By Lucas SwainUpon relegation to the Vanarama Conference Premier a number of terrifying thoughts were whipping through people’s minds. From the future of our club to playing against plumbers, Bristol Rovers outside of the Football League was something nobody ever envisaged.
However, now in England’s 5th tier, Rovers are presented with a new opportunity – the FA Trophy.
Far from England’s most prestigious domestic cup, the FA Trophy is the Capital One Cup equivalent of the non-league world. Compiled of teams from as low as the 8th tier of English football, it presents a fantastic opportunity for smaller clubs to play at one of football’s grandest stages, Wembley.
The new Wembley is a successful stomping ground for Rovers, as I’m sure the majority of people can remember the exhilarating 3-1 victory against Shrewsbury Town. So why shouldn’t Rovers aim to get there again?
For clubs aiming back for promotion into the Football League, which Rovers most definitely are, the FA Trophy may be considered a distraction with the little amount of income it generates. However, it also presents a fantastic opportunity for fringe players to showcase their skills and Darrell Clarke to experiment with the team.
Last year saw Cambridge United lift the trophy at Wembley after defeating Gosport Borough in the final, Cambridge also finished 2nd in the league and consequently won the play-offs – sound familiar?
Cambridge showed that the FA Trophy shouldn’t be a distraction, it should treated as another trophy to be won. After all, whilst Rovers supporters may be concerned it could jeopardise our league position, it’s been proven that cup and league success can be synchronised.
After being in the FA Cup quarter-finals just six years ago, the idea of Rovers competing in the FA Trophy may be something fans turn their nose up to. Although, it’s time we accepted that we’re a Conference
Premier club, and we’re going to be here for at least four more months.
A day trip to Wembley is great for the fans, the players, manager and anybody affiliated with the club. There’s a real feel-good factor surrounding the historic stadium, and it does nothing but boost morale for every party, especially if you win!
Bristol Rovers’ trophy cabinet isn’t exactly packed to the rafters, so the FA Trophy would be a fitting addition and, potentially, a chance of taking home two trophies in one season.
After being eliminated from the FA Cup in the First Round Proper and not being in a high enough division to compete in either the Capital One Cup or the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, both Clarke and the players can go far in this competition without clogging up the fixture list.
Bath City are the first hurdle for Rovers to negotiate, then it’s just four more rounds separating Bristol Rovers from being reunited with Wembley Way.