16 April Good Friday 1965
Alan is my eldest brother.
How I imagine Alan’s diary of that day
Woke up late after a lie in to 10. Too many beers in the Kings last night but its Saturday and the weekend. Planned to go to the Rovers on the train but Mum wanted me to take Richard so I drove the car and took him to the game. We had to leave earlier than normal and went to the South Stand where it was a bit quieter than the North Stand. We were soaked walking from the car and back again and couldn’t get a beer with the boys as they were on the other side. Green Un at 6.
Pretty dull game, drew 1-1 and the season is pretty much over. Went to the Kings in the evening. Didn’t spend much but we had a good laugh. Could be bothered to go down town.
Alan on the pitch at Twerton with Fiona and daughter Annette some years later
Big brothers are always a big influence, especially when they are twelve years older to you. In 1965 I was six going on sixteen while Alan had no need to pretend at being eighteen years old. He was playing football for the village team and later in the year cricket for the now long gone Severn Beach Cricket Team. Alan had worked after leaving school in a Tailors shop but by now had landed a job with a company called Slingsby’s. Based in Bradford they had a site in Brislington and Alan soon became a world authority on all things to do with plant hire, ladders and business equipment. To get to work he had a car and this was the means of him opening up my world to the first love of my life.
The car was a blue Ford Popular. As well as using it for work he would use it to go and watch the Rovers. On Good Friday in 1965 Bristol Rovers were home to Exeter City and somehow Alan made the generous offer to take me with him to the game.
My images are a bit sketchy on the detail but some are as clear as yesterday. It was very wet. We drove via Pen Park Avenue, along the Gloucester Road and down Muller Road. The car had flip out indicators and a gear stick on the driving column. We walked from the car under the Thirteen Arches at the Muller Road entrance, past the scruffy greyhound kennels and into the South Enclosure. I was sent to the front of the terrace so that I could see over the wall to the game.
The programme from that first game
Checking my own programme that Alan paid for me the team was:-
ROVERS: Hall, Parsons, Jones G, Mabbutt, Davis, Munro, Jarman, Brown, Jones R, Frude and Haverty
Alfie Biggs played instead of Bobby Jones at centre forward
EXETER CITY: Shearing, Smyth, Patrick, Mitchell, Harvey, Fulton, Carter, Welsh, Curtis, Anderson and Rees
The score was 1-1
The attendance was 12,194
I remember the blokes around me laughing when I said Alfie Biggs was rubbish and couldn’t head the ball. He then scored and I was reminded of my words. I can’t remember much about the game itself but I was hooked and couldn’t wait to go again. It was all Alan’s fault and I have nothing but thanks to him for introducing me to the misery of being a fan of the then Pirates.
For the next few years I was dependent on him to get to games and only went when that was possible. As he played on a Saturday the only options were after the season ended, midweek or on days when it was raining so heavily that the local games were called off. We had a sort of Saturday routine. We would park in the housing estate near “where Ray Mabbutt lived”, usually Dormer or Glenfrome Roads. We stood in the North Enclosure and he would leave me at the front while he went to chat with his mates in the North Stand bar. When we arrived home from the game the next ritual was to go and wait for the Green Un to arrive at the paper shop. While waiting the older lads would talk about the game, their games and the results. By 6.30 the papers were usually all sold out. I got second look at the paper but had to remember to get it back to Alan because he had a big box in his bedroom where he saved them should he want to read them again.
Alan, should you ever get to meet him, is a generally happy chap, ready with a quip and generous to the fault of seeing good in people. We all know that this type of character is probably subject to intense scrutiny and often criticism as a youngster and I guess that was the case for him. As the oldest in a family of six there are certain expectations and fathers will pile them on for fun when the chance occurs. What Alan did for me was provide a sporting role model to follow and in time emulate. As a small boy it was watching him play cricket and football that made me want to do the same. His older friends became my friends at an early age. By ten I was a regular in the Sunday morning kick-abouts in the playing field. When sides were chosen the youngest start out as the last picked but you know the older boys rated you a bit when they pointed to you before their 18 year old mates for their side. So by the time I was 15 it wasn’t a big s deal to be playing for the local team. While my Dad didn’t ever watch me play, Arthur (As I called him) would turn up to Saturday school matches and offer support from the sidelines. While I was kicking lumps out of Steve White on a Chipping Sodbury school field at least he was there to see it happen. He probably didn’t realise how much that was appreciated, I certainly wouldn’t have told him so. Even today the friends I know and talk to in the village are those friends of Alan rather than those of my own age. When we meet up nowadays the first thing we usually chat about is the Rovers last game or Gloucestershire Cricket.
On this day in
1965 Exeter H 1-1
1974 Tranmere H 1-0
1976 Bristol City H 0-0
1983 2nds Aylesbury H L 27-22
1988 1sts Shipston on Stour A W 33-12
1994 York H 0-1
2001 Oldham A 0-1
2005 Chester A 2-2
2011 Southampton A 0-1