The attractions of other activities has been the main reason our sports teams have underachieved to consistently over the last decade, none more so than our two football clubs, City and Rovers. Their main contribution to the nation's favourite game has been to supply the Premier League with a stream of centre-halves guaranteed to make Shearer giggle in his sleep. Rennie, Dryden, Yates, Curle, Tanner, Peacock, Newman, Scales.
Given the presence of both teams in the Second Division, with average crowds last season of 8,000 for City and 6,000 for Rovers, in a city with half a million potential matchgoers, you could be forgiven for thinking that there is no great residual well of affection for football in Bristol. In fact pubs are invariably packed for Premiership games and England internationals, and most long-term residents (i.e. people other than students) have an affinity to either City or Rovers that is heartfelt enough to have engendered a typically robust metropolitan rivalry. Supporters rib each other at work, make light-hearted jibes at the oppositions' expense in the local pub, and occasionally try to set fire to each other's stadiums.
This antipathy is genuine enough to ensure another sell- out crowd for tomorrow's derby at Ashton Gate.
Historically, allegiance to each team depended on which side of the River Avon you lived, but it has become increasingly clear to me that City and Rovers fans are completely different personality types.
City fans are basically delusional and share the happy conviction that good times are just around the corner. This delusion has its roots in a Sleeping Giant complex, which stems from having spent a short spell in the old First Division, possessing an excellent stadium, a manager who played in Serie A, and a chairman who played keyboards for the Pet Shop Boys. This feeling of superiority handily ignores the fact that for the last century there has rarely been more than one division between Bristol's two protagonists.
Rovers supporters, conversely, live according to the premise that if you expect nothing from life then you'll never be disappointed.This pessimism has been founded in recent years on a lack of money, and the lack of a decent ground, both conditions that seem set to last for the forseeable future.
Time for a prediction on the big game. Joe Jordan has created a brand new City team through some astute signings,and has fashioned them into a creative attacking side that are top scorers in their division and good bets for promotion.
Rovers are the usual mix of ex-non-Leaguers, callow youths and pros on the downward slide.They play route one, are desperately low on confidence,and rely on a sound defence to compensate for their lack of any proven goalscorer.
The result,therefore, should be a formality. One-nil to the Rovers.