‘Our greatest glory lies not in never having fallen, but in rising when we fall’

‘Our greatest glory lies not in never having fallen, but in rising when we fall’

By Martin Bull

 

Did this assertion emanate from Churchill‘s lips?

If not, maybe it was Gandhi? Buddha? Confucius? Wittgenstein?

Or even Eric ‘ze seagulls follow ze trawler…‘ Cantona?

Not quite.

It’s Hereford United’s delightful motto, since passed down to its phoenix successor Hereford FC, whose manager is none other than Peter Beadle, who currently holds a staggering 85% win record with them.

And if anyone knows about falling and rising it must be Hereford. I have a soft spot for them, not just due to their nickname being my surname, and being a local club trying to survive in a rural area, but also as a consequence of a couple of wonderful visits there in recent years, one of which was in League One just seven seasons ago.

Hereford fans must have been in dream land in the mid-1970s as three promotions in five seasons saw them catapulted from non-league to the second tier for a solitary season. A double relegation dumped them back to the bottom tier but at least they were a Football League team, and they held onto that status for 19 more seasons.

They now play in the ninth tier, the Midland Football League Premier Division, alongside a plethora of delightfully named teams, including Quorn (Leicestershire, not a fungus), Coventry Sphinx, Shepshed Dynamo (where Gerry Francis found Devon White playing, when named Shepshed Charterhouse), Continental Star, Dunkirk (Nottingham, not a French team trying to infiltrate our leagues), and Sporting Khalsa, the highest ranked Sikh club in Britain.

I almost expected Michael Palin’s Barnstoneworth United to be on that list.

Whilst the prospect of an away game at Bardon Hill (population 26) may not be able to compete against the memory of the famous 1972 FA Cup Third Round defeat of Newcastle United which is re-run every year as a reminder of one of the biggest ever shocks in the oldest cup competition in the world, at least their loyal supporters still have a club, which is healthier than it looked in 2014 when their 90 years of existence ended in liquidation.

 

As for Rovers?

Well, the motto could almost be adopted for ourselves as, after having fallen our own lowest ebb, and then rising again, Rovers have developed a resilience and determination rarely seen before. It may be a cliché but we really do not know when we are beaten. Gone are the days of insipid ‘roll over and tickle my tummy’ performances, when the first goal let in often became a second, heads drooped, and there was a collective lack of self-belief to stage any comeback.

When Gasheads pay their cash to watch their team they now know they’ll never be able to leave early, from Barnet in the pouring rain in November 2014 to this weekend in front of a new record crowd at Sixfields. Rovers have scored 48 second half goals this season (the joint highest in League Two) and 18 of them have come in the last 10 minutes (the second highest).

At this point a multitude of stats could be wheeled out to showcase our rise after the inglorious fall. Last season included just one loss in the final 32 league and play-off matches (or two losses in 42 and play-off league matches; take your pick of stats), a 20 match unbeaten away run, and 24 clean sheets in 49 league and play-off games.

This season we are already only one more away victory from equalling our highest number of away wins in a season (11 in the 1989/90 Third Tier champions season – not a bad season to strive to follow), and have rescued 17 points so far from losing positions, the last one being at a runaway league leader who thought they were just about to celebrate a Championship.

One statistic in particular stands out a mile though and was one I didn’t even realise until seeing it on the Internet. I knew that we had not been beaten this season when we had been the team to score first (in fact we’ve impressively won 17 out of 19 such occurrences, only very very late goals for Plymouth Argyle and Exeter City blotting our copybook) but what I did not realise was that we haven’t lost at home from that situation since the relegation threatening about turn against Rochdale in late April 2014, and haven’t lost away from home since Morecambe in December 2013, which spans 23 occurrences so far, all under Darrell Clarke’s leadership.

A true test of character occurs not when adversity fails to strike, but precisely when it does, and this Bull believes that my beloved Rovers have passed the Hereford test so far.

 

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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