A tantalising Westcountry Derby is on the cards in the upcoming campaign as Bristol Rovers return to League Two. Here’s a pre-season preview of the Pirates.
ABOUT BRISTOL ROVERS
Formed on the Stapleton Road in 1883, ‘Eastville Rovers’ went through a number of name changes prior to sticking with Bristol Rovers. In the 1888/89 season, The Pirates claimed the Gloucestershire Senior Cup before turning professional in 1897. Rovers’ nickname derives from the infamous maritime history of the City, whereas ‘The Gas’ was adopted from the term used by rivals City, where Eastville Stadium laid next to a gasworks.
Rovers were an original member of the Third Division in 1920 and won the division in 1952/53, with their first Football League honour. The Pirates repeated the feat in 1989/90 and managed to reach the dizzying heights of Division 1 (modern Championship) in 1992. Rovers have a strange stat of the most players to have scored four goals in a single match, without a player scoring five. A staggering 12 players have completed a four-goal haul for the Gas including Sydney Leigh in 1921, against Exeter City, and a certain Jamie Cureton who netted four against Reading in 1999.
In 2015, The Gas dropped out of the Football League but completed an immediate return, with a play-off win the following season, bouncing with back-to-back promotions. Last season Rovers stumbled to a measly 24th place finish.
One of English football’s most notorious names, Joey Barton is at the helm at the Memorial Stadium. Joey’s playing career was shadowed with success but controversy, with the 38-year-old bringing his sometimes-overeager energy into his management style. The Merseyside midfielder had his youth career at both sides of the Beatles hometown, prior to breaking through to senior football at Manchester City.
Between 2002-2007, Barton turned out 130 times in sky blue and then a further 83 appearances for Newcastle United. Whilst at QPR, Barton received a red card in the final game of the 2011/12 season, which spurred his former side Manchester City to steal the title with the final shot of the season. Aguerooo.
Into management, Barton grabbed his first crack at Fleetwood in June 2018. In 2019, the former midfielder had a fracas with Barnsley manager Daniel Stendel and in 2021 was relieved of his duty. With Rovers frantically searching for a new boss last season, Barton succeeded former Grecian Paul Tisdale but with the Gas destined for relegation. The build-back has begun and Rovers have made a number of positive signings ahead of this season.
Aaron Collins is one of Barton’s new recruits. The striker arrives at the Memorial Stadium on a two-year deal. A highly-rated talent, the 24-year-old possesses a good degree of EFL experience, with spells at the likes of Newport County, Tranmere Rovers, Morecambe, Colchester and most recently at Forest Green Rovers.
It was A. Collins and A. Collins who both found themselves on the scoresheet when Exeter met Forest Green on Boxing Day (though Archie trumped him with his piledriver). That goal was one of 11 for Aaron last term which guided the Club on the Hill to the League Two Play-offs, where he netted in the thrilling second leg against Newport County. That proved his final game for Forest Green and joined the Pirates last month.
HEAD TO HEAD
The Pirates usually offer exciting affairs and this year marks the 100th anniversary of the inaugural fixture- a 5-0 victory for the Bristolians. Not every game has been as grim a reading for City fans with some fans remembering the brilliant 2-0 away victory in 2011. That’s proven to be our last victory on the Severn estuary, but the two Westcountry adversaries lock horns again on 21st August.
Exeter City wins: 29
Bristol Rovers wins: 31
The teams last met competitively in the EFL Trophy in 2018 with Exeter running out 2-0 winners, with Jonathan Forte and Joel Randall finding the net. The sides also met in last season’s pre-season calendar with the Gas taking the spoils on that occasion.
DID YOU KNOW
In September 1932, Rovers arranged for star striker Vivian Gribbins to be flown to their Third Division South fixture against Southend. Gribbins was a school-teacher in East London and was unable to leave before 4pm. He was flown from Romford aerodrome to Filton arriving 30 minutes before kick-off. Gribbins went on to score in Rovers’ 3-1 victory that evening.