Tom’s Corner of Unyielding Misery | May 2016

Things have been good lately. Very good. So good it’s made me slightly uncomfortable.

Until almost exactly one year ago, being a Gashead would give a person an unparalleled proficiency in the field of moaning. Seemingly nothing was beyond the scope of the moaning; pasty prices, non-operative clocks, a succession of expensive but lacklustre players, that fucking tent, you name it, we moaned about it. This was often completely reasonable, I joined the fandom properly mere months before the plunge into it’s lowest moment but even this was the consummation of years of underachievement and frustration. In truth, how it would have felt to turn up week in, week out during those seasons is something I can never hope to understand. Since our revitalization under Darrell Clarke and our new found financial stability under the ownership of the Al-Qadi family, it’s become harder and harder to justify the level of moaning we’ve been accustom to and in truth, part of me misses it.

There was something uniquely enjoyable about Gasheads moaning that I don’t think many English football clubs come close to emulating. Stemming, I believe, from the lack of communication and clarity from the Higgs era, the various ill-fated attempts to organise fan protest, social media and just the natural character of Bristolians in general, Rovers fans would often whip themselves up into spectacularly incoherent tirades both at matches and online. Whether it was logging on to the old official forum and reading the latest 30-page conspiracy thread or watching the man in front when we lost to FGR at home completely lose it at the final whistle and scream “HIGGS, I HOPE YOU DIE TOMORROW AND THIS IS YOUR LEGACY”, I often found the moaning to be absolutely hilarious. Sorry not sorry.

I don’t think I’m alone though. The memes and trolling that permeate Rovers twitter, the self-deprecating laughs that can be had on the terrace or when talking about Rovers with other football fans, this is the adopted defence mechanism from when things were so bad that to laugh was the only way to not turn into a shrieking mess. These things really did play a big part in getting me hooked. So when I say that I miss the spirit of those times I hope you won’t think I’m being cruel, not overly at least.

With that in mind, may I present the first in what I hope will become a regular series where I specifically look at things that have annoyed me about Rovers lately as a strictly tongue-in-cheek tonic to all this bloody positivity.

The Mem

It actually amazes me how quickly I went from the opinion that the Memorial Stadium was an undervalued rustic delight to at best a ground ill-equipped to cope with a club of our size in the modern era and at worst a set location from the slum scenes of the film District 9. I still love standing and I still love Gloucester Road but 22 visits in three years have really put the spunk stains of inadequacy under the UV torch of grim reality.

How the ground was found to be suitable for 12,000 people I will never understand. Games against Alfreton and the Daggers were absolute mayhem with all fire escape stairs completely full of spectators, despite the impotent protests of the stewards. The bogs on the East Terrace are always an adventure north of 9000 and I’m pretty sure someone inadvertently pissed on me at the Yeovil game. That’s not okay people. No one should go to a football match and come back covered in a stranger’s urine.

Having a season ticket on the East Terrace in the first place must be an adventure on par with Bear Grylls’ Survival Academy, with minimal protection from the elements afforded to those that got there early enough to wedge themselves under the overhang of the DriBuild stand or it’s ladders. When presented with the choice of having to wear a cagoule 23 times a year or having a crap view I’ll choose the later but when a fair amount of Southern League clubs have a comparably larger amount of covered standing to us it should indicate that something has gone amiss. Sort it out Wael.

Sponsorship Raffle

Whilst an ostensibly a realistic option when we were on the edge of financial ruin, I feel the need to question us still using this model.

The raffle’s stubborn refusal to produce popular names such as Thatchers, Gas World or, my personal favourite, Hello Future Ltd and instead throw out the most bizarre companies on the list is a marvel. Who the fuck are Office Beverages? And why do they think that anyone is going to leave the Mem at the end of a match thinking, “I must switch my plastic cup provider”.

However well The Sportsman has served Gasheads throughout the course of the season, I don’t think our attempts to emerge from the murky swamp of non-league and establish ourselves as a force to be reckoned with was helped by immediately branding ourselves a pub team. I appreciate that it would have been logistically difficult to find a big-name sponsor at such short notice but I personally would like to have seen the new board stuff the box with their own invented concerns, such as Wael’s Wacky Waterbed Emporium and Steak House or Stop: Hamertime – Timekeeping Solutions. Sort it out Wael.

Lack of Memes from this Season’s Promotion

This is probably my most petulant non-complaint of this month but compared to 2014/15 the memes have been shit-tier.

Who can forget the heady days of tweeting Nate Blissett’s gorgeous grinning mug at increasingly furious opposition fans, random Filipino women and Whitney Houston inadvertently joining forces to create one of the best player chants in the club’s history or Darrell getting even with a certain Humberside publication and giving rise to the immortal idiom “getting Darrell Clarked”. It seemed the club were never too far from plying the fan base with fresh folklore, right up until the final moments of the season when Matty Taylor plonked a triumphant schlong into the play-off trophy.

This season just hasn’t been as funny if I’m honest. Although Voucher N and Cunnahgate linger in the mind, along with the seminal lyrical genius of Mark Watkins. My hope is that next season when we are reunited with old adversaries Swindon Town, alongside easy targets like MK Dons and Oxford “best team in League Two” United we can work towards becoming the gaggle of inane twats I know we can be. Sort it out Wael (and us).

Tom has been following Rovers since 2012, under the guidance of his father. A massive fan of non-league football, his pet project is Partizan Bristle which serves as a diary of his many adventures into the seamy underbelly of the Bristol football scene. He also contributes to the Rovers fanzine Last Saturday Night. He currently resides in Shirehampton with his long-suffering football-agnostic wife. Twitter: @tomvahkiin

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