Or: Realising the potential?
This was billed as the dawn of a new era for Bristol Rovers. For those readers who have locked themselves in a cupboard for a few days the news is that the club has been bought out by a Jordanian businessman and the days of “Rag Bag Rovers” may soon be at an end. Today was to suggest to me that the potential for Mr Al Qadi to get a return on his promised investment is great. Fulfilling potential is all the more likely when an asset has a low base from where to improve. Any change will be good change. The standards we have accepted in the name of our club are so low that any hint of improvement, for example in customer service, will be enjoyed and will highlight the inadequacies of life that we now take as the norm. The biggest problem will be in finding some patience now the Promised Land is seemingly reachable. We have plenty of that virtue in our Rovers fan kitbag. If the club wants to take on the idea of evolution to a new world it may well need a large dollop of our limitless loyalty to make it happen.
You may sense a feeling of frustration in that paragraph, so I will explain further. This Mr Grumpy had a bad day.
The Number 1 bus set me off. The timetable says it is a 50 minute journey from Cribbs Causeway to my destination on Victoria Street. Catch the bus at 11, no problem. The bus stalled at every stop and eventually gave up the ghost and we were transferred to one following behind. At 5 to 12 I abandoned said bus and walked the final half mile in a dismal attempt to meet the 12 start time. Bob and Ron were late as well but crucially they were there before me. I should have realised this would be prophetic for the day to follow.
At 12.07 exactly Bob dropped the first bombshell. I had settled into my excellent beer but I had yet to note down the beer or take a photo. This is similar to how communication at B.R.F.C. works. Bob then said the scary words. “Have you got your Newport tickets yet?” My face apparently went the shade reserved for past school teacher rages. I had been looking every minute of every day in the last week to see the date that they would be available to buy. There would be a limited number and we would expect to sell them out within a morning at most. I had somehow missed it. Sure enough a notice was buried deep in the website that they were available from yesterday lunchtime. Panic calls went in to the club shops. “No, we cannot put one aside while you get to the ground” There was nothing else to do. Book a taxi, abandon beer drinking and get to the ground a.s.a.p.
At 12.20 the journey up the Gloucester Road began. At 5 past 1 I breached the gates of the club to join the anticipated long queue. There was none. That is a bad sign. All gone then? No Mr Stedman you can buy one of the 1,037 with the season ticket voucher L. Kay who works in the shop is a lovely lady but I am afraid I had a “blowing my top” moment. They planned it so that season ticket holders could pick up tickets on a match day. Nothing wrong with that I contended. What is bad is not letting people have enough time to get to pick up those tickets. I know for a fact that they had been sitting on the tickets for a while but now had announced their sale at Lunchtime on Thursday for a Friday start time. Of course Friday at Bristol Rovers was somewhat hectic and the news would certainly been buried in the mass of media enlightenment. I understand that. They could have announced the news of Newport tickets on say Tuesday, allowing people to sort out means of getting to the ground on Friday or Saturday, and allow the Rovers networks to spread the news and people be there early enough to get their ticket. I can here you saying that what is the problem? You have a ticket, all must be well. What I pointed out in somewhat clumsy blurting was that obviously many others who usually join the early buyers queue had not heard the news as sales were unusually sluggish. The news had not got out but at least they had tried. I asked the next ten people I met whether they had got a ticket for the game. 8 of the ten went as white as I had gone red and fumed at the possibility of not getting at ticket. Neither of the fans forums mention the tickets, a sure sign that it has been unnoticed. I expect an announcement sometime early next week that all have sold out and all mother of protests will be heading towards their, oh so hidden, doors.
Back to the Seven Stars? No we didn’t The 12 beers will be revisited in a fortnight’s time.
By 1.30 I was sat in this excellent pub, ticket safely tucked in my wallet and the panic attack was in remission. The second beer was an excellent RCH East Street Cream. This pub was at its relaxed best. The beer range has gradually broadened and Box Steam beers were particularly good. We were joined by Andies, Gray and Bowen, plus young Larry and his band. By 2.20 I had returned to normal grumpy mode and wandered on to the ground through the Bristol drizzle.
Newport ticket and beer
Back to thoughts regarding potential. I couldn’t help but muse at the sheer misery it is to watch the Gas on such a day as yesterday. The food stand has a maximum space for 4 people to do the delivery. That usually equates to 2 being served at a time. Let’s say an average of a minute to serve each so a queue of 10 people should ideally take five minutes to clear. I arrived to see a bedraggled queue of 20 or so that was definitely not moving at a minute per person. At 2.45 I gave up as I was wet enough as it is and I did want to watch the game start. I vowed to try again at half time, raced to the queue and wasted my fifteen minute respite moving from the back to within 10 of the start when I gave up, unfed. This will not be missed when we get to a shiny new stadium sometime in the future. My personal resolution is now to eat elsewhere before the game.
The closest I got to the front of the queue
Bristol Rovers 2 Morecambe 1 Attendance 7,400 (92 Shrimpers)
The 10 to 3
The game was dull as dull could be. The new chief came out and did some ritualistic shirt badge kissing with a nifty joke about being wallet less. It took 70 minutes to get to second gear and then the game was won with some relative ease. Two goals came from wind assisted errors plus a simple penalty decision. I described the first half performance as mindless. Hit long balls from back to front if you like but learn that the wind was taking the ball miles over the line. Perhaps try an alternative angle. This was league 2 thinking at its direst.
It was dull enough to look and wonder. The rain drenched East terrace was understandably sparsely populated while the covered North Terrace full for a 7000 crowd. Not rocket science but it appears on days like this that it is season ticket holders in that area that get a raw deal from the weather. Oh for the days when all is covered, let alone seated. It is no coincidence that the 9000 Gasheads at the last game had dwindled by a couple of thousand. Having a roof counts. Simple comfort does count. All this on a day when there was serious potential to party in the rain. The miserable 92 from the North West at least had the sense and money to shelter at the back of the tent. I hope the stewards did the proper thing and gave their terrace fans an option to keep dry. I somehow doubt it.
Entertainment Value 1
Man of the Match: Tom Parkes
We met as usual in the bar. We ritualistically glimpsed at Sky scores but drank nothing while collecting Powell Tour tickets to York. This is another marketing opportunity that needs exploiting better I think. As I passed some Morecambe big wigs on my way to the pub I overheard their observation that the bars were very full after the game and they uttered the p word in envious terms. Little do they know of the real potential of capturing fans post-match in the bar.
Drapers Arms again
Our team was joined by Geoff the Pikestar, Mumbling Andy and the Silver Fox. We congregated around the central bar and could find little positive about the game other than we won. Perhaps that is all that counts. We formulated an evening plan and confirmed next week’s train departure times.
Gloucester Brewhouse and Kitchen
He Foresters was refurbished in a takeover by Wickwar Brewery. We had intended to visit on the evening of the Wimbledon game but here we were a few week later sampling from their now extended range. It was time for sharing first impressions. The Falling Star was decidedly average. Bob had a bottled Station Porter, I have raged about that disappointment before. We found a table, a good point. The pub is lowly lit and became darker by the minute as lights were lowered perhaps to create the atmosphere they wanted. The space seems somewhat tighter than I remember of the Foresters. It is better but not more comfortable. So comfortable was it that Ronnie ventured into the land of Nod. In creating a staircase the pub has lost essential standing room. My thought is that I would surely return but as part of a longer crawl only and it is a one beer stop shop.
This pub is full of contradictions and not all good ones. The stolid beer choice needs to be fully available and our coincidence of fate found three beers at the last pint stage. I eventually settled for a Hobgoblin and an experiment for me. I bought a pint of the new Guinness Porter. I had heard the hype and wanted to sample. One look at the poured pint encouraged me to bottle out and leave that beer to Bob. The flat, insipid Porter was all that the crafty trendies might rave about but even they wouldn’t be fooled. Bob and I then played beer creationists. At first I created the head on the Porter by pouring it into a half pint glass and sharing it with Bob. An old beer trick to create a head did improve the overall feel of the beer. Next we created a new beer. I would not recommend it, but a Pint of Guinngoblin Porter was made and more importantly drunk.
Rose arrived to whisk me home. The others, no doubt continued to the Prince of Wales but the news of Ronnie’s sleeping would be left to next week.
Pub of the day: Drapers Arms
Beer of the day: RCH East Street Cream at the Drapers Arms
Next up: Wycombe Away. Saturday 27th February