MY FAVOURITE HOME AND AWAY: Looking back at when we could go to the football

It’s day 250,000 of lockdown. I’ve watched Tiger King and Sunderland Til I Die on Netflix, my flat is the cleanest it’s ever been and I’m not any better at Spanish. The football cannot come back soon enough!

I’ve been daydreaming about that first day back at the football. Going to the fryer for something slutty then getting to the pub for the early kick off. Slagging off the team selection at 2 and then making my way up Gloucester Road quick time cause I’ve tried to squeeze another pint in too late. I’m getting a bit misty eyed thinking about it.

So I thought I would look at past Rovers games and pick out one home game and one away that I’d love to go back and watch again. There are some obvious contenders but I’m going to exclude the Dagenham game as I think it’s cheating a bit. Lee Browns right foot will obviously be at the top of my list.

Home game

For my home game I’m going back to 2014. Bristol Rovers 3 – 2 Gateshead under the lights at the Mem. A Friday night game in front of the BT sport cameras. 

Before I get into why this one made the top of my list I’m going to give a few honourable mentions. Oxford at home this season abusing Taylor until he went off ‘injured’ was amazing. Fleetwood in GCs second game with James Clarke cooly slotting in a 90+5 winner is right up there too. You can re-live it here.

Cool as you like

I’ve picked the Gateshead game for a couple of reasons. First this was the season I started watching Rovers semi-regularly and a Friday game meant I had a chance to go. Everyone remembers their first few games and this one has a bit of sentimentality to it for me.

Secondly it was a 5 goal thriller that had a bit of everything! Gateshead were a lower league Man City at the Mem that night. Playing out from the back, happy to play it around on the deck. I was impressed that football at this level could be so tidy.

It was a cracker with Gateshead taking the lead and this then being cancelled out by a Ollie Clarke trademark screamer. Gateshead took the lead again after an hour with a goal from Alex Rodman. That was cancelled out in style by a Manse free kick. Looking back now we had a few in the side who could hit a free kick. Masne, Brown, Taylor. Alex Wall (he could smack a ball) started up front that night. Unsurprisingly he wasn’t called up to take the free kick.

So at 2-2 up steps Stuart Sinclar to smash in a winner after the keeper has managed to spill the ball outside the box. The vision of Sincs knee sliding after scoring is one if my enduring of that entire season. I could watch this on repeat:

Then on 74 minutes a bizarre incident. Manse and a Gateshead player get into a row about something and square up. Manse plants a kiss on the bloke to defuse the situation instead of giving him a headbutt. BT Sports got their moneys worth that game!

Looking back at the line up that night has got me a bit nostalgic for the old heroes. Also a reminder of some of the dross we had in that season. Especially up front (see Wall above)

Away game

I’ve picked Chelsea away in 2016 in the League Cup for my away game. This one was made all the sweeter as Lines had scored a stunner against Cardiff to send us to London and City to Scunthorpe because of the way the seeding worked.

Honourable mentions to Yeovil away where Harrison scored late on to give us a 1-0 in 2015. Sunderland away last season was a great away day despite losing. The Grimsby game at Wembley was never going to make it to the top of this list. I felt sick all day from the stress of it. It didn’t help that Grimsby were the better team on the day either.

Given it was a 7:45 KO I took the sensible decision to take a half day and start drinking at 1. I met a few mates at Yert Lush so we could sit outside in the sunshine.

This had the unintended consequence of meaning I was in a state by the time we got to Ealing Broadway. The pub opposite the station was rammed so getting cans and standing in the street was the order of business. This was a blessing in disguise as we got to stand in the street in the sunshine singing songs for a few hours before the game.

Finding a space in the famous shed end was tricky given the number of Gasheads and the fact my legs didn’t work properly. Like a lot of old grounds it was really steep so you felt you were looming over the pitch. I managed to find a spot next to a security guard and we had a lovely chat about how many people he’d beaten up down the years.

The game was, as you’d expect very one sided. After going 2-0 down I thought we would be on the receiving end of a cricket score. Then up stepped Peter Hartley to nod in and give us a bit of hope. More importantly it gave the travelling Gasheads something to celebrate on a night when we expected to get a pasting.

Then Sincs runs through to win a penalty. Harrison smashes straight down the middle to give us some hope that we might get something out of the game. When Jamma took a shot from at least 30 yards I was ready to launch myself onto the people in front of me. Unfortunately the keeper got a touch and it ended 3-2.

I’d said before the game that I’d be happy if we scored and kept the scoreline down so scoring 2 was amazing! What was more satisfying was Conte brining on Hazard and Terry to see the game out. Thats right bringing on two of the best players in the country to see out a game against 3rd division Bristol Rovers! You only have to look at the lineups to see what a gulf in class there was between the teams.

So there you have it. I’m sure a lot of people will have different games they would love to go back and re-live. I’d love to hear some of your memories in the comments!