The Gas are we?

by on 09/05/06 at 8:43 am

So at the end of another season in the basement division, we???ve ended up with 60 points and 12th position. Progress? Not really. Flirtation with the play-offs has provided excitement, but it???s been due to the open nature of the division rather than an improvement in results for the Gas. But there is one big difference this year: potential. We owe gratitude to Atkins for stopping the rot at the club and taking us forward, on the field at least, but I think he???d taken us as far as he could. Trolls and Lennie haven???t taken us to promotion nirvana, but they???ve given us ??? well me at least ??? genuine hope that the team can improve and move forward from here.

Unfortunately it seems that just as this is happening we are in grave danger of losing something equally important: the spirit of Bristol Rovers. We have long prided ourselves on being a ???family club??? and our supporter???s spirit, and looked with disdain at the kind of thuggish malcontents that (supposedly) support the team South of the river. But increasingly this just doesn???t seem to be the case. One look at the forum on the ???fishul site should set the alarm bells ringing: it seems almost every thread descends into a slanging match between two of the participants. If the alarm bells were already ringing then events at the Macclesfield game should send them into a chiming frenzy. The abuse aimed at Shearer was disgraceful, yet sadly nothing new. I think Shearer is a mixture of great, good, bad and awful in approximately equal measure. But as long as he???s wearing the Rovers shirt and trying to the best of his ability then I???ll support him. How does publicly calling him four-letter words benefit anybody?

Then there???s the pitch invasion at the end of the match. Personally I don???t have a problem with it, even if it is against the rules. I was on the pitch, and to me it???s just a bit of fun at the end of the season. But the ensuing treatment of the Macclesfield fans was appalling and inexcusable. It gained us bad publicity on a national scale, and as a club which has already received warnings from the FA about missile-throwing, it represents mind-boggling stupidity.

Then to top it all off the players came out and gave surely the most reluctant and half-hearted lap of honour ever to grace professional football. And do you know what? I don???t really blame them. Many people have complained that the players owe us more effusive thanks after the support that we have given them throughout the season, and there???s obviously a large element of truth in that. But even at this game there were many people booing the team off at half time. Coupled with the personal abuse that many of the players have received – Shearer and Lescott spring to mind, but are by no means alone – and the coin throwing that had just been going on, who can blame the players for being less than adulatory of the supporters. These events have been discussed greatly on the ???fishul forum, and guess what? Most of the threads have descended into slanging matches and personal insults.

Unfortunately I think only one thing will reverse this disquieting lack of solidarity, and that???s success on the pitch. Or possibly lots of ecstasy. And I think the current management have the potential to supply it (success that is, not ecstasy). I???m sure that the majority of fans continue to give unswerving support, and I???m still proud to be a gashead, but a vocal minority are threatening to prevent any rapport from being established between the fans and the players, and even between the fans with each other. I may be suffering from the blind optimism of the football supporter, but I whole-heartedly believe that the management and players are trying all they can to achieve success. Shouldn???t we ALL be supporting them as they try and do it?

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