Tribute to a former Gas legend
GEORGE ERNEST PETHERBRIDGE
Everyone at Bristol Rovers was saddened to hear of the death of our former player George Petherbridge, who passed away yesterday aged 85.
George was born in Devonport, near Plymouth, on 19th May 1927 and for each of the first 16 post war League seasons the popular outside right scored at least once for Rovers.
This impressive record, unparalleled at any Football League club, contributed to a vast tally of appearances and goals in the blue and white quartered shirts of the only club this loyal winger would represent at this level.
An ever present in 1951/52, Petherbridge played through the halcyon days of Rovers’ golden period, appearing in every season as the club reached two FA Cup quarter finals and won the Third Division (South) title in 1952/53, the speedy winger reaching double figures in the League that campaign for the third time in his career.
Brought up in Bristol as the only son of Frederick Petherbridge, who had been on Portsmouth’s books, and Violet Trout (1882-1960), who was 44 when her only son was born, ‘Winky Pop’ was a diminutive, slight, immensely popular player who had made one wartime appearance for Exeter after recovering from a broken arm sustained whilst playing for Rovers reserves against Bristol City reserves in September 1945.
He played in 18 wartime games with Rovers, scoring in a 5-3 win at Bournemouth in January 1946. During the war, he had also represented Eastern Command against the Army, the Royal Navy and the French Navy.
He progressed from there to become a reliable and critical cog in the Rovers machine and became, at 23, the youngest man to be granted a benefit game for the club.
When Torquay visited Eastville in December 1951, Petherbridge scored four times in a comfortable 5-0 Rovers victory and he continued to give Rovers valuable service into his mid thirties, by which time he had become one of only nine players to represent the club in three separate decades.
Indeed, he is one of only three men to have played for Rovers more than 15 years after his club début, only four players have appeared in more League games and no one else has represented the side in 40 FA Cup ties.
The largest crowd at any third tier fixture in 1951/52 was the 34,612 at Eastville in January 1952 to see Petherbridge, the third shortest player to represent the club, put Rovers in front before Geoff Bradford’s goal wrapped up a 2-0 victory over Bristol City.
George scored a remarkable 85 goals in 457 league games for Rovers. Club form earned representative honours and he made 11 appearances on the Football Association tour to South Africa in 1956, his six goals including a brace in a 7-2 victory over Orange Free State at Bloemfontein that June as well as a long range effort against Northern Rhodesia in Kitwenkana.
Recovering from a broken ankle suffered after just 12 minutes of a reserve game with Ipswich Town in January 1959, Petherbridge left Rovers on relegation in the spring of 1962 and he made his Salisbury début in a Western League game against Minehead that August, scoring five goals in nine months before running ‘The Angel’ public house at Sherston and ‘The Tamar’ just inside the Cornish border.
A sports teacher at Millfield School and later groundsman at Wells Cathedral School until his retirement over Easter 1992, Petherbridge married Rita Walker in 1950 and they have a son, two daughters and 11 grandchildren, one daughter Kay Strain still working at Millfield Prep School.
A Rovers legend in his own right, George Petherbridge recommended Paul Randall to the club and Petherbridge Way, just off Muller Road and not too far from the site of Eastville Stadium, was named in his honour in March 1997.