Patience is a virtue

Patience is a virtue

by Martin Bull

As I watched Rovers slowly break through against a depressing Crawley Town side intent on subjecting paying supporters to a master class in anti-football, my brain ticked over with several matters.

At the frontal lobe was a feeling that some considerable patience could be needed today, both for supporters and players, and that we may need more of this heavenly virtue in the games remaining. As part of a terrace more often associated with wrath than patience, it was satisfying to see that the positivity of the past 18 months is slowly revealing itself in a more enduring attitude, and all because we finally have staff and players we can have faith in.

Although our form suggests that all of the ‘six to go’ are winnable, even at Northampton Town’s Sixfields, history suggests there will be many twists and turns still left in this season. Although supporters of high flyers begin to consider themselves almost invincible, in reality there is invariably a Dover Athletic fly lurking in the ointment. At 3.45pm on Saturday there were quite a few concerned that Crawley may yet creep away with the point they so coveted.

The whole point of a 46-game season is that it truly does decide who the best teams are, as the elite will be the most consistent at handling the myriad of situations thrown at them over the course of nine months; from heat to hail, injuries to terrible refs, dodgy penalties to quagmire pitches, and from expansive opponents to teams braying with leviathan donkeys. Patience and adaptability are often the keys to unlocking heaven’s gate.

 

My second train of thought was how the ‘English disease’ has become the baby that has been unfairly thrown out with the bath water. No, I’m not talking about football hooliganism, but the idea promulgated by the so-called intelligentsia of football analysis, that the English love of a player who puts himself about is harming the game.

Whilst it is certainly true that decades ago the love of a grafter, a chaser of lost causes, or a ‘get-stuck-in’ -er, probably did hold too much sway, especially if the team was full of them, it is now equally unwise to go too far the other way. There is nothing wrong with players who hassle, harry and harass, who run the channels and make themselves available at every opportunity. To a team mate, especially the more lumpy ones, such an outlet is a godsend; a willing receptacle just waiting to be filled with football juice.

Every goal has a genesis, and in the beginning considerable effort is often needed in order to create the chance itself. Inferior managers will usually choose to ignore the back story though and just fumble around for the soundbite. On Saturday the hack’s favoured lazy headline was that Rovers scored from three set-pieces, as if to suggest we are a military machine spending hours doing press-ups in the pouring rain.

Rovers’ first goal was initially ‘created’ by Rory Gaffney’s persistence and then his patient ball retention when little else was on. This led to a corner, and from that corner we scored. The corner may have been a set piece, but if we had not won that corner it could never have been scored (I imagine Camus could have phrased this better than I am capable of). These narrow margins can be the difference between success and failure, yet are scoffed at by those who preach that the best players should be effortlessly passing and walking the ball into the net.

Similarly some effort and retention from Ollie Clarke drew the foul which led to a plethora of talent queuing up to take a tasty free kick. It’s great to have Chris Lines and Lee Brown ready to take a dead ball, and Lee Mansell on the sidelines, but it was a shrewd choice to let Liam Lawrence guide his sublime curler into the top corner. The ground erupted with relief at a comfortable cushion, at a time when our rivals were mainly winning.

And finally, a rasping shot from Cristian Montano that almost capped off a slick move, barely seconds after stepping onto the pitch as a sub, earned us the corner that secured the third goal.

 

My third perception was how fortunate we are to finally be able to watch appealing football when we pay our hard-earned cash to follow Rovers

We aren’t Barcelona, and we aren’t always set up to be particularly expansive, but we do try to pass the ball, especially when confidence is high, and even when not having the greatest day at the office DC nearly always loosens the reins towards the end of the match and finishes with more creative players, trying to exploit tired legs and weary minds.

The Rovers we now see before us do at least try to entertain, and endeavour to win games, and this is borne out by the dearth of draws this season, which can be counted on one hand. With six games left we are only four wins away from equalling our highest ever win tally in a season (26 in 1952/53 and 1989/90; interestingly our only two Champions titles), but can still equal our lowest quantity of draws in a 46-game season (Paul Trollope’s five, in 2009/10). We’ve already scored more goals than in any Football League season since 2008/9, and been subjected to only two goalless fixtures.

 

The next patient project is Northampton Town and the positivity surrounding Rovers is so high that even if we dropped out of the top three again, our virtue would still remain with us.

Martin Bull became a Gashead in 1989 and immediately fell in love with Twerton Park, standing near G pillar. Three of his seven books have been about Bristol Rovers. ‘Away The Gas’ is packed full of over 50 years of ‘I was there’ away game moments, all written by fans, ‘Print That Season! – One man’s weekly meanderings throughout Bristol Rovers’ promotion campaign of 2014-15’ is the antidote to obedient season reviews, with none of the hindsight that most writers rely on, and ‘Double Darrell’ is similar, but chronicles the 2015-16 promotion, and is even better.

Full details of all are available at www.awaythegas.org.uk

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