So, what’s June normally like for Rovers fans? A month of continuously scrolling through the Facebook groups and Twitter pages getting excited about which new ‘big name’ signing we are looking to bring in this time. In previous years June has only been as exciting as bringing in Liam Sercombe or the even more exciting arrival of Ed Upson! So this year we were all expecting more of the same from Graham Coughlan, especially considering that it’s his first summer transfer window as a manager. Then, on the morning of June 4th, some good news came out that we’d signed ex-Bolton right-back Mark Little on a free transfer. A player who most fans have viewed as a good, competent signing for our level of football this coming season. A ‘Little’ step in the right direction you might even say, especially considering the number of trophies that he has won at this level with his previous clubs.
A bright start to the opening of the transfer window, equalling the standard for any Bristol Rovers transfer window in previous years (one in at the start, then try and cram them all in right at the end). Well this was all before the week of the 10th June. Although no players came in on the Monday, there were whispers all over twitter of new signings coming in (these were even louder than the whispers of bringing back former players). Then on the Tuesday more and more whispers of a new signing coming in, Twitter accounts even began to announce the new players. And even though we all wanted to believe them, as Rovers fans, we all know that a lot of the time these rumours can be just too good to be true. However, at four that afternoon, Tom Davies was announced as our next signing. A big centre-half from Coventry City who even managed to mark JCH out of the game at the Ricoh. Then began the thoughts of “is this guy even human if he’s able to keep players like that out of the game?” A big (well, I mean big in comparison to our other centre halves), no-nonsense centre-half who only received good reviews from supporters where he came from supporters of his previous club.
Wait… really? Another signing before preseason which actually got us fans excited. I’m not sure where Coughlan came from, but he’s definitely not very good at trying to stick to the script. Once Davies had been announced and all the chaos of us signing another player died down, rumours began to circulate that a ‘big’ signing was imminent in a couple of days. The excitement just kept creeping up. The next day began with me refreshing Twitter every 10 minutes, hoping to see from some of these accounts that we were due to sign another player. Big names were still being said, ‘Ellis coming back’, ‘Cureton coming back for one final season’, ‘Mbappe to sign in the next few days’. Ok well I may have made a few of them up, but that was still how excited I felt seeing some rumours. Then the same account which announced Tom Davies truly delivered again by telling us that we were now signing Josh Hare from Eastleigh. A player who didn’t straight away strike you with excitement, but with a little bit more digging, did at least put a smile on your face. 43 appearances with five goals from right-back last year in the National League, taking Eastleigh to the play-off semi-finals. Some more tidy business from Graham seen from this fans viewpoint.
Then being told later that night that there was another player who was allegedly coming in the next day helped spark even more speculation from Gasheads. What position? Where are they coming from? Are we paying for them or is it another free transfer? Questions, questions and more questions pondered by all. That next morning, the same trusted Twitter account which had announced all the signings at least 90 minutes before the club managed to announce it, tweeted out a gif of a KLM plane landing at an airport. The caption read, ‘two clues in this to find out about our new signing today’.
A Dutch player signing for The Gas? What world were we living in? The fact that the club has gone out and scouted players from abroad is something that none of us have any recent experience of us doing. Next thing you know everyone was scrolling through available Dutch players before eventually realising is must be someone who’s flying in today. Finally, the Twitter detectives manage to find an Instagram story where a player was talking about how he’s flying somewhere for a medical and it just so happens that there’s a KLM flight to Bristol on the departures board of where he’s flying from. The name of the player that we were signing was Jordi Van Stappershoef. A six-foot five, absolute beast of a keeper, who, at only 23, amazingly has no hair on his head and yet a good amount in his beard. He signs from FC Volendam, a Dutch Eerste Divisie (2nd Division) team who finished just above their relegation zone. However, the one video on YouTube that there is of him shows us Rovers fans just how good he could be (especially if he performs to the standard of all the clips).
The excitement among Rovers fan continued to build, as we’d now signed a huge four players before the start of pre-season, with our whole defence sorted before any of our players have even kicked a ball. A magic move from Coughlan, who has now brought in more players at this stage than any other manager in recent years (excluding Buckle of course, but to this day no-one, apart from him, knows what he was doing with some of those players).
This excitement began to drift away again in the lull before the beginning of pre-season. All players arriving with a smile on their face (although I presume that once they found out what Graham had in store for them that quickly disappeared). Now having brought in the players before pre-season started, us fans were more than content with the signings made and players that had left by this point. However, there was still to be at least one more joyful moment given to us before the end of the month….
The departure of Stefan Payne. The best piece of business. (Although in my last blog I did say where I felt he might be able to fit in, I’m more than happy that he’s chosen to move on – thank god for that as well). He’s now signed for Tranmere Rovers, another newly promoted team following their back to back promotion to League One. For some odd reason they seem to think that Payne is a good striker for them to sign. Presuming that they want work rate and goals; have they signed the right player? The best part for me however, was the fact that the club had to terminate his contract as other clubs wouldn’t even pay a fee for him anymore. This shows you a lot about the type of player he’s ended up becoming.
So now that June is done and dusted, time to reflect on a month where, although compared to other clubs it’s not an unusual number of signings, for the Gas we have brought in an extraordinary number of players compared to usual, including a few very good League One players. I think that we can only look forward to the next few months and see where Graham ends up taking us as a club.