Nothing can beat a matchday at the Mem. Leaving the house in the freezing cold (or pouring rain, but never it seems, bright sunshine!) and knowing straight away that you haven’t put anywhere near enough layers on to last you through the match. Walking towards the pub to get your weekly football pint (or three). The buzz inside the place gets your blood racing straight away. Whispers about the latest player joining, what is the line up going to look like? Or even where we going to get our kicks now the Chicken Balti pie has gone? (well maybe the last one not quite so much!).
As the clock ticks towards half-past 2 you begin to make your way down Gloucester Road, heading through the houses, taking your lucky route that you’ve done so much that you now daren’t change it. Turn the corner onto Muller Road and there, in between the flats, is your holy grail. The place we’ve all grown to know and love more and more each week. Program sellers shouting “£3 for a program!” echo around the car park, away fans walking past smiling, while fully knowing that they’re in for one of their hardest 90 minutes of the season at our home.
Entry through the turnstiles, more rust visible each week, along with the shadows of past supporters clicking through. Your friends and family, who you stand shoulder to shoulder with every Saturday, head down the steps towards your spot. This is the place you go each game, this can never change once you’ve started, whether this means squeezing into a gap or standing on your own. We won when you were stood here last week so, if you stand there again, we’ll win again. The pre-match music begins to filter (although very quietly) through the speakers, you get ready to sing your heart out for Sweet Caroline with full knowledge that this could be a turning point in the afternoon. It’s sung well and you know you’re in for a good 90 minutes (at least from the fans), however if it’s sung badly the opposition fans begin to claim the upper hand. This can’t happen at home, not our home anyway.
You live that first 45 the same as you have in every other game before, way too nervous for just a sport, but filled with the hope that you could be about to witness something very special this afternoon. You sing your heart out through the choruses of every song possible. Whether this is Irene or just something we’ve ended up nicking from another team. It’s still sung with the same blue and white passion on these terraces. If there’s an early goal, nerves get settled, but if not, then you stand at half-time wondering if it’s going to be another case of Deja vu. Off to the Pasty hut you go to ponder which delight you’re going to choose this week. After what seems years of deliberating, you get to the front of the queue only to repeat those same words every matchday - “two sausage rolls and two hot chocolates please” - only to be swiftly followed with a similar response of “we’ve got no sausage rolls left but there’s still pasties”. Looks like you have to switch up for yet another week.
By the time you return the players are beginning to come back out and you begin to realise how much of a mistake it was getting the hot chocolate, as you know full well that you won’t be able to drink it till 60 minutes are on the clock and it’s had a chance to cool. But that’s fine, because our coliseum doesn’t restart the choruses until at least 55 minutes have gone. We don’t do early goals in the second half here. Once your hands are again free you roar on the boys in blue and white in a way which no one else will see you like except on matchday. 70 minutes, first couple of subs, should’ve been made earlier, but at least the boy Nichols is finally getting his chance again. Board goes up for the added time. 4 minutes. Where’s he got 4 from, it’s at least 6 if not 7! Never mind, we’re Bristol Rovers, we still score when we want (except for maybe all the times when it would bring heart rates down).
Ball goes into the box, flick on, back post. And he’s there! The main man of the team at the moment, saving us yet again. Don’t want to imagine what life would’ve been like without him. Almost straight away the full-time whistle goes, we win again at home. You leave the terraces to the tune of Tote End Boys being played excessively loud through the speakers. Through the gates watching the away fans with their heads seemingly lower than the pavement. It was meant to be a comfortable win for them today, but never when The Gas are around. You on the other hand leave the ground with a smile which will last for the rest of the week. Nothing and no one will be able to get rid of it for a long time.
Oh, I can’t wait for the home games to get started again this season….