Date: 13th October 2008 at 4:40pm
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I seem to recall the last time I filled this page that I said something along the lines that it was a bad time to be an England fan, and it was becoming a good time to be a Gashead.

How times can change, eh?

In the space of two months, England have unearthed their next boy wonder in Arsenal prodigy Theo Walcott, beating Croatia and (the mighty) Kazakhstan by 3 and 4 goals respectively.

Meanwhile, down in BS7, it’s fair to say we’ve had somewhat of a slow start to the season. Early promise with a 6-1 demolition of Hereford, and a decent 2-2 draw at Elland Road raised expectations that were might see a very promising season at the Mem. That hope quickly evaporated thanks to defeats against Colchester, Walsall, Peterborough and lowly Bournemouth, along with disappointing draws with Yeovil and Crewe.

So what of our new recruits? It was a very unusual summer for Bristol Rovers in that we actually spent some money – over a quarter of a million of it to boot.

The biggest name arrival in the summer came in the shape of Palace winger Jeff Hughes. Ironic then that he’s probably suffered the most disappointing start to his Rovers career. Aside from a beautifully hit strike against Hereford, he really has been ineffective in the blue and white quarters thus far, although in fairness to Hughes he has been asked to play a very different role to that which he mastered at Lincoln.

Arriving for similar money was Scotsman Darryl Duffy from Swansea. Duffy has, I believe, done well for the Gas to date, showing a tremendous work ethic that is the perfect foil for Rickie Lambert.

Our third and final monetary signing of the summer was of course Jo Kuffour, brought in from Bournemouth for circa £60,000. Kuffour has certainly lit up the pitch whenever he’s been on it, having scored 1 goal from 1 start and 5 sub appearances so far. Quite why he hasn’t started any more than the one game, against Cheltenham, is a mystery, although given Hughes woefully ineffective display against Leyton Orient, perhaps that may change sooner rather than later.

The national side however have virtually flipped their reputation and form on it’s head.

It’s fair to say that the majority of England followers, myself included, were not expecting too much from that tricky trip to Zagreb last month. It came as somewhat of a surprise when England actually had the look of a team that wanted to win the match then!

Many column inches have been filled with superlatives about the aforementioned Theo Walcott, and it’s duly deserved. The first Englishman to get a hat-trick for his country since that marvellous night in Munich has performed terrifically well for both club and country this season.

Much of the praise should also be directed to his manager at Arsenal. Arsene Wenger certainly has a knack of getting the best out of players, and Walcott has visually grown from a rough diamond into a well polished star.

There is a long way to go of course before he can be considered the finished article, but you somehow don’t get the same worries about Walcott away from the pitch as affected that previous boy wonder, Paul Gascoigne.

Gazza really has slipped back into the life that he appeared to have worked so hard to rid himself of, with seemingly endless stories cropping up in the press about altercations with the police, and spells in rehab.

I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Gazza the best with his recovery – the pleasure that he has given so many with his displays on a football pitch will live a lot longer in the memory than the bad times.

As for the Rovers, we have an ideal opportunity now to capitalise on our back to back wins against Colchester and Orient, with 5 out of the next 7 matches played at home.

Hopefully some tweaks can be made to the solid but perhaps boring system that Paul Trollope has employed of late, which will release our attacking players to resume their feats from earlier in the season, which saw us as far and away the top scorers in League One.

Onwards and upwards then, beginning with Huddersfield next week.

See you on Tuesday week!

Mark McBurney AKA Fordingbridge Pirate

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