I NEARLY started a fight on the open end at Ashton Gate. I was six at the time and my dad Trevor had to act quickly to calm down the irate masses who were keen to shut me up.
My ‘crime` had been to shout rather loudly throughout a match between Bristol City and Sheffield United in an effort to prove my affinity to my new home.
Dad had moved us to Bristol just a few months before and this was my first experience of going to a ‘proper` match. Up until then I had to be satisfied with riding my trike around the Dorchester playing fields when their Western League team were playing at home.
This was different though and, carried away by the colour and the noise, I decided I would give as good as I got. Admittedly, I didn`t know any of the terrace tunes and most of the “singers” were in the East End opposite.
But squeaking “Come on Bristol” rather loudly at the top of my voice seemed to be the right thing to do… until an angry posse gathered around.
“Can`t you shut your son up!” one of these grumpy old men demanded of my dad.
“Yeah, he`s spoiling our enjoyment,” said another.
Dad did what he always did, placated the aggrieved and had a quiet word in my ear, suggesting I might like to go home and play with my Subbuteo football game instead. “This is pretty boring anyway,” he said, confirming what I already knew after watching 70 turgid minutes of a game where neither goal was remotely threatened.
It was quite a surprise when we got home to find out that the Blades had won 2-1 – all the goals coming in the last five minutes.
I was reminded of this encounter and many others as I stood on the Dribuild terrace at the Mem for our home game with MK Dons, listening to the tributes to Geoff Dunford, the man who rescued Bristol Rovers along with his father so many years earlier.
Tears filled my eyes, not just for Geoff but for my father who, sadly, passed away in Southmead hospital at the age of 93 later that the same week.
After that first football game in Bristol – an unmitigated disaster – he decided I might prefer to watch the “other” club in the city and took me along to Eastville for a friendly against Southampton.
We stood on the open end and I was free to shout my head off without any fear of reprisals. In fact, those around us started having a good joke and laugh with my dad as we watched the Saints hammer seven goals without reply into the Rovers net.
A heavy defeat but such an enjoyable day, free of tension and full of wit and repartee.
Since then I have been a confirmed Gashead, and though it`s not always been a bundle of laughs I wouldn`t have it any other way.
Thanks Dad, for giving me a passion that has carried me through life.
RIP Trevor Rippington.
Nick Rippington is a national newspaper journalist based in London. He is also award-winning author of UK gangland fiction thrillers Crossing The Whitewash and Spark Out
Crossing the Whitewash – HERE
Spark Out –HERE