A local derby!

Rovers played their 1st game in League 1 at Bristol Rovers back in July last year.  This was just a few months after securing promotion on the same ground back in April.  An 89th minute Regan Hendry strike gave Rovers a 2-1 win, following goals from Jordan Moore-Taylor and Aaron Collins.

It’s just a 21 mile trip for Bristol Rovers fans (it’s their shortest away trip of the season), so expect a sell-out in the away end and a lively atmosphere.

How are they doing?

It’s only the 4th EFL meeting between Bristol & Forest Green.  Past EFL results have favoured FGR (a 2-0 win and a 0-0 draw in League 2, followed by the 2-1 FGR win this season).

Both sides came up from League 2 last season – Bristol securing the final automatic promotion place at the expense of Northampton on goal difference thanks to a final day 7-0 victory over Scunthorpe.

Bristol’s first season back in League 1 has been rather more comfortable than FGR’s.  They are in 15th place with 42 points (19 points ahead of Rovers).  They won’t be challenging for promotion or play-offs but neither are they likely to be sucked into the relegation places.

They are on something of a poor run of form over the last 8 games, with just 5 points to show for their efforts in these matches.  However, they are as good on the road as they have been at home so far this season.  Not many sides have scored more goals than Bristol’s 47 in 34 games.  Defensively they have struggled – only FGR and Burton have conceded more goals (55 of them).

Striker John Marquis (number 9), Bristol’s marquee summer signing last year has only netted 5 times so far.

Men to watch

A familiar face in the Bristol Rovers line-up will be Aaron Collins (number 10).  Aaron moved to Bristol Rovers when his contract at FGR came to an end in June 2021.  He declined a new contract with FGR.  Aaron made 40 appearances in the Bristol Rovers’ line-up last season (more than any other Bristol Rovers player) and was their top scorer with 15 goals.  This season Aaron is doing even better.  He is Bristol’s top scorer with 15 goals already, and pretty much an automatic starter in the line up.

Also catching the eye in the Bristol team is Middlesborough loanee Josh Coburn (number 40) who has 9 goals this season.

Attacking midfielder Antony Evans (number 21) had 10 goals last season (Bristol’s 2nd top scorer) and has 4 goals to his name so far.

The Bristol attack features other strikers who can threaten – tall frontman Ryan Loft (number 38) joined from Scunthorpe in the January 2021 window and legendary winger Scott Sinclair (number 7), whose career started at Bristol in 2004 and who returned to his home club this season, has the experience of some 9 seasons with Premier League clubs as well as several Championship sides.

Aaron Collins who opted to move to Bristol in the summer of 2021

Josh Coburn - Forward - First Team - Bristol Rovers

Boro loanee Josh Coburn is Bristol’s 2nd top goalscorer this season.

Their Manager

Bristol appointed Joey Barton as manager in February 2021.  This followed him leaving ‘with immediate effect’ his previous (and only other) managerial position at Fleetwood Town.  In his first half season Rovers were relegated back to League 2.

Barton’s career has not been short of incident, so his appointment at Rovers may have been seen as brave.  These are some of his incidents –

  • sparked a ten-man brawl in a friendly match playing for Man City against Doncaster in 2004 after “hacking” at an opposition player
  • in 2004, after an incident at their Christmas party, stubbed out a lit cigar in youth player Jamie Tandy’s eye
  • in 2005, sent home from a pre-season tournament in Thailand after assaulting a 15-year-old Everton supporter who had provoked him. Barton underwent anger management therapy at the order of City manager Stuart Pearce and paid £120,000 in club fines.
  • in 2006, television cameras captured Barton exposing his backside to Everton fans.  Fined £2,000 for bringing the game into disrepute
  • arrested on suspicion of assault and criminal damage after an alleged argument with a taxi driver in Liverpool while going to his hotel after a match in 2007.  He was cleared of this charge in May 2008
  •  In 2008, following an incident during training when he assaulted his teammate Ousmane Dabo (Dabo said that he had been hit several times, was left unconscious and had to go to hospital after suffering injuries to his head, including a suspected detached retina) he was sentenced to a four-month suspended prison sentence plus 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay £3,000 compensation and Dabo’s court costs.  Barton was also charged with violent conduct by the FA and was banned for six matches
  • in 2007, Barton was arrested on suspicion of assault in the Church Street area of Liverpool city centre following an incident.  He was remanded in custody since the offence was committed whilst he was on bail for two prior offences.  CCTV showed Barton punching a man twenty times, causing him to lose consciousness, and attacking a teenager, breaking some of his teeth. He was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty for his part in the assault
  • in 2010 he punched an opposition player and was again charged by the FA with violent conduct and banned for three matches
  • in 2012 the FA punished him for all 3 counts of violent conduct with a 12 match ban and a £75,000 fine
  • in 2013 Barton was given a two-match suspended ban for describing Thiago Silva as looking like an “overweight ladyboy” on Twitter
  • in 2015, following his release from Queens Park Rangers, West Ham United were reportedly going to sign Barton but the deal fell through after reported protests from some fans unhappy at the prospect of Barton turning out for the Hammers
  • in 2016 he was suspended by his then club, Rangers, for three weeks following a training ground argument.  Later that year Barton had his contract at Rangers terminated with immediate effect
  • in 2017 Barton was banned from football for 18 months after admitting a Football Association charge of breaking rules relating to gambling on football matches
  • in 2019, as Fleetwood manager, he was charged with causing actual bodily harm following an alleged assault on an opposition manager in the tunnel.  In January 2021 Fleetwood announced Barton had left the club with immediate effect
  • In July 2021, Barton was charged with an assault on a woman (his wife) at an address in London.
  • In his playing career Barton received 117 yellow cards and 8 red cards

The Bristol Rovers manager – no stranger to controversy!

The Club

Bristol Rovers are officially nicknamed the Pirates.  But they are unofficially better known as ‘The Gas’, and their supporters as ‘Gasheads’.  Eastville stadium (now an IKEA and Tesco next to the M32) was Rovers home for over 90 years until 1986.  Eastville was situated next to a gasworks which produced the smell of old gas fumes.  It was said that when the heads of the gasometers were rising, the smell helped to overcome the opposition – hence Gasheads!

Bristol Rovers old Eastville stadium (with gas!)

The classic Bristol Rovers anthem is ‘Goodnight, Irene’, which Gas fans have been singing for about 70 years.

Irene good night Irene, Irene good night
Good night Irene Good night Irene
I’ll see you in my dreams

The song is a Lead Belly song from the early 20th century, since recorded by a number of different artists.  Quite how it became the Bristol Rovers anthem isn’t entirely clear.

The Weird And Wonderful Mascots Of The Football League | Page 17 | FootballFanCast.com

Bristol Rovers mascot – a pirate!

Lead Belly, composer of Goodnight, Irene.