By Stephen Byrne
The Fifa World Cup begins in Brazil this week and we will be looking at Rovers’ connections with all participating countries.
One Spaniard has represented Bristol Rovers in League football. Carlos Sánchez López, a right-footed, right-sided midfielder, joined the club in February 2002. Born in Madrid in July 1979, he had played at right-back for the Madrid side Coslada before joining CF Getafe in 2001.
After ten League games and one goal for Getafe, he arrived at the Memorial Stadium in time to start six League matches for Rovers. In July 2002 he moved to the Spanish Division 2B side Cartagenova, joining Toledo and San Sebastian de los Reyes.
In addition, Rovers signed Pedro Miguel Matias on a non-contract basis in 2004, but he never played for the first-team. Born in Madrid in October 1973, Matias was with Real Madrid from August 1997 and later Logroñes, before playing League football for Macclesfield, Tranmere, Walsall and Blackpool.
He was with Rovers in 2004, before playing for Kidderminster Harriers. He played for Macclesfield and Walsall twice each against Rovers, scoring for Walsall against Rovers in April 2001.
Guy Ipoua may be the only other Rovers player who has also played professional football in Spain. The Cameroonian striker began his career in France and, having spent six months at the Italian club Torino, the club where the former England international Tony Dorigo also played, he joined Atlético Madrid in 1994, aged eighteen.
Ipoua spent four years in Spain, first at Atlético, where his side won the Spanish League and Cup in his time there. Ipoua, though, could not make the first team and moved to Sevilla in December 1997.
After a loan spell at Alicante, he spent a trial fortnight at Crystal Palace and joined Rovers on a free transfer in August 1998. In his sole season with Rovers, he scored three goals in 15(+9) League games.
Although no Spanish international players have played against Rovers, fourteen Spanish-born players have opposed Rovers in the League. The first to do so was Isidro Diaz (Wigan Athletic, Zaragoza and Cartagonova), and the list has since included Roberto Martinez (Chester City and Wigan Athletic), the most recent being Guillem Bauzà (Español and Exeter City).
Miguel Llera (Recreativo Gimnastic, Hercules Alicante and MK Dons) was sent off against Rovers in December 2008.
Bill Shaw, a left-half born in Durham in 1902, was a former Barcelona player who played against Rovers in the Third Division (South). Having spent the 1924-25 season with Barcelona, Shaw was with Northampton Town between 1925 and 1931 and played twice against Rovers.
Rovers lost 2-0 at the County Ground in March 1926 and won 5-2 at Eastville thirteen months later, Bill Culley scoring a hat-trick.
Willy Garbutt, an Englishman who was born in 1883 and died in 1964, played in Arsenal's 1-0 FA Cup win against Rovers in February 1907. After more than a decade of successful coaching in Italy, "Mister English" became coach at Atlético Bilbao in 1935, where he remained until forced out of the country the following year in the midst of the Spanish Civil War.
Ronnie Allen played five times, scoring once, for Port Vale against Rovers between 1946 and 1950 and in three League matches for Crystal Palace against Rovers between 1961 and 1965, and managed Atlético Bilbao when they won the Copa del Rey in 1969.
Allan Harris, a Plymouth Argyle player in four League fixtures against Rovers between 1971 and 1973, was assistant manager at Barcelona when they reached the European Cup Final in 1986.
Twenty-eight League opponents have furthered their footballing careers in Spain, most notably Edgar Davids. Barnet’s player-manager at The Mem in February 2013, he scored twice in 24 matches with Barcelona in 2004.
Other opponents included Igor Gurinovich from Belarus and Lucas Cominelli from Argentina, who opposed Rovers for Brighton and Oxford respectively.
Fred Pentland (1883-1962), who won five England caps and played for QPR against Rovers in the 1907-08 Southern League season, was manager at Racing Santander (1920-21), Atlético Bilbao (1922-25 and 1929-33), Real Oviedo (1926-27) and in three spells at Atlético Madrid (1925-26, 1927-29 and 1934-35). He also managed the Spanish national side briefly in 1929.
Alex Steele, who played against Rovers for Southend United (1913-15) and Gillingham (1919-20) coached in Spain in 1912-13. Howard Kendall, who played for Stoke and Blackburn against Rovers, was manager of Atlético Bilbao from July 1987. Bobby Robson (Fulham) was manager of Barcelona in the 1996-97 season. Jeroen Boere (Southend United) sadly died in Spain in August 2007. Gus Poyet, formerly with Real Zaragoza, was Brighton’s manager against Rovers in November 2010. Belarussian Igor Gurinovich, who played for Brighton against Rovers on Boxing Day 1990, was with the Spanish side Castellón in 1993-94 and Walsall’s Argentinian Walter Otta in 1998 was with Xerex twelve months later.
This season, Rovers were knocked out of the League Cup by Watford, fielding Dabiel Pudil and Javier Acuña, and the FA Cup by Birmingham City, including Nicola Zigic, all of whom also appeared in Spanish League football.
Sam Clucas, who played for Mansfield Town at The Mem in May 2014, played twenty times for Jerez Industrial in the 2010-11 campaign.
David Pritchard, a Rovers favourite for many years, is now running a pub in Spain. Between 1993 and 2002, he played in 157 (plus six as sub) League matches for Rovers, scoring once.