Back in the day, for our editor holed up at uni in south Wales, Bristol Rovers would’ve made for a dream away day. It was nothing more than pure self-interest; making a short hop across the Severn to the next city on the rail line as Swansea, Cardiff, and Newport managed to stay clear of Boro’ for one reason or another. But it wasn’t to be. Neither the Gas nor their fierce rivals Bristol City could oblige our editor during that four-year stay over the border. And our editor couldn’t afford to go wasn’t going all the way to Swindon.
So, you can imagine the frustration when they eventually did turn up on our fixture list years later. They spent all but one season in the Football League since 1920; the one exception being the 2014-5 Conference campaign. In that sense, it’s almost pure fluke that we grabbed some time with the Gas in 2015. By being in League Two at the time, Boro’ were able to give them a warm welcome back… before watching them storm straight through into League One.
In keeping with this apparent desire of theirs (or ours) to keep a distance between the two clubs, they didn’t hang about when relegated back to League Two in 2021. A mad final day saw the Gas go straight back up at the first time of asking. But, eager to at least try and get to know them a bit better, Boro’ followed them up a season later. And why not? We actually had a pretty decent record against them at the time. Now, we’re fully aware that each throw of the dice is a risk, but we’re coming from a good place when we meet back up.
Bristol Rovers: The Facts
The Memorial Stadium
Filton Avenue, Bristol, BS7 0BF
Formed in 1883, the Gas took some time to settle on their now-familiar name. At the start, they went around as Black Arabs; inspired by the Arabs rugby side and the black kits they wore at the time. But this name lasted just one season. Next up, Eastville Rovers was the name of choice and this stuck around for a little longer. In 1897, Bristol was put in front of their name and – in 1899 – ‘Eastville’ was binned; leaving us with ‘Bristol Rovers’.
Quite the early adventure. And that’s just their name!
It seems that 1899 was a milestone year in more ways than one, however. It was also a year in which the Gas joined the new Southern League, having already gone professional two years before. A high point in the early 20th century was their title win of 1905. But that was an exception, not the norm. And the seasons either side of World War One saw them pottering around the lower half of the table – usually in 16th or 17th out of 20 or 22 teams.
To be fair to them, the mediocrity didn’t stand in their way of Football League membership. Like other Southern League members (or so it seems), the Gas were absorbed into a new Division Three South for the 1920-1 campaign. And here they remained until breaking the mould and winning the 1952-3 title; going up to Division Two at the same time. It wouldn’t be the last time the club would swap places between the second and third tiers either.
Why do we know them?
Ups and downs between Divisions Two and Three (as they were called back then) would become a semi-regular event for the Gas. At least you can say they were consistent with that. And it kept them a long way out of arms reach of a Boro’ team climbing the pyramid during the 1990s. Of course, we did get to know each other very briefly in 1997 when the Gas handed over some cash to sign Barry Hayles as our remarkable rise came to a halt.
Into a new century and things started to turn iffy for Bristol Rovers. They dropped into the fourth tier for the first time in their history at the end of the 2000-1 season. And it could’ve been a second straight relegation (into the Conference) the following year too. Luckily for them, Halifax Town were much worse and came down instead. This wouldn’t be a sign of things to come either. Rovers turned it around and returned to the third tier in 2007.
Fast forward to the early 2010s and – again – our paths refused to come together. As Boro’ went up to League Two, the Gas were in League One. At the end of the 2010-1 season, we’d swap places. And by the time we were back in League Two in 2014, they’d somehow found themselves down in the Conference. In 2015, the two magnets that were us and them finally stopped repelling each other and we met them for the first time in a competitive fixture.
How to get to Bristol Rovers – Travel Information – Distance: 138 miles
Located in the northern part of Bristol, it’ll come as little surprise – or least it shouldn’t – that you’re going to be heading west for this journey. And that starts with a southbound trip down the A1(M) and around the anti-clockwise M25 towards Heathrow Airport.
At Heathrow, take the westbound M4 and get used to it; it’s your friend for the next 96 miles, with Junction 19 (M32) your target. Once you’re there, come off the M4 and head onto the Bristol-bound M32.
After nearly three-and-a-half miles, exit the motorway at Junction 2 for B4469. Take the fourth option at the roundabout, and head over the railway bridge. Shortly after, bear left onto Springfield Avenue. Turn right at the end of the street onto Downend Road, and then take the second left for Strathmore Road.
The club appears to have its own car park if you can find your way to Filton Avenue – turn right at the end of Strathmore Road and then right straight away afterwards.
It is also thought that street parking shouldn’t be too challenging in finding, most likely in and around the area behind The Wellington pub nearby.
Station: FILTON ABBEY WOOD
Services to: BRISTOL PARKWAY (for LONDON PADDINGTON)
The nearest station to the Memorial Ground is Filton Abbey Wood, although you might find it more convenient to just head for Bristol Parkway and complete the rest of the journey via taxi. If you opt to get the train to Filton, however, you’ll still be facing a long old walk; nearly two miles and 35 minutes out of your schedule at least.
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