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Rovers World Cup Connections: Japan

6 June 2018

With the World Cup about to begin in Russia, we look at connections between Bristol Rovers Football Club and the 32 participating countries.

In some cases these connections are strong and multiple; in others they are tenuous, at best. Japan are competing in their sixth successive World Cup Finals.

Pirates in Japan

No Japanese player has signed for Rovers, but two former Rovers players do have a connection with the country. 

Graham Withey was a striker who scored ten goals in 19 (+3) League matches with Rovers in the 1982/83 season.

In October 1984 he joined the Japanese club Seiko on a six-week loan from Coventry City. 

Charlie Preedy (1900-78) was a goalkeeper who had won the FA Cup Final in 1930 with Arsenal and who played in 39 League matches with Rovers during the 1933/34 season.

His mother Helen Florence Lyne (1867-1941) was, according to census returns, born in Japan; Helen married Corporal Henry Preedy, whose father and uncle had been jailed following their part in a notorious flour throwing episode in 1851. 

Helen and Henry had nine children, Charlie being the sixth and born in India, where his father was serving.

Opponents in Tokyo

Steve Perryman MBE played for Brentford against Rovers in the late 1980s and later worked in Japan. 

Welsh international Mark Bowen was in the Wigan Athletic side which faced Rovers in September 1999 and had earlier played for Shimizu S-Pulse. 

Dutch striker Jeroen Boere (1967-2007) played for Omiya Ardija in 1998/99, having opposed Rovers with Southend United the previous season. 

Gordon Milne was in the Liverpool team against Rovers in 1961/62 and was manager at Nagoya Grampus Eight from 1994. 

Kim Grant, at Shonan Bellmere in 2005, played against Rovers with Luton, Charlton, Millwall and Yeovil. 

Ryan Burge of Port Vale and Newport County in recent seasons, spent 2009 at Machida Zelvia, partly as his stepmother is Japanese. 

Gerry Peyton (Fulham), David Hodgson (Darlington), Ian Griffiths (Wigan Athletic) and Stuart Thurgood (Southend United) all also played professionally in the top Japanese league.

The Wandering Spaniard

The most travelled Japanese visitor to reach Rovers' shores was perhaps the Spaniard Francisco Sandaza. 

He was in the Brighton side which faced Rovers in February 2011 and played eight times for Tokyo FC in the 2015/16 season. 

After playing for Valencia and a number of other clubs on loan, he played in Scotland with Dundee United, St Johnstone and Rangers. 

A trial in Rumania having fallen through, Sandaza returned briefly to Spain before playing for Al Ahli in Qatar. He is currently at the Chinese side Qingdao Huanghai.

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