By Nathan Bees
Gasheads never fail to amaze me. Through the very worst times, being bottom of League Two, the support shown for our club at home and at far-flung away grounds across the country has been incredible.
It’s not just the sheer number of Rovers fans who attend the matches that makes me proud, it’s the noise and atmosphere they generate.
Whether it’s the fantastic 450 who made the trip up to Fleetwood in mid-January or the 1,900 who descended on Oxford, the support Rovers receive is pretty much unrivaled in the bottom two divisions and always receives praise from opposition fans, management and players.
Whilst it’s always nice to hear positive comments from those outside the club, like Michael Hector of Cheltenham who was very complimentary last week, it’s always most pleasing when your own players appreciate it.
You tend to forget about the effect it has on your team because as Gasheads we sing and shout in every game we go to - it’s the norm. But it isn’t for some of our players - they just aren’t used to it.
The general perception is that the support in the lower leagues of English football is poor, something I’ve always disputed as some of the most loyal and hardy fans belong to clubs in League’s One and Two, but that’s not the case. Even if it was, we’re one of the exceptions to the rule.
Take our most recent signing, young striker Ryan Brunt. He has come from a Premier League club in Stoke City, who are known for their vocal fanbase, and joined a club who were in the relegation zone of League Two.
He has made no secret of the fact he took the drop in order to play first team football but, aside from that, what would he expect from a club struggling in the bottom tier? A dogfight, I’d imagine.
Whilst that was probably the case, he also told me in an interview I did with him last Friday that he was only just beginning to realise ‘what the club’s potential really was’ in light of the Sainsbury’s planning permission and superb attendances.
He went as far as to say that he mentioned to John-Joe O’Toole pre-Cheltenham that the noise Gasheads were making made it feel like a ‘home game’ and that it was a ‘great’ feeling to have.
For a player nurtured in the top flight to make comments like that about how impressive our fanbase is was really pleasing to hear and it made me realise just how unique we are.
I’ve grown up surrounded by it and I suppose I took for granted just how important our role is on a matchday. It doesn’t matter whether we’re playing at home or elsewhere in the country, we have the ability to make a positive impact on the way our team performs... as has been the case over the last few weeks.
When the players come out publicly after a game to praise how loud and encouraging Rovers fans have been then it makes you feel important. There’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve made a difference.
Being a Gashead, in my eyes, has always meant showing your pride and passion for the club by getting behind the team and making it as intimidating as possible for the opposition. I’ve known no different.
It’s the way it has always been and always will be, so I should never be surprised by it. Last Saturday at the Kassam though, I was. Stood amongst an army of travelling Gasheads that far exceeded the total crowds in games at Accrington, Morecambe and Dagenham on the same day made me very proud.
There was a cacophony of noise coming from the away stand all game and it was matched by yet another tremendous performance on the pitch by the players to earn us 3 points. It was a real team effort and proved, not for the first time under John Ward, that when we all pull together we’re more than a match for anyone.
Tomorrow’s game is another huge one as we have the chance to overtake a couple of the teams currently sat just above us in the table.
Wycombe will provide a stern test as their recent form has been very good under boss Gareth Ainsworth, but we’ve beaten some very decent sides in the last month or so and have nothing to fear.
Let’s pack the Mem out once again Gasheads and do our bit to help claim another massive 3 points for the boys.
Up the Gas!