Unreliable History

Starting life as the Purdown Poachers, the club then became known as The Black Arabs (named after the black shirts they wore, not the many imported talents that graced their team straight from the Bristol Docks). It wasn’t only names that they changed regularly, it was grounds too. They went from Three Acres (trying to get one up on City – see above) to Ashley Hill (a nice girl) to Ridgeway. A further name change came in 1884, when they became Eastville Rovers after moving to that part of the city. Eventually, following all their movements, they decided to stick with Bristol Rovers in 1898 and the club became founder members of the 3rd Division when they joined the League in 1920.

The club’s successes have all come in the lower divisions with the 3rd Division (South) title in 1953 and the 1990 Third Division championship. The club’s history has been dogged by controversy and financial problems. In 1939, debts and the need to apply for re-election (in those days the four clubs finishing at the very bottom of the League had to reapply to keep their place in the Fourth Division) nearly saw the club go even further west. The club’s existence was again threatened in 1986, when they had to leave their Eastville Stadium after a fire swept through the in 1980 and it could no longer be maintained. Moving into Bath to share their ground at Twerton Park should have been a clean start for Rovers, but although lightning didn’t strike twice, there was another fire at their new home in 1990. The limited capacity and the state of the pitch was felt to be hindering the club’s progress, so they moved into the Memorial Ground, back in Bristol, to share with the rugby club (although the pitch was not a great deal better for that). Now they have bought the ground, it is hoped that the club will be no more the wild rover. Scandal also hit the club in 1963, when two of their players were suspended following involvement in a bribery sensation. The club became the first League club to take part in a game inside a prison, but this was all above board as in 1982 they played the inmates of Erlestoke Prison. The home side managed to nick a last-minute winner. Anyone knowing the whereabouts of this goal should contact Bristol Police.

Highlights have been few and far between for Rovers, but two FA Cup wins over Manchester United in 1956 and 1972 and coming runners-up in the 1990 Leyland DAF Trophy are about as good as they got aside from the aforementioned two championships. A good showing in the Second Division in 1997-8 got them to the play-offs, but they lost to Northampton Town.  In 1999-2000, they were up at the top of the table for most of the season and although they had two potent strikers in Cureton and Roberts they failed to get even a play-off place, losing out on the final day of the season.

The Pirates entered season 2000-1 having sold both Cureton and Roberts and it looked like a difficult task to repeat their exploits of the previous season.  Indeed that proved the case, with manager Ian Holloway taking the rap by being sacked, but Garry Roberts and Gary Penrice, who were installed as caretaker managers could not prevent the poor home record causing the Pirates to sink to relegation to Division Three.  In the close season, it was decided that Gerry Francis would be the man to restore some swash-buckling football at Rovers, but he was just the first in a long line that succeeded him in trying to regain some of the old glory to the Gasheads.

Apart from an appearance in the Football League Trophy final, there has been little cheer for the Rovers faithful, but a take-over propped up the finances and an almost annual turnover of managers has brought Joey Barton to the hot seat to inject a bit of fight into the team.

FAMOUS PLAYERS : – Eddie Hapgood, Stuart Taylor, Khamed Al-Rehari, Alfie Biggs, Nigel Martyn, Gerry Francis, Bobby Nogood, Ian Holloway, Gary Mabbutt.

FAMOUS FANS : – Lord Archer (Former Conservative MP and Author), David Graveney (England Cricket Selector), Roni Size (Musician)


Club Records

Formed 1883

Turned Professional 1897

Became a Limited Company 1896

Previous names Black Arabs = 1883-1884
Eastville Rovers = 1884-1897
Bristol Eastville Rovers = 1897-1898

Previous grounds Purdown; Three Acres, Ashley Hill; Ridgeway, Fishponds  = 1883-1897
Eastville = 1897-1986
Twerton Park = 1986-1996

Nickname “The PIRATES” of “The GAS”

Club Colours
[Images courtesy of the wonderful Colours of Football website]


Record Football League Win 7-0  v  Brighton  Division 3 (South)  29.11.1952
7-0  v  Swansea Town  Division 2   29.10.1954
7-0  v  Shrewsbury Town  Division 3   21.3.1964

Record Football League Defeat 0-12  v  Luton Town    Division 3 (South)     13.04.1936

Record Cup Win 6-1  v  Merthyr Tydfil   FA Cup First Round  14.11.1987

Record Fee Paid £375,000 to Queens Park Rangers for Andy TILSON (November 1992)

Record Fee Received £2,100,000 from Fulham for Barry HAYLES  (November 1998)
£2,100,000 from West Bromwich Albion for Jason ROBERTS  (July 2000)

Record Appearances ??

Record League Appearances 546  –  Stuart TAYLOR  (1966-1980)

Record League goal-scorer ??

Record all-time goal-scorer 242  –  Geoff BRADFORD  (1949-1964)

Record goal-scorer in a season ??

Record goal-scorer in a League season 33  –  Geoff BRADFORD    Division 3 (South)    1952-1953 

Most goals scored in a League match 4 – Sidney LEIGH  v  Exeter City  Division 3 (South)  02.05.1921
4 – Jonah WILCOX  v  Bournemouth  Division 3 (South)  12.12.1925
4 – Bill CULLEY  v  QPR  Division 3 (South)  05.03.1927
4 – Frank CURRAN  v  Swindon Town  Division 3 (South)  25.03.1939
4 – Vic LAMBDEN  v  Aldershot  Division 3 (South)  29.03.1947
4 – George PETHERBRIDGE  v  Torquay United  Division 3 (South)  01.12.1951
4 – Vic LAMBDEN  v  Colchester United  Division 3 (South)  14.05.1952
4 – Geoff BRADFORD  v  Rotherham United  Division 2  14.03.1959
4 – Robin STUBBS  v  Gillingham  Division 2 10.10.1970
4 – Alan WARBOYS  v  Brighton  Division 3  01.12.1973
4 – Jamie CURETON  v  Reading  Division 2 16.1.1999

Record Home Attendance (Memorial Ground) 12,011  v  West Bromwich Albion   FA Cup Sixth Round  09.03.2008

Record Home Attendance (Eastville) 38,472  v  Preston North End  FAC R4  30.01.1960

Record total of goals in a League season 92  –  Division 3 (South)  1952-1953

Record League points total 3 points for a win :  –  93   Division 3  1989-1990
2 points for a win :   –  64  Division 3 (South)  1952-1953

Most Capped Player while at club 31  –  Vasily ASTEVJEVS  (Latvia)

Youngest Player Ronnie DIX  –  15 years and 173 days  v  Charlton Athletic   (Division 3 South)   (Home)   25.02.1928

Oldest Player Steve MILDENHALL  –  38 years and 111 days  v  Chelsea  (League Cup)    (Away)   23.08.2016


Stadium details 

Address :  The Memorial Stadium, Filton Avenue, Horfield, Bristol BS7 0AQ

Telephone :  0117 909 6648
Ticket Office :  0117 908 8848

Capacity :  12,3001
Away Allocation :
Pitch size :  101m x 68m  (  yards  x   yards)
Official website :  https://www.bristolrovers.co.uk/


There are good directions to the Memorial Stadium on the Bristol Rovers website.


Division Three Champions  (Third Tier) 1904-1905

Division Three South Champions  (Third Tier) 1952-1953

Division Three South Cup Winners 1934-1935

Football League Trophy Finalists 1989-1990, 2006-2007

Watney Cup Winners 1972



Alfred HOMER Summer 1899 – July 1920

Ben HALL July 1920 – May 1921

Andrew WILSON June 1921 – April 1926

Joe PALMER May 1926 – April 1929

David McLEAN May 1929 – September 1930

Albert PRINCE-COX October 1930 – October 1936

Percy SMITH November 1936 – November 1937

Brough FLETCHER January 1938 – January 1950

Bert TANN January 1950 – April 1968

Fred FORD April 1968 – July 1969

Bill DODGIN Snr August 1969 – July 1972

Don MEGSON July 1972 – November 1977

Bobby CAMPBELL November 1977 – December 1979

Harold JARMAN December 1979 – April 1980

Terry COOPER April 1980 – October 1981

Ron GINGELL (Caretaker) October 1981

Bobby GOULD October 1981 – May 1921

David WILLIAMS May 1983 – May 1985

Bobby GOULD May 1985 – June 1987

Gerry FRANCIS July 1987 – May 1991

Martin DOBSON July 1991 – October 1991

Dennis ROFE October 1991 – November 1992

Malcolm ALLISON November 1992 – February 1993

Steve CROSS (Caretaker) March 1993

John WARD March 1993 – May 1996

Ian HOLLOWAY June 1996 – January 2001

Garry THOMPSON January 2001 – May 2001

Gerry FRANCIS July 2001 – December 2001

Garry THOMPSON December 2001 – April 2002

Phil BATER  (Caretaker) January 2002 – March 2002

Ray GRAYDON April 2002 – January 2004

Phil BATER  (Caretaker) January 2004 – March 2004

Russell OSMAN/Kevan BROADHURST  (Caretaker) March 2004 – April 2004

Ian ATKINS April 2004 – September 2005

Paul TROLLOPE September 2005 – December 2010

Darren PATTERSON  (Caretaker) December 2010 – January 2011

Dave PENNEY January 2011 – March 2011

Stuart CAMPBELL (Caretaker) March 2011 – May 2011

Paul BUCKLE May 2011 – January 2012

Mark McGHEE January 2012 – December 2012

John WARD December 2012 – March 2014

Darrell CLARKE March 2014 – December 2018

Graham COUGHLAN December 2018 – December 2019

Joe DUNNE (Caretaker) December 2019 

Kevin MAHER (Caretaker) December 2019 – January 2020 (covering compassionate leave)

Ben GARNER December 2019 – November 2020

Tommy WIDDRINGTON (Caretaker) November 2020

Paul TISDALE November 2020 – February 2021

Tommy WIDDRINGTON (Caretaker) February 2021

Joey BARTON February 2021 – 


League Record

The Football League structure has historically been as follows …

1888-1892 1892-1920 1920-1921 1921-1958 1958-1992 1992-2004 2004 to date
First tier Football League Division One Division One Division One Division One Premiership Premier League
Second tier Division Two Division Two Division Two Division Two Division One Championship
Third tier Division Three Division Three
(North) and (South)
Division Three Division Two  League One
Fourth tier Division Four Division Three League Two

Elected to Division Three  (Third Tier) 1920

Division Three  (Third Tier) 1920-1921

Division Three South (Third Tier) 1921-1953

Division Two  (Second Tier) 1953-1962

Division Three  (Third Tier) 1962-1974

Division Two  (Second Tier) 1974-1981

Division Three  (Third Tier) 1981-1990

Division Two  (Second Tier) 1990-1992

Division One  (Second Tier) 1992-1993

Division Two  (Third Tier) 1993-2001

Division Three   (Fourth Tier) 2001-2004

League Two  (Fourth Tier) 2004-2007

League One  (Third Tier) 2007-2011

League Two  (Fourth Tier) 2011-2014

Conference  (Fifth Tier) 2014-2015

League Two  (Fourth Tier) 2015-2016

League One  (Third Tier) 2016-