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!

This is the first ever meeting of the 2 sides in the EFL.  The last time FGR played Bristol Rovers in a competitive match was in May 2015.  Bristol won a 2-leg play-off semi-final in the National League (or Conference Premier as it was then called).  Bristol then went on to win the play-off final on penalties against Grimsby to go back into League 2 after just one season in the 5th tier (this has been Bristol Rovers’ only season outside the EFL in their history).

Bristol Rovers old Eastville stadium (with gas!)

The Gas are 14th in the table with 23 points from 18 games.  They seem to have recovered from a shaky start to the season and have only one loss in the last 7 league games.  They were also on a 3 match winning streak after a 1-0 win away at Harrogate, a 2-1 win at home against Northampton, and a 4-3 FA Cup replay victory against Oxford Utd.  A 2-2 home draw against Tranmere followed by a 1-1 draw away at Salford broke the sequence of wins.  But Bristol are nevertheless finding some form with just one loss in their last 8 matches.

Their overall record so far is 6 wins, 7 losses and 5 draws.  There have been no 0-0 draws involving Bristol Rovers in the league this season.  The Gas will probably think they have conceded too many goals this season, 27 in all (1.5 goals per game).  Only 5 teams have conceded more goals than them.  But Gasheads think things are on the up – as one fan wrote “We have a team that doesn’t know when it’s beaten, and the players seem to have pride in wearing the quarters – that works for me.”  Others point to the need to sign a striker in the January window as the team’s missing link.

Brett Pitman (number 40) is Bristol’s leading scorer with 4 league goals this season.  Pitman moved to the Gas in the summer after Swindon failed to pay his wages.  His playing career includes 9 seasons at Bournemouth, as well as spells at Bristol City, Ipswich & Portsmouth.  Attacking left midfielder Sam Nicholson (number 11) is joint highest scorer, also with 4 goals.

Harvey Saunders (pictured) – number 22, Antony Evans – number 21 and midfielder Joshua Grant (number 4) all have 2 goals apiece this season.

A familiar face in the Bristol Rovers line-up may be Aaron Collins.  Aaron moved to Bristol Rovers when his contract at FGR came to an end last June.  He declined a new contract with FGR.  Aaron has made 17 appearances in the Bristol Rovers’ line-up this season (more than any other Bristol Rovers forward) but is yet to score.

Other than Bristol’s main players to watch, Brett Pitman (number 40), Sam Nicholson (number 11) & Luke Thomas (number 7), the veteran Irish international Glen Whelan (number 26) may make an appearance.  Now 37, Whelan joined in September as a free agent.  He has 91 Irish caps in his locker and brings experience to the defensive midfield.

The Gas lined up as a 3-4-1-2 in their recent game against Tranmere but changed to 4-3-3 away to Salford.

Aaron Collins who opted to move to Bristol in the summer.

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.  He is due in court to answer the charge soon
  • In his playing career Barton received 117 yellow cards and 8 red cards


The Bristol Rovers manager is no stranger to controversy

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.

Lead Belly, composer of Goodnight, Irene.