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|Full name||Bristol Rovers|
|Nickname(s)||The Pirates, The Gas|
|Founded||1883(as the Black Arabs)|
(Capacity: 12,011 (2,500 seated))
|2011–12||League Two, 13th|
Bristol Rovers Football Club is an English professional association football club, based in Bristol, that competes in Football League Two. The team plays its home matches at Memorial Stadium, in Horfield, a suburb of Bristol.
The club was founded in 1883 as Black Arabs F.C., and were also known as Eastville Rovers and Bristol Eastville Rovers before finally changing its name to Bristol Rovers in 1899. They were admitted to the Football League in 1920 and have never dropped out of it since. The closest they came to losing their league status was in 1939, when they were re-elected after finishing bottom of Division Three (South), although they came perilously close again in 2002 when the team finished (second from bottom) just one league position away from relegation to the Football Conference. Their highest finishing position was in 1956 (which they matched three years later in 1959) on both occasions they ended the season in 6th place in Division Two, then the second tier of English football.
The club's official nickname is The Pirates, reflecting the maritime history of Bristol. The local nickname of the club is The Gas, from the gasworks next to Eastville Stadium which started as a derogatory term used by Bristol City fans but was affectionately adopted by the team, their former home. Their main rivals are Bristol City, and according to a survey conducted in December 2003, Cardiff City and Swindon Town are considered the second and third biggest rivals.
Currently Bristol Rovers play in League Two after their relegation from League One during the 2010–11 season. The club is affiliated to the Gloucestershire County FA and is currently managed by Mark McGhee.
The club was formed following a meeting at the Eastville Restaurant in Bristol in September 1883. It was initially called Black Arabs F.C., after the Arabs rugby team and the predominantly black kits in which they played. This name only lasted for the 1883–84 season, and in a bid to draw more fans from the local area the club was renamed Eastville Rovers in 1884.
The club played only friendly games until the 1887–88 season, when it took part in the Gloucestershire Cup for the first time. In 1892 the club became a founder member of the Bristol and District League, which three years later was renamed the Western League. In 1897 Eastville Rovers joined the Birmingham and District League, and for two seasons played in both this league and the Western League. At the beginning of the 1897–98 season, the club turned professional and changed its name to Bristol Eastville Rovers, and on 17 February 1899 the name was officially changed to Bristol Rovers. In 1899 Bristol Rovers joined the newly formed Southern League, where they remained until 1920, winning the league title along the way in 1905.
For the 1920–21 season, the Southern League teams were moved into the new Division Three of the Football League, which became Division Three (South) the following season. They remained in this division for over 30 years, before winning the league, and promotion in the 1952–53 season.
The team has won promotion on three other occasions: in 1973–74 from the Third Division to the Second Division, again in 1989–90 as Division Three champions and also in 2006–07 to the Football League One. The club has been relegated five times—in 1961–62, 1980–81, 1992–93, 2000–01 and most recently at the end of the 2010–11 season.
The highest position in the football ladder achieved by Rovers at the end of season is sixth place in the second tier, which they did twice; once in 1955–56, and again in 1958–59. The closest they came to the top flight was in 1955–56, when they ended the season just four points below the promotion positions. The lowest league position achieved by the club is twenty-third out of twenty-four teams in the fourth tier, which was attained during the 2001–02 season. It was a narrow escape from relegation from the Football League on two counts; firstly they ended just one league position above the relegation zone, and secondly the rules were changed the following season to increase the number of relegation places to two, meaning that if Rovers had finished in that position one year later they would have been relegated.
The only major cup competition won by Bristol Rovers is the 1972 Watney Cup, when they beat Sheffield United in the final. The club also won the Division Three (South) Cup in 1934–35, as well as winning or sharing the Gloucestershire Cup on 32 occasions. The team has never played in European competition; the closest Rovers came was when they missed out on reaching the international stage of the Anglo-Italian Cup in the 1992–93 season on a coin toss held over the phone with West Ham United.
In the FA Cup, Rovers have reached the quarter-final stage on three occasions. The first time was in 1950–51 when they faced Newcastle United at St James' Park in front of a crowd of 62,787, the record for the highest attendance at any Bristol Rovers match. The second time they reached the quarter final was in 1957–58, when they lost to Fulham, and the most recent appearance at this stage of the competition was during the 2007–08 season, when they faced West Bromwich Albion. in front of 12,011 fans. They were the first Division Three team to win an FA Cup tie away to a Premier League side, when in 2002 they beat Derby County 3–1 at Pride Park Stadium.
They have twice reached the final of the Football League Trophy, in 1989–90 and 2006–07, but finished runners-up on both occasions. On the second occasion they did not allow a single goal against them in the competition en route to the final, but conceded the lead less than a minute after the final kicked off.
Bristol Rovers main rivals are city neighbours Bristol City, with whom they contest the Bristol derby. Bristol Rovers other rivals are mainly other teams from the West Country, such as Swindon Town, Plymouth Argyle, Exeter City and Yeovil Town.
|Team colours from 1883 to 1885|
Bristol Rovers are known for their distinctive blue and white quartered shirts, which they have worn for most of their history. The current home kit consists of a light blue and white quartered shirt and white shorts, while the away kit is black and gold with the same colours as the trim. During the 2008–09 season a special third strip, which is black with a gold sash, and is a reproduction of the original Black Arab shirt, was used for a single match to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the club.
|Team colours on winning the Southern League in 1905|
The team began playing in black shirts with a yellow sash from their foundation in 1883 as Black Arabs F.C. until 1885, by which time they were called Eastville Rovers. For the next fourteen years, until 1899, the team wore blue and white hooped shirts. These were replaced by black and white striped shirts until 1919.
When Rovers were admitted to The Football League in 1920 they wore white shirts with blue shorts. These remained the team colours until 1930, when the colours were reversed to blue shirts and white shorts for one season. The blue and white quarters were first worn in 1931, when they were introduced to try to make the players look larger and more intimidating. Rovers continued to wear the quarters for 31 years until they were replaced by blue pinstripes on a white background.
|1996–97 "Tesco" shirts|
Over the next ten years, Rovers went on to wear blue and white stripes, all blue, and blue shirts with white shorts before returning to the blue and white quarters in 1973, which have remained the colours ever since. During the 1996–97 season, Rovers wore an unpopular striped quartered design, prompting fans to refer to it as the Tesco bag shirts because of their similarity to the design used for the company's carrier bags. The change in design prompted the Trumpton Times fanzine to change its name to Wot, No Quarters?
The black and gold shirts were also used as the away kit for the 2002–03 season, the club's 120th anniversary.
In 2005, Rovers ran an April Fools' joke on their official website, stating that the team's new away strip would be all pink. Although this was intended to be a joke, a number of fans petitioned the club to get the kit made for real, and also suggested that funds raised through the sale of the pink shirts should be donated to a breast cancer charity. Although the pink shirts were never used in a competitive fixture, they were worn for a pre-season friendly against Plymouth Argyle in 2006.
A pirate features on both the club badge and the badge of the supporters club, reflecting the club nickname of The Pirates. Previous club badges have featured a blue and white quartered design, based on the quartered design of the team's jerseys.
Rovers first used an official kit supplier in 1977, and the club's first official kit sponsor followed in 1981. Rovers' longest running kit suppliers are Bukta who supplied the club kits for seven years. The club's longest running kit sponsorship was from local company Cowlin Construction who sponsored the club for a total of 11 years before ending the deal in 2009.
The Cowlin deal came to an end during the late-2000s recession. Faced with the prospect of having no shirt sponsor for the 2009–10 season, the club came up with the idea of a raffle to raise the funds required. Tickets were sold at £1,000 with all 96 available being sold meaning the club raised £96,000 for one season of shirt sponsorship, more than some Premier League clubs. First prize in the draw went to local training and recruitment company N-Gaged whose logo appeared on that season's home kit. Second prize went to Bristol based solicitors Stevens, Hewlett & Perkins whose logo appeared on the away kit. The raffle proved so successful that the club replicated it for the 2010–11 season with Smart Computers becoming the new home kit sponsors and Stalbridge Linen the away sponsors. Despite initially planning to return to the tradition form of sponsorship, the club again ran a sponsorship raffle for the 2011–12 season. McCarthy Waste and ITS becoming the new kit sponsors.
|Period||Kit Supplier||Home Kit Sponsor||Away Kit Sponsor|
|1988–1990||Spall||Design Windows||Universal Components|
|1995–1996||Le Coq Sportif||Elite Hampers|
|1996–1997||Cica||Bradshaw's Snack Box|
|1997–1998||The Jelf Group|
|2009–2010||N-Gaged||Stevens, Hewlett & Perkins|
|2010–2011||Smart Computers||Stalbridge Linen|
|2012-2013||Opus Recruitment Solutions||CR Windows|
|1891–1892||Schoolmasters Cricket Ground|
|1996–present||The Memorial Stadium|
Rovers play their home games at The Memorial Stadium in Horfield, a ground they share with Bristol Rugby Club. The team moved to The Mem, as it is known informally, at the beginning of the 1996–97 season, initially as tenants but purchased it two years later.
When Bristol Rovers were known as Black Arabs F.C. in 1883, they played their home games at Purdown, Stapleton. The following year they moved to Three Acres, the precise location of which is not known, but is believed to have been in the Ashley Down area of Bristol, where they remained for seven years. This was followed by brief stays at the Schoolmasters Cricket Ground, Durdham Down and Ridgeway.
For the majority of their history, Bristol Rovers have played their home games at the Eastville Stadium, where they remained for a period of 89 years from 1897–1986. Financial problems led to the team being forced to leave Eastville, and they found a temporary home at Twerton Park, the home of Bath City. They stayed in Bath for 10 seasons, before returning to Bristol in 1996.
Rovers also played five home games at Ashton Gate, home of rivals Bristol City, following a fire which destroyed the South Stand of the Eastville Stadium on the night of the 16–17 August 1980. Rovers returned to Eastville in October 1980. During World War II, some friendly matches were played in Kingswood, and in their early history some games were played at Parson Street, Bedminster
In January 2007 planning permission was granted for a new 18,500 capacity all-seater stadium to be built on the site of the Memorial Stadium. Building work was originally intended to begin late in 2007, but a number of delays set the project back first until the summer of 2008, and then until the summer of 2009.
Further delays meant that by 2011, the club had began exploring different options with regards to the future of the club's stadium. In June 2011, the club announced its intention to relocate the club to a new 20,000 all seater stadium, to be built on land at the University of the West of England's Frenchay campus. In order to fund the project, the current site of the Memorial Stadium will be sold to supermarket Sainsbury's, who coincidentally already had planning permission to redevelop Ashton Gate Stadium.
The team traditionally draws the majority of its support from north and east Bristol and South Gloucestershire. Many towns and villages in the surrounding area are also home to significant pockets of Rovers supporters.
The nickname given to Bristol Rovers supporters is "Gasheads". "The Gas" was originally coined as a derogatory term by the supporters of Bristol Rovers' rivals Bristol City, and was in reference to the large gas works adjacent to the old Bristol Rovers stadium, in Eastville, Bristol which wafted the sometimes overpowering odour of town gas across the crowd. "Gasheads" was adopted as a name by a splinter group of Rovers supporters in the mid-1980s to early 1990s. The chant "Proud to be a Gashead" spread to regular fans, and a fanzine was produced called The Gashead.
The term "Gasheads" is now universally accepted within the English media and football fraternity as referring to Bristol Rovers supporters. After the club's relegation to Football League Two in 2001, the club designated the squad number 12 to the Gasheads to signify them as the club's 12th Man in recognition of their loyal support.
In 2000 another splinter group of supporters came together. Known as the Blackthorn Buccaneers, their aim was to celebrate the maritime heritage of the city of Bristol, identifying with the pirate on the club's badge. The group celebrates its existence at most games by the waving of pirate flags and wearing of pirate costumes. The group take its name from the terrace formerly known as the Blackthorn End (now the Bass Terrace) on which they stand at the Memorial Stadium.
Opinions differ as to how this came about but it is thought to have become popular in the 1950s when a version of the song was in the British charts—the line "sometimes I have a great notion to jump in the river and drown"—seemed to be particularly apt when Rovers lost as the Bristol Frome flows alongside the old Eastville ground. Another theory is that it was sung at a fireworks display at the Stadium the night before a Home game against Plymouth Argyle in the 1950s. During the game the following day, Rovers were winning quite comfortably and the few Argyle supporters present began to leave early prompting a chorus of "Goodnight Argyle" from the Rovers supporters—the tune stuck and Irene became the club song.
Another popular Bristol Rovers song is "Tote End Boys", which was written and sung by Ben Gunstone. The name "Tote End Boys" derives from the section of Gasheads who stood in the Tote End terrace at Rovers' old home, Eastville Stadium.
The era of the tote end is documented in detail in 'Booted and Suited' a book by Chris Brown described as social history with steel toecaps.
Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
For recent transfers, see 2011–12 Bristol Rovers F.C. season.
This is a list of the most noted former players at Bristol Rovers Football Club, giving the period that each player spent at the club, their nationality and their reason for being listed. To be included in this list a player must have made over 400 league appearances for the club, scored over 100 league goals or hold a club record.
|1927–1947||England||Jack Pitt||Played 467 league games.
Spent over 50 years at the club as a player, coach and groundsman.
|1928–1932||England||Ronnie Dix||The club's youngest ever player, at 15 years 173 days.
The Football League's youngest ever goalscorer, at 15 years 180 days.
|1936–1956||England||Ray Warren||Played 450 league games.|
|1945–1955||England||Vic Lambden||Scored 117 goals in 268 league appearances.|
|1945–1962||England||George Petherbridge||Played 457 league games.|
|1946–1958||England||Harry Bamford||Played 486 league games.|
|1949–1964||England||Geoff Bradford||Rovers' record goal scorer with 242 league goals from 462 appearances.
The only player to be capped by England while at Bristol Rovers.
|1953–1962||Kenya||Peter Hooper||Scored 101 goals in 297 league games.|
|1953–1968||England||Alfie Biggs||Played 424 league games and scored 178 goals.|
|1956–1973||England||Bobby Jones||Played 421 league games and scored 101 goals.|
|1959–1973||England||Harold Jarman||Played 452 league games and scored 127 goals.|
|1966–1980||England||Stuart Taylor||Played 546 league games, more than any other Rovers player|
|1981–1999||England||Ian Holloway||Named the fans' Cult Hero in a BBC poll.|||
|1987–1989||England||Nigel Martyn||Became the first goalkeeper to command a million pound transfer fee when he was sold to Crystal Palace.|||
|1992–2000||England||Andy Tillson||Record signing, and former club captain.|||
|1997–1999||Jamaica||Barry Hayles||Club record sale when he moved to Fulham for £2,100,000.|
|2000–2003||Latvia||Vitālijs Astafjevs||Most internationally capped Bristol Rovers player, with 31 appearances for Latvia while playing with Rovers 158 times.|||
|Goalkeeping Coach||Carl Emberson|
|Head of Youth||Ken Oram|
|Youth Team Coach||Jamie Fullarton|
|Head of Analysis||Vincent North|
As of November 2008, 28 men have been appointed as a manager of Bristol Rovers Football Club, excluding caretaker managers. Bobby Gould and Gerry Francis are the only men to have been given the job on a permanent basis twice, although if caretaker managers are included Garry Thompson and Phil Bater have also held the position on two separate occasions.
The Bristol Rovers centre of excellence is associated with the Bristol Academy of Sport, located at Filton College, which offers a college education along with football coaching. Current squad members Chris Lines, Ben Swallow, Charlie Reece, Eliot Richards, Charlie Clough and Mike Green all graduated from the Academy to earn a professional contract. Perhaps the most successful former member of the academy is Scott Sinclair, who was signed by Chelsea in 2005 for an initial fee of £200,000, with further payments to the club possible, depending on performance. He currently plays for Swansea City. Chris Lines was sold to Sheffield Wednesday on August 10, 2011 for a fee of £50,000.
The club had a successful women's team, formed in 1998 as Bristol Rovers W.F.C. and now known as Bristol Academy W.F.C. They play in the top flight of women's football in England, the FA Women's Premier League National Division, and have won ten trophies since their formation, as well as reaching the semi-finals of the FA Women's Cup on five occasions. And the Final in 2011 when they lost to Arsenal 2–0 at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
Bristol Rovers Football Club has won the following honours:
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