By Nathan Bees
Since the last blog it’s fair to say a lot has happened, despite the fact our game at home to Exeter was postponed last weekend due to the snow.
We are now a football club that are 3 points better off and have all the necessary planning permissions to progress with the construction of a 21,700 all-seater stadium.
It has definitely been a fantastic fortnight and January 16th 2013 will prove to be one of the most important days in the club’s 130 year history. All this excitement and optimism whilst we’re still bottom of League Two - only at Bristol Rovers!
The 3-0 win at Fleetwood Town a fortnight ago wasn’t something that too many predicted pre-match considering their lofty play-off position, but our youthful looking team went out and ran riot.
Great goals from Danny Woodards, Eliot Richards and John-Joe O’Toole sealed an impressive 3 points to earn the accolade of Performance of the Week from the League Managers Association - voted for by the likes of Howard Wilkinson and Sir Alex Ferguson.
That’s no mean feat considering how inexperienced our lineup was, with the likes of Ellis Harrison being handed his first ever professional start on the left wing. He certainly didn’t let the team down and along with everybody else he put in a superb display to topple the free-spending Cod Army.
It was no less than the 450 Gasheads who made the trip north deserved and their delight was evident with several proud renditions of Goodnight Irene audible on Radio Bristol. It was a great Saturday night for every one of a blue and white persuasion.
Following on from the positivity that weekend, Rovers headed in to midweek desperately hoping that Bristol City Council would grant planning permission for Sainsbury’s to build on the current Memorial Stadium site.
We’d already obtained permission to build the UWE Stadium on land owned by the University of the West of England and chairman Nick Higgs likened us to being in front after the first leg of a ‘play-off game’.
He explained that metaphorically we still faced a tricky away leg that we needed to overcome before we could win the tie.
For that to happen we needed the vote to be in favour of Sainsbury’s building at the Mem. With Gasheads around the world glued to Twitter and the excellent coverage on our official Rovers account, we held our breaths in unison as the councillors indicated which way they would be voting.
When it was finally confirmed that there was a 6-3 majority in favour of the build I guarantee that there were tearful smiles on the faces of every Rovers fan - and rightly so. We could all dare to dream for the first time.
It felt like we could finally live up to the potential that exists for a football club in a city the size of Bristol. It felt like our time was arriving. In the euphoria of the memorable evening we were all responsible for the hashtag #UWEStadiumDay trending in the UK and it informed everybody that Bristol Rovers were in business!
There were deserved tweets of appreciation for Nick Higgs and the tremendous amount of hard work he has put in to the project along with the other directors, all of whom have made the vision of a new stadium a reality.
Building work can commence in earnest in the summer and it should be ready for us to move in to going in to the 2015-2016 season...what an agonising wait!
It was refreshing to see everyone enjoying the celebrations and it created a good vibe amongst supporters, something which is absolutely crucial given our current on-field predicament.
We need a united fanbase, a united club and a team who are willing to put their bodies on the line for the cause. I think we have that now and we have every reason to believe that we can avoid relegation and remain a Football League club.
Do that and we can attempt to become a third tier club in time for the grand opening of the UWE Stadium.
That’s a long way off right now and despite the fact we are 24th in the league, John Ward has managed to add a further two new faces to the squad. Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald has joined on a 93 day emergency loan whilst Stoke City striker Ryan Brunt has signed a 2 and a half year deal following a successful spell on loan with League One side Leyton Orient.
Both players are available for tomorrow’s tricky trip to promotion-chasers Rotherham United and will be hoping to make an immediate impact. Let’s ensure they receive a warm Gas welcome when they make their home debuts next Friday evening when we take on our relegation rivals Barnet. Good luck lads!
Ward has also been boosted by the timely return of senior pros David Clarkson and Joe Anyinsah from injury and they both come in to contention for our trip to the New York Stadium in Yorkshire.
We’ll need to put in a performance similar to the one we produced in our last outing if we’re to return home with all 3 points again tomorrow, but with confidence on a high so far in 2013, why shouldn’t we make that happen?
Let’s build on the sterling work done off the pitch and make the most of the hype surrounding the club right now. Together we need to ensure this is a good year to be a Gashead.
Come on you blues!