With the departure of Ollie Clarke to Mansfield on the 1st July 2020, the entire double promotion winning team has now moved on to pastures new. For many that team represented a golden generation of players, all of whom were beloved by the fans in a way that few other squads have been. So what has happened to the line-up for the 2015 National League play-off final in the five years since that day as Wembley? Well look no further, here’s what the players and manager are doing now.
Will Puddy – Chippenham Town
Darrell’s preferred goalie on the day, he nearly went down in infamy, conceding early and being fortunate to avoid a straight red for handling outside his box. Puddy would stay with the Gas until 2017, though he only played 8 more league games and would spend time on loan at Braintree and Sutton United. He is now between the sticks at Chippenham Town in the National League South, having been the number one there since 2018.
Tom Lockyer – Charlton Athletic
Still primarily brings used as a right back at this point, the Rovers Academy graduate and Postman Pat lookalike was still a long way from being a Welsh national team regular. Lockyer was an ever present in the conference season, racking up 49 appearances in all competitions as Rovers were promoted at the first time of asking. He made 285 appearances in the blue and white quarters (and presumably the away kits) before moving to Charlton in 2019 once his contract at Rovers had expired. He shifted seamlessly into the championship making 39 appearances, though Charlton have struggled with relegation for much of the season. He is also a regular for Wales and prior to the Coronavirus pandemic would have been hoping to make his mark at Euro 2020.
Mark McCrystal – Derry City
Captain of the side on the day, one of the most iconic images of the final is Macca collapsing to his knees after the Mansell penalty. He would go on to be a regular the following season as Rovers completed back-to-back promotions up to League One. The 2016-17 season would see his game time limited however, and in March 2017 he returned to Northern Ireland. Many Gasheads were disappointed to see him go and felt he was denied the proper send off that a double promotion winning captain deserved. Back in Northern Ireland he would win the NIFL premiership with Crusaders before completing a move to Derry City in the league of Ireland, for his fourth spell at the club.
Tom Parkes – Exeter City
The former Rovers captain started alongside McCrystal at centre back for the play-off final. Parkes made the most appearances of any Rovers player that season with 51 and was named player of the season by the club for the campaign. His game time would be limited the following season however, and he elected to leave the club in 2016, despite being offered a new contract following promotion. Parkes would move to Leyton Orient, before moving north to Carlisle where he spend two seasons. He moved back to the South West in 2019, joining up with Exeter and scoring past Plymouth in a 4-0 derby pasting. He came on during the play-off defeat to Northampton, as Exeter bottled promotion like a fine scotch.
Lee Brown – Portsmouth
A beloved Gas hero for that goal a year later, Brown also contributed in the play-off final, lashing home the only genuinely convincing penalty Rovers took that day. Brown would be an ever present at Rovers for the next three seasons, making an impressive 321 appearances for Rovers and scoring 22 goals, one of which is quite famous. He left the gas in 2018, citing a desire to be closer to his family in London. He ended up at Portsmouth, winning the
Scab cup EFL trophy in his first season at the club. Many a Gashead will hope to see him gain another promotion this year, as his Pompey side compete in the league one play-offs.
Jake Gosling – Royal Air Force
Listen to the GasCast interview with Jake Gosling here.
Gibraltar’s record goal scorer, Gosling was an undoubtedly talented but frustrating footballer. His later years with the Gas saw a spate of loan moves, including Newport and Forest Green, however he did supply an incisive pass in the build up to the Browner goal against Dagenham and Redbridge. After leaving rovers in 2017 he spent a season with Torquay in the National League, before retiring from football. In a recent GasCast interview he confirmed he now works as a physical trainer with the RAF, which if I wasn’t so lazy I’d work into a witticism about bombing down the wing.
Lee Mansell- Bristol Rovers development squad manager
The hero on the day, Ice Cool Lee Mansell smashed home the final penalty to send the Gas back up to league one at the first time of asking. He played frequently the following season, racking up 29 appearances including the final game against Dagenham. He made limited appearances the following season and retired after Darrell Clarke offered him a coaching role at the club. Mansell served initially as a coach in the academy set up, before joining Graham Coughlan in the first team setup. For the 2019-20 campaign Mansell returned to the youth team, this time as manager of the development team. I and many other Gasheads hope to one day see him in the dugouts as manager.
Chris Lines- Northampton Town
Linesy returned to Rovers in March 2015 like the prodigal son – except he’d been playing for Sheffield Wednesday and Port vale rather than farming pigs- to play a key role in the promotion push. After scoring a sumptuous goal in the play-off semis, he went on to lash home the first penalty as Rovers triumphed in the shootout. He would go on to be a first team regular for the Gas making a further 156 appearances before his time at the gas concluded in the summer of 2019, with Lines making his 500th professional appearance in his final game for the Gas. Lines moved on to Northampton Town, where he appeared in 31 games and achieved his fifth career promotion, though he was did not get on the pitch at Wembley.
Andy Monkhouse – Ossett United
Despite only playing a single season for the Gas, Monkhouse became something of a cult hero, notching 10 goals in the campaign. Monkhouse decided against staying with Rovers, deciding to return to the North to be closer to his family. He first signed for Grimsby, Rover’s vanquished play-off opponents, where he would again achieve a play-off victory. He would go onto play for Alfreton Town, where he served as player/ assistant manager, before a spell at Whitby Town. At 39 he is still playing for Ossett United in the Northern Premier Division One North West, where he also has a coaching role.
Matty Taylor – Unknown
Sadly no one knows what happened to Taylor after he left the Gas in January 2017. A true footballing mystery, like what happened to Ronaldo before the 1998 World Cup final or lasagne-gate. Unsolvable.
Ellis Harrison – Portsmouth
Scored a lovely equaliser in the play-off final, which could be forever brought up when he was criticised by Rovers fans. Ellis would remain at the Gas until 2018 (aside from a loan spell at Hartlepool), when having notched 12 goals that season he was picked up by Ipswich for a decent fee. The move didn’t work out as he struggled, being confined mostly to appearances off the bench. The following summer he moved to Portsmouth, where he recovered some his old Rovers form, managing 10 goals in all competitions prior to the re-start of the season.
Steve Mildenhall – Swindon Town goalkeeper coach
Brought on as a 121st minute substitute by Darrell in an attempt to disrupt Grimsby’s penalty preparations. Maybe it worked and that’s why Pitman put his penalty into a low earth orbit. Mildenhall initially saw his game time limited the following season as he was displaced by some loan signings and Puddy. However he took the number one spot between the sticks for the second half of the season as Rovers earned their second promotion. He made limited appearances the following year and retired to take up a coaching role with the Rovers youth team. He left after a year to return to his home-town team as Swindon’a goalkeeper coach.
Daniel Leadbitter – Newport County
The pacy right-back didn’t end up getting on the pitch against Grimsby, with Lockyer being preferred in the position. He would go on to be a regular for the gas, making 30+ appearances for the next two seasons before finding his game time curtailed by additions to the squad. He left Rovers in 2019 and crossed the Severn to join Newport County. However a pair of bad injuries limited him to just 3 appearances last season.
Ollie Clarke – Mansfield Town
Formerly the last man standing of the double promotion winners, Ollie didn’t play in the final, with Darrell preferring the midfield pairing of Lines and Mansell. Ollie saw his game time increase over the next few seasons, and he would notch 271 appearances for Rovers during his time at the club. Following the departure of Lockyer at the end of the 2018-19 season, Ollie captained his local side for the 2019-20 season. However following the expiration of his contract at the end of the season, Ollie rejected a new offer and moved on to join former boss Graham Coughlan at League 2 Mansfield.
Angelo Balanta – Dagenham and Redbridge
You little Darling. The Colombian winger slotted home the crucial fourth penalty in the shootout to give Rovers the advantage. This would turn out to be his last act in a Rovers shirt, as he left the club in the summer to play for Carlisle. However he managed only 7 appearances for the Cumbrians that season, and returned to the national league with Boreham Wood the following year. He impressed in his time with the club, making over 100 appearances and scoring 24 goals, earning him a move to Dagenham and Redbridge, where he has scored a respectable 15 goals across two seasons.
Nathan Blissett – Solihull Moors
Listen to the GasCast interview with Nathan Blissett here.
There is no need to be upset. Cult hero Blissett came off the bench in place of Ellis Harrison and was set to take the sixth penalty should it be required in the shootout. Blissett would only make a further three appearances for Gas following the final, and would spend time on loan at Tranmere and Lincoln before securing a permanent move to Torquay in the national league. His form for the Gulls saw him move to Plymouth, where he would score against the Gas at the Memorial Stadium. He would go on to play for Macclesfield before transferring to Solihull Moors, where he has enjoyed a good degree of success, scoring 14 goals in 33 appearances.
Darrell Clarke – Walsall
Listen to the GasCast interview with Darrell Clarke here.
What a man. After a shaky start with Rovers, DC achieved back to back promotions that saw Rovers return to League one after a 5 year absence. He came close to getting Rovers into the league 1 play-offs in 2017, however the core of the promotion side was chipped away by sales and retirements, and Darrell was unable to replace those players with signings of sufficient quality. He left the club in December 2018 along with his assistant Marcus Stewart. In the summer of 2019, Darrell took over at Walsall in League two. His new side finished 12th in League two on 47 points after the league was curtailed by the Coronavirus pandemic.