FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The Rovers FAQ contains some of the most frequently asked questions about the club that Gasheads have pondered on over the years. We've answered them using a combination of club officials, and knowledgeable supporters, so hopefully they'll put one or two minds at rest. If you have a question for the Rovers FAQ that needs answering, then e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Why were Rovers originally called Black Arabs, and why did they change their name?
They were known as the Black Arabs because they were originally based from a group of School Teachers and took on the name from their black gowns. Their shirts were black with a single yellow diagonal stripe (according to The Trumpton Times).
So the original name Black Arabs came from the black shirts worn by the team, there was a rugby team on an adjacent pitch known as The Arabs, hence The Black Arabs. This name was held for one season only when the name was changed to Eastville Rovers.
The name was changed to Eastville Rovers to broaden the base of the club and to encourage players from a much wider area. They kept this name from 1884-1899.
2. Why did Rovers move from Eastville?
They moved in 1986 because the stadium owners increased the rent to an unacceptable amount, which would have crippled the club.
3. How many (home) games did Rovers play at Ashton Gate?
Three league and two League Cup games.
4. Who was the first game at Twerton Park against?
Bolton Wanderers - Rovers won 1-0. Nicky Tanner was sent off and our goal came from a Trevor Morgan penalty. Attendance was 4,092.
5. Why Goodnight Irene?
It was once a popular single (before the days of Elvis etc.) and regularly played at Eastville, sung by the Five Smith Bros. The crowd always sung along with it and identified with one phrase when Rovers lost "sometimes I have a great notion, to jump in the river and drown" - the river running alongside the ground. It just caught on and it's never changed.
6. Why Gasheads?
Eastville Stadium was situated next to Gasworks and most of you won't remember the smell of the old gas fumes - absolutely horrid. We used to say that when the heads of the gasometers were rising, the smell overcame the opposition and helped us to win - hence Gasheads.
7. Which full internationals have played for Rovers?
Neil Slater (10 caps for Wales 1983-84)
Matt O'Mahoney (6 caps for Ireland 1938-39)
Geoff Bradford (1 cap for England 1956)
Waynes Jones (1 cap for Wales 1971)
Jack Lewis (1 cap for Wales 1906)
Dai Ward (1 cap for Wales 1959)
Joe Haverty (1 cap for Ireland 1965)
Matt O'Mahoney (1 cap for Northern Ireland 1939)
Ian McLean (several caps for Canada 1992-96)
Harry Buckle (Ireland 1908)
Ronnie Mauge (Trinidad & Tobago)
Jason Roberts (Grenada)
Vitalijs Astafjevs (Latvia)
Some other players who have gained international caps whilst at Rovers: Alan Ball; Mick Channon; Gary Mabbutt; Geraint Williams; Phil Roberts; Tommy Cook; Cliff Britton; Gerry Francis; John Scales ; Gary Waddock; Keith Curle ; Larry Lloyd; Nigel Martyn; Ronnie Briggs; Eddie Hapgood; Roy Bentley; Ronnie Dix; Paul Nixon.
8. Who started the Eastville fire? Or was it an electrical fault.
Yes, it was identified as an electrical fault, so there was no question of arson at all. As the stand was mostly wooden, it went up in flames pretty quickly and we had to play four games at Ashton Gate as a result. That was the 1980/81 season, and we ended up being relegated.
9. Have Rovers ever played in Europe?
No, but they came very close to qualifying for the Anglo-Italian Cup International phase in 1992/93. At the end of the group phase, they were level on points, goals scored, and goals conceded with West Ham United at the top of the group, but went out to the toss of a coin at Football League HQ.
10. What was the Bring Rovers Back to Bristol Party?
The Bristol Party was formed in 1994 to contest the Local Elections and to represent Bristol Sport generally. Colin Howlett, Radio Bristol, was originally leading the campaign, but due to his business commitments, it was deemed unethical to continue. The idea was copied from another club (Charlton's Valley party) to highlight lack of council support for a stadium.
11. What is the Esmund Million bribery story?
In April 1963 Esmond Million and Keith Williams were found guilty of taking a bribe to allow Bradford Park Avenue to beat Rovers in a Third Division game. Subsequently Million was banned from ever playing football again and Williams was fined £50. (Million accepted a bribe of £300).
12. Why did Rovers sell Eastville in 1940 to the Bristol Greyhound Company?
Rovers had financial problems and needed to raise capital.
13. Who was the ineligible player in 1981/82 season who cost Rovers two points?
Steve Bailey - an unregistered player.
14. The story so far with the new ground, from Eastville onwards.
Rovers left Eastville in 1986 after the Dunfords rescued the club from financial crisis due to increased rent. They organised sharing with Bath City at Twerton Park and then tried to find a new home back in Bristol. Negotiations took place with Kingswood District Council over some land at Mangotsfield, but this was turned down. Then the Bristol City Council built up the club's hopes with promise of developing some land at Severnside. The final decision to turn down the application took a long time to arrive at, and meantime Rovers received no indication that this might happen. As a result, fans protested by letters to the press and prompted the forming of the Bristol Party. Further negotiations produced a proposal for planning permission on ground donated by ICI at Severnside, which included sport for the community in general, a football stadium for Rovers and facilities for conferences and possibly a football centre of excellence. This idea fell through after a change of plan by ICI.
In 1996 Rovers did move back to Bristol to ground share with Bristol Rugby Club. Our landlords then hit money troubles and sold us half the ground for £2.3million. In 1998 Bristol Rugby Club called in the recievers, resulting in us acquiring the ground completely due to a contract clause.
15. What's with the Weetabix?
The story behind the Weetabix appearing when ever Rovers play Shrewsbury started a few seasons ago before a league match at Gay Meadow. A few Gasheads got together and raised some money for the trip up to Shrewsbury. They hired a coach for the day after which about £300 was left in the kitty. So it was decided to go to the pub before the game where £200 was stuck behind the bar to pay for drinks. After a while, a few Gasheads started feeling hungry but unfortunately the pub didn't serve food. The landlord then told them there was a supermarket near by for them to get food and that he wouldn't mind them eating it in the pub. A lonesome Gashead was then dispatched to fetch the grub with £75 after taking out the £25 owed to the coach driver. At the time this Gashead was slightly the worse for drink and returned to the pub armed with £75 worth of Weetabix.
The following day, they took all of their stuff into the ground, and noticed some birds on the pitch. Being the kind souls that they are, they decided to feed them all of their Weetabix. By the time they had finished throwing them liberally around the terraces, the penalty area in front of the away section had turned from green to brown.
A few years later Rovers played Shrewsbury again and the same group were seen wearing T-shirts saying 'Weetabix Invasion Of Gay Meadow' and of course throwing plenty of Weetabix around. Unfortunately, whenever Rovers now play Shrewsbury the police are instructed to confiscate all forms of breakfast cereal at the game.
16. Have Rovers always played in blue and white quarters?
No, but they've played in that more than any other kit. When they formed in 1883 (as Black Arabs) they played in all black with a yellow diagonal stripe. This lasted until 1885. 1885 to 1899 as Eastville Rovers then Bristol Eastville Rovers and finally Bristol Rovers, we saw a blue and white hooped shirt just like QPR's. Between 1899 and 1919, when Rovers were playing in the Southern League, they wore black and white stripes. Rovers' election into the Football League in 1920 saw plain white shirts and blue shorts, this lasted until 1930. This was followed for one season by blue shirts and white shorts before 1931 to 1962 blue and white quarters, and white shorts.
They must have had too much of a good thing because in 1962, for one season only they wore "hideous blue candy stripes". The Gashead fanzine notes that this strip almost caused relegation into division four. 1963 to 1966 saw blue and white stripes with white shorts. And 1966 to 1969 was all blue (with white sock tops). 1969 to 1973 had blue shirts with white collars, cuffs and shorts. But in 1973, sanity returned and back came the blue and white quarters.
17. Why do we call Bristol City "City '82"?
During the 1982 season City were in dire financial straits that caused their main players to tear up their contracts and play for free to save the club. Thus the club was reincorporated as Bristol City 1982 plc. As part of the rivalry that exists between the two clubs, Gasheads enjoy taunting City supporters about this and hence often refer to them as City '82.
When City 1982 plc were formed the previous company transferred all its assets to the new company but none of the debts. So you have the situation where the guy at the corner cafe at Ashton Park is owed thousands of pounds, but there is now nobody to get the money from because the club has ceased to be. This practice used to go on frequently in business and at the time was all perfectly legal, if not very moral. In modern times however, such business doings are illegal.
18. What's the difference between City and Rovers? Is it Tory/Labour, Catholic/Protestant, Rich/Poor? Or is it just as simple as being on different sides of the River Avon?
With some exceptions (e.g. Hartcliffe) South Bristol is red and East Bristol and Kingswood are blue. North Bristol (Patchway, Filton etc) is primarily blue whilst North West Bristol (Sea Mills, Shirehampton etc) is split with a slight majority for City. City also seem to get a lot of Shepton Mallet and Somerset followers whereas Rovers get Severnside and many from Yate etc.
In Bath, Rovers are the natural team to support and have been long before they moved to Twerton Park. There has always been some support for the Gas Bath direction - Chipping Sodbury and most people of a footballing persuasion are Blue. This area has also been helped in latter years by its relatively close proximity to Bath. A rough guideline in Bristol is the River Avon. North thereof is Rovers and South thereof is City.
19. Some interesting minor players.
Wallie Hammond, better known as the famous Gloucestershire and England cricketer, also played 20 league games for Bristol Rovers during 1921 to 1924.
Sir Hubert Ashton made one appearance during 1924/25. His greater success was away from football - won a Military Cross on the Western Front in World War One and was created a Knight of the British Empire in 1959. Between 1930 and 1964 was Conservative MP for Chelmsford and worked for four years as Personal Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Was High Sheriff of Essex in 1943.
20. Some famous supporters...
Lord Weston (Jeffrey Archer) is a fan from childhood, but hasn't come to any games for several years, due mainly now to his imprisonment. There were rumours in 1993/94 that he was going to mount a takeover of the club.
Rod Hull (of Emu fame) released a terrible single "Singing Bristol Rovers All The Way", which thankfully was a flop, as it is one of the worst songs ever.
Eddie Large (Little and Large) is a Man City fan, but has adopted the Gas as he lives in Portishead and has occasionally taken the microphone at half-time.
21. Which players have played for Rovers and City?
Peter Aitken; James Allaway; Robert Anderson; Chris Ball; Newman Bunce; Harold Bamford; George Berry; Ray Cashley; Ray Chandler; Keith Curle; Francis Curran; Richard Dryden; Tony Ford; Don Gillies; Leslie Golledge; Bobby Gould; Steve Harding; Sid Homer; Peter Hooper; Trevor Jacobs; Henry Liley; Michael Lyons; David Murray; Shaun Penny; Trevor Morgan; Len Pickard; Dwayne Plummer; Stephen Sims; David Pyle; Joe Riley; Cecil Steeds; Francis Townrow; Robbie Turner; Brian Williams; Tom Williams; William Wilson; Peter Wilshire; John Watkins; Josser Watling; Gary Emmanuel; Phil Kite; Timmy Carter; Mike Wyatt; Jason Eaton; Ron Nicholls
22. In which year was the club founded?
23. What cups have Bristol Rovers won?
Rovers have won no major cup competitions, although they did win the Watney Cup in 1972 beating Sheffield United on penalties at Eastville. They also won the Division Three South Cup in 1935 beating Watford 3-2 at Millwall.
24. How many time have Rovers beaten Manchester United?
Rovers have only ever played Manchester United twice in league competition, way back in the 1974/75 season when both clubs were in the old Division Two. United United had the better of the two games winning 2-0 at Old Trafford, and holding Rovers to a 1-1 draw in Bristol. Two seasons earlier and it was Rovers that had the best of things - they knocked United out of the League Cup in a tie over two legs winning 2-1 away from home after drawing at home 1-1. There has only ever been three other competitive meetings - all in the FA Cup, with United winning two ties and Rovers the other. In 1934/35 Rovers lost 3-1 at home, in 1963/64 they lost 4-1 away, but during the 1955/56 season Rovers thrashed United 4-0 in Bristol.
25. Did Ron Nicholls or CA Milton play international cricket whilst Rovers players?
Ron Nicholls never played international cricket although he was Gloucestershire's fourth highest scorer with 23,607 runs in 534 appearances. Arthur Milton didn't play a competitive game for Rovers, although Barrie Meyer did.
26. Why do the blue and white quarters on Rovers' shirts sometime change positions?
The current Rovers shirt is the traditional way the blue and white quarters are laid out. In the past they have changed configuration, but Geoff Dunford has said that the club intends sticking with the traditional layout from now on.
27. Where did the 'Pirates' nickname come from?
It's to do with Bristol's seafaring tradition and with the name Rovers being synonymous with Pirates. The blue and white quartered shirts also have something to do with it.
28. Have any of the 1966 England World Cup team ever played for Rovers?
Yes - Alan Ball played for Rovers during the 1982/83 season scoring two goals in 17 appearances.