Pick of the Promotion Pops – Part 1

By Martin Bull

Greetings pop pickers and welcome to this special edition of Pick of the Pops, this time featuring the year 2015/16, focusing on 10 golden themes or moments in an unprecedented second promotion in two seasons for BRFC. Note – this BRFC definitely isn’t (Tony) Blackburn Rovers and the picked pops aren’t in any precise order of magnitude.

So, join me over the next few weeks to witness how Darrell Clarke and his lads overturned a miserable recent history of relegations with 50 points, and goal difference going against us, with an added time goal that caused chaos at the Mem and somehow appeased the Gods of Goal Difference as well.

Are Gasheads still in wonderland? Not ‘arf.

 
At Number 10 we have – The strongest benches we’ve seen for many years

After enduring only five spaces on a Conference bench, a season back in the Football League gave us seven spots to fill, and with a hungry squad and a distinct lack of injuries or suspensions, we often saw the strongest benches we’ve seen for many years, maybe even since the days around the dawn of the new Millennium when the likes of Nathan Ellington, Bobby Zamora, Mark Walters, and Clinton Ellis graced the wood.

This was particularly telling towards the end of the season, when a few new faces had arrived, and no-one had left. The outfield bench against Exeter City (a match that could have been a real banana skin) was Ollie Clarke, Jermaine Easter, Ellis Harrison, Liam Lawrence, Ollie McBurnie and Tom Parkes. In anyone’s language that offered a great mix of experienced and up and coming players. James Clarke, Jake Gosling, Rory Fallon and numerous young ‘uns couldn’t even get a seat at the table.

Even more importantly it often gave the flexibility DC needed to make decisive changes, often including a formation change. The spirit of Bob Bloomer, the archetypal utility man, clearly lived on in the suppleness of the 2015/16 squad, and unlike a vision of Adam Virgo marauding up and down the left wing like Roberto Carlos in his pomp (… not!), they did actually play in their strongest position the majority of the time.

 
At Number 9 we have – Goals Galore

You don’t need a Ph.D. in Football Genius to know that if you have goals in your side you’ll always hold the possibility of success in your hands. Even Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United stood a chance for most games despite not knowing what that the word defend was in the dictionary. Ok, so you might occasionally let in four (or in our case three to Carlisle United) but more often than not you’ll have a win under your belt if you played your cards right.

Although the striker spotlight naturally fell on 27 goal man Matty Taylor, the little magician would be humble enough to admit that the service he and others got last season was impeccable at times, with Chris Lines supplying nine assists, plus six each from Lee Brown and Daniel Leadbitter on the flanks. Tellingly 10 of those 21 assists went the way of Taylor himself.

And although Rovers held firm to the strange statistic of only one defender scoring all season (Lee Brown with six), and only a Wiltshire handful of goals from central midfield (Lee Mansell, Ollie Clarke and The Beard had a brace each), up-top and out wide is always the heart of the matter for any team; the rest is just a bonus. Billy Bodin was a true sensation with 13 goals, Rory Gaffney came on loan, then stayed, and contributed eight strikes, Ellis Harrison had a rather quiet season but still put away seven vital wallops, all away from home and three of them late penalties, and Jermaine Easter also bagged seven.

With goal scoring like that, ducks from Jake Gosling, Chris Lines, Mark McChrystal, Tom Parkes, James Clarke, Tom Lockyer, and Daniel Leadbitter could be forgiven, even if they had an astonishing 217 appearances between them to try to hit a barn door with a banjo.

 
At Number 8 we have – A complete turnaround in home form

After failing to score in four of our first six home League games, and gaining just four points, Rovers then scored in all of the next 17 at the Mem, with a W14 D1 L2 record, and finished with the second best home record in League Two.

Rovers were unbeaten at home after late November and finished the season on a streak of nine consecutive wins, which means the team still have a chance to equal our longest ever run (10 on the trot in 1935) at the opening home game of the League One season.

 

Join me later this week to continue the countdown, with numbers 5 and 6.

 

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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