By Gerry PrewettBristol Rovers first home game of the 2016/17 season sees them welcome back former management duo, Paul Trollope and Lenny Lawrence as they entertain Cardiff City in the EFL Cup.
Trollope is fresh from the euphoria of being closely involved in his nation’s very successful Euro 2016 campaign. He has recently relinquished that role to concentrate on the task at hand with his club team. The pair will surely be given a very warm welcome from Gasheads who saw him lead them to the successful promotion campaign in 2006.
Whilst Rovers were ultimately pointless from their opening day game at Scunthorpe, the Bluebirds came away with a point after a 0-0 draw at St Andrews. Cardiff could had a first half lead but Frederic Gounongbe missed an open goal and Tomasz Kusczak produced an outstanding save from Peter Whittingham.
In the second-half it was the Welsh team’s keeper David Marshall who produced saves from Diego Fabbrini and Jack Storer. Eventually the game slowed and Cardiff’s Lex Immers' shot late in the game came back off the woodwork.
Speaking after the game and responding to question about how he set up his team, Trollope responded, "There is an influence from the Euros. Obviously a few teams used it in the Euros like the team I worked with. A lot of teams have used this system and got out of this division.”
"With the players I have at my disposal at the moment I think it is a good way for us to go. We came with positive intentions to win the game but were frustrated we didn't win. We controlled good spells, which was pleasing.
"We want to be progressive and dynamic but it is what happens in the box. The signs are good and we defended when we were put under pressure. It is, however, work in progress. Hopefully we will improve. A clean sheet on the road is not bad."
The very first game between the teams took place on 21 November 1931 at Eastville and it finished all square after a 2-2 draw. Ronnie Dix and Tommy Cook scoring for Rovers and a Peter Ronan penalty and a goal by Harry O’Neil for the Welsh team. The return leg finished 3-1 to the home team.
Rovers first visit to Ninean Park after the War saw the biggest ever crowd between the two teams, 35,000 and the biggest winning margin too. Cardiff running out 4-0 winners. Rovers got their revenge in the home fixture with a 1-0 victory in front of 30,417 at Eastville. What would the Club give to get attendances like that again?
It was another twelve seasons before the clubs met again and the results were reversed Rovers won in Cardiff and Cardiff won at Eastville, both 2-0 scorelines. Cardiff’s best winning streak at home was between September 1980 and April 1986 when they won all three games and it has been repated between 2000 and 2009, the last three times the teams have met.
Prior to that in August 1977 a young player making his League debut in an away game got his name on the scoresheet in a 1-1 draw. The name of that player? Paul Randall.
On the English side of the Severn Rovers won five games in a row between 1962 and 1975 (three of those were League Cup-ties!) and three in a row between 1990 and 1994.
That game on 24 March 1990 holds special memories for me. It was the last game I saw before I emigrated to Australia. It was, of course, in that Championship winning season and like so many games that season Rovers pulled the game out of the fire.
Losing 1-0 with about four minutes to go, from an Ian Rodgerson goal, I was convinced that I was about to leave with the memory of a home defeat. But it wasn’t to be, Rovers gritty team of that season just didn’t know the meaning of defeat and snatched yet another 2-1 victory, with goals by “Boris’ Mehew and Paul Nixon.
On 16th October 1993 a John Taylor double saw Rovers win 2-1 in Cardiff and just four days later won 3-0 in the Autoglass Trophy at Twerton Park. Just 18 months later Marcus Stewart sealed the three points for Rovers with a 1-0 win.
The last time the teams met was on 26 August 2009 when Rovers were never in the hunt in Cardiff and went down to a 3-1 League Cup defeat, with Michael Chopra, Peter Whittingham and Josh Magennis, scoring for the home team and Steve Elliott scoring Rovers consolation goal.
The biggest issue at Cardiff City stadium at the moment involves a bizarre ritual that is embroiling defender Jazz Richards. Many Bluebirds fans do not belive he has performed the Ayatollah but the former Swansea City star insists he DID respond to fans' requests to perform the gesture.
Some Bluebirds fans were angry after claiming Richards ignored up to seven requests to 'do the Ayatollah' during the 0-0 draw with Birmingham on the opening day of the season.
So important is this ‘hands on the head’ gesture that the club later released video footage suggesting he did in fact eventually do it, with audio appearing to show the fans cheering his response in the 49th minute.
Trollope has revealed he has discussed the issue with player, insisting he is aware of the tradition and his obligations moving forward saying, " I spoke to Jazz. He’s aware of the club traditions and obligations and obviously it’s something that happened in the game.”
"I wasn’t aware until later in the evening but we’ve got evidence and he assures us he did it, which I think some of the supporters saw. Moving forward he knows the tradition of the club and what he has to do. We’ve spoken at length about it and I don’t think it will be an issue.
"Sometimes it’s difficult in a game with the concentration, where the ball is, etc, but we thought he performed to a good level, he was one of the ones who came back late from the Euros, didn’t quite have the same match minutes in pre-season as one or two of the others but we were pleased with his contributuion.”
"You don’t need these things going around it and we want to focus on the game, but he’s aware of what it is and the expectation so it shouldn’t be a problem going forward."
Asked if Richard had been affected by the reaction, he said: "I’m not sure. I think he was very focussed on the game. I don’t know whether or not he heard the ones before, he did it, which is the main thing. It’s probably a learning curve for the next games.”
"We were pleased with the signing and to get him here, he’s a current international, with the way we’re trying to play he suits us down to the ground. He’s athletic, got good quality on the ball, he defends well and can put crosses in at the other end. He’s perfect for us and he can be a big, big player for us.”
"On the pitch is where it matters but also moving forward he’s aware of the tradition of the football club and what’s needed."
Team-mate Sean Morrison backed up Richards' insistence he did perform the ayatollah, adding: "I didn’t notice it was going on until someone mentioned it. I thought I saw him do it at a corner, but people may have missed it. It means a lot to Cardiff fans for signings to appreciate that, I’m sure it was a misunderstanding and I'm sure he didn’t intentionally not want to do it."