the board has done well to stick with Trolls and Lennie when things have not gone to plan. Sticky spells last season and this could have seen a trigger-happy board dispense with their services but stability, that rare commodity in football, often bears dividends. To make a ridiculous comparison, just look at Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United!

Having flirted with the drop zone, the team is now beginning to click and there are those who believe that we could even have a tilt at the play offs. Well, why not? This is a squad which has been here before. A squad that knows how to go on a roll. A squad that can win big matches. Who knows?

It seems to me that there are two main obstacles in our way.

The pitch, like it or not, is ruined for the season. The groundstaff will be able to patch it up but they won`t be able to fix it. Will a poor pitch favour the Hoofball type teams?

And will our fixture backlog prove a hindrance too? Believe it or not, there are only just over three months – 14 weeks – left of the season and we have at least 23 games (including Barnet in the FA Cup) that must be played.

My view is that we are in for a bit of a roller coaster ride that will take us close to the play offs. Close, I`d suggest, but no cigar. But a top 12 position going to Cheltenham will suffice.

And it looks certain that Cheltenham will be Bristol Rovers home for the next two years.

Unlike some, I have always believed that the redevelopment would start from May 2008. I have seen the rumours and speculation but not a single word has come from the board of directors to suggest there will be problems. Would they be so stupid as to be so confident if there were any lingering doubts? Of course not.

In 2010, when the club returns to its new ground, confident and debt free, I hope that it will remember Colin Williams, the former director whose vision it all was.

There is no need to go over the events as to why the board split because it`s been done to death. Geoff Dunford and the board are here to stay. You might add unfortunately to that statement but what`s the point? But there is no reason not to remember Colin.

Unfortunately, the club did remember Colin`s contribution this week by banning him and his wife from the directors` guest room a few days after he signed the Section 106 agreement that enables the development to go ahead. Not only that, Company Secretary Toni Watola added in his letter that not only was Colin banned from the guest room, where his mother and her partner (a former Rovers player of the fifties) attend after matches club staff were being advised of the banning, presumably to physically stop them entering the room.

And all this after some former directors were stopped from having (paying for) a table at the club`s annual Valentine Dinner and Dance.

But wait a minute. Only last April, new chairman Ron Craig said he would work to bring people together. This is a bloody funny way of doing it. More importantly, what did he know about it?

We want to get on with supporting our club and, if we can, offer our services to help it along. Maybe the latter is no longer an option but the former must be, surely?

Paul Trollope and Lennie Lawrence are the best things to happen to the management side since Ian Holloway.

The new stadium is on the way.

What`s the point in continuing with all the bad feeling?

Come off it: if Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley can work together, surely it can`t be that difficult at the Rovers. Can it?

It is time for the people at the top to draw a line in the sand. Those of us at the bottom want to.

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