Gas away days – The good, the bad and the just plain wrong – Part 1

Gas away days – Part 1

by Martin Bull

To celebrate some of the away days Gasheads will be looking forward to in our new League, I’m
looking back at some of the away days I’ve (cough) enjoyed in the recent past, and looking forward to what our plan might be this time around. Today we look at some enjoyable moments. The bad and the just plain wrong will follow for parts 2 & 3.

The Good

Shrewsbury Town‘s old ground, Gay Meadow, holds a special place in the heart of many Gasheads. I’m still not 100% sure how it started but for many years in the late 80’s and early 90’s the tradition was to smuggle in cartons of Weetabix (other wheat based breakfast products are available…) and throw them onto the pitch behind the goal.

It reminds me of the old joke about a spate of murders that were happening in a city far away. Every crime scene included a half eaten bowl of Weetabix left near the body. The Police concluded that a cereal killer was on the loose.

By the time I had managed to drag myself and my best friend up there in 2002, the Weetabix craze was over. Sometimes it had got a bit out of hand, with the oppo goalie getting pelted with wheat biscuits until his goal net was full of them, so the Police cracked down on the Class A contraband. One contributor to my book, ‘Away The Gas’, remembered “seeing the Police stopping and searching all the Gasheads, resulting in mountains of confiscated Weetabix stored up outside the turnstiles!”.

My away trips have been nothing if random, and this was one of the most random of them all, a trip from South London to Shropshire on a freezing cold January night via an incredibly unreliable Fiat Tipo (1989 European Car of the Year – really?!). In one of the worst seasons ever seen by a Rovers fan this could have been labelled utterly crazy, but since Gerry Francis had resigned on Christmas Eve 2001, unable to stop the rot at a club that still hadn’t reached its nadir, Rovers had actually gone three matches unbeaten under caretaker boss Garry Thompson, taking seven points and scoring seven goals in the process. I almost expected seven brides to stride out onto Gay Meadow to marry seven brothers, or even seven sisters.

During a pitiful October and November Rovers had scored just one goal in 10 League matches. With Gerry gone Nathan Ellington or Sergio Melvin Ommel, or both, had their names on the scoresheet in 12 of Rovers’ next 15 league matches.

The Netherlander Ommel actually had a very good goal record for Rovers, with eight goals in 15 league starts and five sub cameos, after being brought to Rovers from Icelandic football by King Gerry in November 2001. Due to his distressing addiction to air miles he left at the end of the season to return to ex-club Telstar (now merged to form Stormvogels Telstar) and later also played for Dutch amateurs Quick Boys.

At KR Rekyjavik he had been honoured to play alongside Moussa Dagnogo. Dagnogo is famously one the best Rovers players of this new Millennium, electrifying Gasheads with his 31 minutes of fame in two sub appearances. His birthday (the 30th of January) is still celebrated as a national holiday in the Ivory Coast, whilst France are thinking of renaming Charles De Gaulle airport as ‘Dagnogo International‘.

I remember a pretty deserted away terrace (less than 3,500 overall were there) and some patchy fog making it difficult to even see the other end of the pitch. But what we unquestionably did witness was a scuffy winning goal from Sergio right in front of us. That goal, when struggling for League survival, was just as astonishing to us as a Messi pearler would be to a Barcelona fan.

Bristol Rovers play at Shrewsbury Town‘s current ground, The New Meadow, on Saturday 17th December

The plan for this season? Bowl up to Shropshire on the M5, smuggle in some Weetabix, spoon in a couple of chances and milk the victory for all it‘s worth.
Our third shortest trip of the season is up to Walsall whose ground can handily be spotted from the elevated section of the M6.

My only previous visit there was the 5-0 hammering we gave them in March 2009, with an unlikely brace from the free scoring Aaron Lescott, who had previously never scored in 198 appearances for Rovers. Aaron is a sadly forgotten stalwart, with 242 solid appearances in six years as a Gashead, and five goals in his final 44 games.

Part of me doesn’t want to make the short trip North this season as I don’t want to spoil that memory.

This win, alongside a Rickie Lambert hat-trick in our first ever win at Hereford United four days previously, was so good that Screen Soccer released a special double header DVD of the two thrashings. I was hideously late for the game at Edgar Street and after struggling to even get into the locked-up ground I can be spotted on the DVD being escorted along the pitch side to the away end just as Sir Rickie smashed a free kick into the net as I approached. If I tell you he scored in the 26th minute you’ll realise just how late I was…

Bristol Rovers play at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium on Saturday 21st January

The plan for this season? Unfurl a huge banner of Aaron Lescott’s face to scare the bejabbers out of them, and plunder a goal whilst they are still in shock.

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