Clinging to the pledge
Fan's Eye View: No.98 Bristol Rovers
Wednesday 08 February 1995
I had succumbed by the middle of the second half of my first game - Southampton under the Eastville floodlights. Two down at half-time, but urged on by a crowd of 16,000 and the sweet smell in the air from the local gasworks, we scored four goals in a second-half flurry. Fittingly, Geoff Bradford scored my first Rovers goal. Capped just once (Denmark, 1956), he scored 242 goals for his only League club in 461 appearances. Eventually, his battered knees - the legacy of too many cartilage operations - gotthe better of him and he spent his last few seasons at full-back. By the end of that season (1961), I was a lost cause, courtesy of a series of unlikely and high-scoring victories, including a 4-3 win over Liverpool. Next season, I knew, would be a continuation of that run of victories. In the event, Geoff Bradford's two goals in the last home match against Walsall weren't enough - we were relegated. The season after, we needed to win at Halifax to stay up.
We won 3-2. The winter freeze that year prolonged the agony until the cricket season was well established. I heard the news fielding on the boundary at Wotton under Edge.
Memories of good times are all the clearer if there aren't many of them - how does your Manchester United or Liverpool supporter tell the difference between good and very good? Devon "Bruno'' White scoring at Wembley with a cultured left- foot volley; the king of elbow and forehead, Alan Warboys: for a week in 1973 the best centre-forward in England, turning in the mud on the half-way line and shooting past a succession of keepers from 30 yards; Harold Jarman, goalscoring winger with the spindly legs and loping run, so popular with fans that defeat at Molineux one season in the Cup was played out to the mournful chant of "Haarooold, Haarooold'', even though the great man wasn't even in Wolverhampton that night; and recently, the phlegmatic, reassuring Nigel Martyn, and, whisper it, Marcus Stewart, as clean-cut and sharp as a young Gary Lineker.
Hard times are less distinguishable, though the worst on the field was a 9-0 defeat at Tottenham in 1977. Hoddle was so good that day that if the game had gone on until five o'clock, the score would have reached 20. Their eighth was offside, mind. Why did I even go that day? I was in the middle of a run of 35 successive away games without a win. When it started I was a youngish 23; by the time we snatched the points at Cambridge, I was a jaundiced 35.
Occasionally, over recent years, I've wondered how I'd cope if the club closed down. It's come close on too many occasions recently - stands have burned down with unnerving regularity; exile to Bath for far too long; a manager (the inspirational Gerry Francis) whose only signing, the £20,000 Ian Holloway, he paid for out of his own money; key players regularly sold: Gary Mabbutt, Martyn, Nicky Tanner, Steve Yates, Scales, Penrice, White, John Taylor, Holloway. Making this year's play-offs is a realisticprospect, but the bigger challenge is the impending return to a new stadium back in the city of Bristol. There really should be two teams in Bristol.
Latest in Sport
England vs Lithuania: Wayne Rooney rules out repeat of boxing celebration after son Kai repeats it at school and focuses on goalscoring record
Paul Scholes: Frustrated Steven Gerrard should have started crucial game between Liverpool and Manchester United
Paul Scholes: It's amazing Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has so few caps for England
New kits for 2015/16: Have the Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Barcelona strips been leaked?
England vs Lithuania: Theo Walcott 'at risk of being left behind' in Three Lions pecking order
- 1 Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
- 2 JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
- 3 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 4 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 5 Jeremy Clarkson calls on trolls to leave producer Oisin Tymon alone: 'None of this is his fault'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Andreas Guenter Lubitz intentionally crashed flight 9525 into the Alps in act of mass murder and suicide – latest
£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...
£50000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued business growt...
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...