By Keith Brookman.
Four years ago former Rovers central defender Steve Yates returned to Bristol after seven years in Crete, rejoining the club as Kit Manager under John Ward.
With eight games of that first season to go, Ward was replaced as manager by Darrell Clarke; "That season didn't end well, as we were relegated to The Conference.
"I have to say I was devastated when that happened and don't mind admitting I shed a lot of tears the day we went down. However, since then the club has been on the up and the credit for that, in my opinion, is down to Darrell.
"As soon I met him I could tell that he was a winner. Even when we dropped out of the league I told people that he was the man to get us back, because I knew he had the mentality to do it. What struck me about him was his honesty. It's a trait that is very rare in this day and age and I admire him for that and the way he goes about his job.
"He invited me to join his coaching staff during his first full season in charge and I combined that with the role of Kit Manager before concentrating on coaching duties for the last two seasons.
"The gaffer has become a good friend in the time we have worked together, but I've also become friends with all of the other coaching staff and the players. We are a very close knit group, even though we are all different in many ways and I would like to thank everyone I have worked with for the last four years for their help and support; it's been a great journey."
A fan himself, he knows how our fanbase has enjoyed the success we have had recently; "Players, managers, and coaches come and go, but supporters are there week in, week out, for many, many, years and they have enjoyed a great day out at Wembley and a final day promotion last season as well as a really successful season this time around.
"I really can’t fault this group of players and the effort they put in, day in day out ,week in, week out and I can’t speak too highly of them. They are a fantastic group, one of best I have ever been associated with. They give us everything and wear the shirt with pride, which stems from the manager."
Having been a player himself, experiencing life on the other side of things has been an eye opener; "My sleeping pattern has changed, that's for sure!
"As Kit Manager you always worry about forgetting to pack something for an away trip, and don't relax until you have laid out the dressing room, whilst as a coach you are always thinking about team formation, personnel and countless other things. I've always tried to be a perfectionist, which is why I lose sleep, but I can't imagine what it's like for the manager; ten times worse at least, I suspect!"
Steve is to be found in the technical area on matchdays and Darrell has said he likens him to his captain on the sidelines; "I get so involved with the game, that If I had to sit in the dugout I couldn’t do it. I need to be involved and the manager is fantastic about that and lets me get on with it. Basically, though, I'm just a glorified cheerleader!"
Everyone knows that Rovers are Yatesy's club; "I played here from the age of ten until I was 23 and loved every minute of it. This club was a major part of my life and gave me the opportunity to play in the Premiership and the Championship."
So why leave now? ; "When I finished playing my partner, Toni, and I worked in Crete for seven years. She supported me when I wanted to come back four years ago, but we both agreed that we would return to Crete within five years because we love the way of life out there and we made many friends when we were out there before."
"We feel the time is right for us to go back now, but I will always be grateful to Darrell for giving me a coaching role at this, my club. I never had any ambitions to become a manager, though, and I still don't, even though it's been a fantastic four years!"