As promised (slightly delayed as always!) here’s the full account from our Platinum Club member as to the events from the Rovers end of the derby:
Like most Bristol footy fans I was looking forward to this game from the moment it was announced. Plans were made, time taken off work, and certainly from the Rovers side there was much talk about creating a ‘show’ and a positive atmosphere.
I shared a taxi down to the match with a female friend of mine. I was wearing my Rovers shirt, she wore a summer dress. The taxi picked us up at 18:30. The onlyother person in the van was the driver. We were just chatting the usual small talk with the driver when we found ourselves on Bedminster Down Road, directly across from the Miners Arms pub. The traffic had built up here and the vehicle came to a stop. I hadn’t had time to really notice where we were, and was actually mid-conversation with the driver, when the first glass hit. ‘SMASH!’ a pint glass
exploded on the rear passenger side window right next to my head. I turned to see approximately 150 baying City ‘fans’ who had noticed me in the back on the taxi and had decided that they were such big men they would prove it to me by way of coarse insults and schoolyard hand gestures. To be fair to them, it was 150 to 1, so I
accept they may have felt threatened and afraid.
Following the first missile came 3 more; two smashing on the road, one on the roof of the taxi. We had nowhere to go, so just had to sit there. Then, within seconds, came a full barrage of 10 to 15 pint glasses and bottles smashing and exploding on and near the taxi. The driver became
obviously distressed and I noticed a Policeman vigorously gesture us up onto the verge to drive swiftly on past the traffic in front of us and onto Winterstoke Road.
We left and mounted Police moved in to contain the swarm. As we drove down Winterstoke Road the driver, very agitated by now, wanted to turn
around and head back into Bedminster. I was able to convince him that the away end of Ashton Gate would be quieter, and this was the case as we exited the roundabout opposite ‘The Robins’ pub, which, to their credit, looked calm and well behaved.
At Ashton Gate, outside the Wedlock away stand, the atmosphere was relaxed and much more like a day at football. We waited here for another friend and her Dad who is blind. I chatted with the stewards, who were informative, and on realising there was no chance of alcohol on site we entered the Wedlock stand about 40 minutes before kick-off.
The Wedlock was already buzzing. It was busy, lots of Gasheads already in. I could see people had balloons ready (the release of which was one of the plans the Rovers community had discussed in advance for when the teams came out), everyone seemed comfortable, the songs and chants were already in full flow, and there was a really
upbeat and exciting ‘feel’.
Not too many City fans were in yet, but they were filtering up to their seats, of which the nearest to us, on the right-hand side was separated from us by nothing more than some sheeting laid over the seats. I don’t know if it was a form of advertising, or a flag or something, but it really was a mental barrier rather than a physical one.
About 20 minutes before kick off I was glad to see that a team of Rovers volunteers had managed to bring the large surfer flag down. We’d had concerns as a community about doing this, but to their credit, the volunteers had stepped up and organised themselves and the flag, and it made it’s way across the Wedlock and back again. Everyone pitched in to keep it held up.
The time eventually arrived where the teams came out. Everyone was so up for the game by now. The players appeared. We released our waterfall of blue balloons down the Wedlock; of which there seemed to be hundreds. We sang Goodnight Irene; and I’ve yet to see what this looked like on TV, but from the back where I was standing there was a real mardi gras World Cup feel to the whole experience. It was a really impressive look and I’m glad we carried it out. All Gasheads should be proud of this moment.
The match started and the singing carried on. The City group to our right seemed loud enough themselves to be fair, although somewhat more preoccupied with our fans than what was happening on the pitch. I’m always partial to a bit of chanting banter myself, but surely the main focus is the football on the pitch?
As the match progressed and went the way it did the chanting and singing on both sides become gradually more venomous. Booing started to creep in whenever we sang Goodnight Irene; also often followed by “You’ve only got one song, you’ve only got one song!” which I found a little ironic coming from a fanbase that sings nothing but ‘Drink up ye cider!’ and a very limited collection of generic footy chants.
Then, as inevitable as pie on a fat man’s plate, there was the fighting. At first, from where we were stood we couldn’t really see what was happening. A pocket of handbag swinging seemed to have erupted to the far below left of us where we had entered the stadium between the Wedlock and the Williams stands. I don’t know anything about why this started but fans on both sides were gesturing, and the armadillo coppers were wading in. There was a very nice, brand new looking, England/Rovers flag down there that read ‘Dare to Dream’ or something, which was later stolen by a City fan and set alight outside the Nova Scotia pub in Hotwells, but that’s a separate story.
From this point that area apparently ‘had to be’ sealed off; leaving us with no access to the toilets. People were approaching the stewards near us, asking about toilet provision, and being told that it was just tough and they have to wait. The attitude of the stewards and the supporting Riot Police had definitely stepped up a gear. We were stood as near as you could get to the City fans to the right of us without being forcibly stopped. The City were baying and taunting, shouting a lot of generic shit to be honest, There were a smaller number of mostly young Rovers
fans doing the same back, and security staff becoming over enthusiastic in between.
Directly next to us, in the middle of the Wedlock, there were some gates which I think also lead to toilets, but these were locked as City fans had managed to access this area earlier to shout up to us about something or other that was obviously important to them. I saw at least one City fan be dragged off through these gates for something, and then rather alarmingly, one Rovers fan who walked up to see what was going on, got grabbed in the arm by a steward, turned to go back where he came, and then was manhandled down the steps by two stewards and a copper, as if he was a trouble maker?!? He literally walked one step past me, got grabbed, turned to walk away and was dragged down the steps. Bizarre!
The Wedlock/Williams toilets became accessible again at half-time, everyone calmed down. I assume that all the City fans went for a pint. We had nothing alcoholic available that I could see.
The second half chanting became obviously hate based. City seemed to be making most of the noise. The atmospehere was toxic. There was a build up of City fans quite clearly amassing at the bottom of the Dolman stand. They were openly abusing any Rovers players that came near. The only thing dividing them from the pitch were the 2 foot advertising boards. And then, that was it, they were on the pitch. Running around making a joke of their own club; stewards and security doing very little to
control the situation. You have to wonder what it is the stewards are paid to do. It was embarrassing. I felt embarrassed for City. This is on TV?!? You’re making yourself look like a clown club!
Come the end I think most Gasheads knew the way the match was going. Singing carried on, and we outdid the City a number of times, especially on the old “*clap-clap*clap-clap-clap*clap-clap-clap-clap* ROVERS!“ (they never seemed to twig that we could just copy their City version, wait for them to give up, and then carry on ourselves for one more round!), but the end was clearly coming. Final whistle went. City go the whole ‘pants-down, cucumber up arse’ hog of self embarrassment and
cover their entire pitch with cabbages. There’s grown men running over to the Wedlock spitting on Rovers fans and their children. All shouting big about what they’re going to do, but obviously not doing it. I saw some idiot pratting about with the Police horses, looking like he was actually considering hitting one of them, then the stewards formed a one-man deep barrier which forced the City back up the pitch. A one-man deep wall that must have been made of steel as it was more than sufficient to keep the big bad City ‘men’ from ‘doing the Rovers’.
After a short wait to see if things calmed down we left Ashton Gate by the middle Wedlock exit. There was no obvious guidance by stewards. As we walked across the car park towards the Winterstoke Road gate a coin fired down near my feet and I looked up to see both Rovers and City fans, presumably from the Wedlock and Williams stands all mingled together heading in the same direction as us. I’m not sure what the Police strategy was here, other than, there wasn’t one.
Outside was tinderbox tense. I had obvious concerns over the welfare of my friends and myself as I quickly came to the realisation that a bright blue ‘Bristol Rovers Snowboard Club’ hoody, with “GASHEAD” written across the back was possibly not the best chosen attire for the environment, especially as most other Gasheads were now boarding the coaches and I had a ‘walk’ home.
Thankfully, the hundreds of City fans that were heading in the same direction as me, did actually appear to be fans, and no trouble occurred during my journey. But it was an uncomfortable stroll ending a venomous evening. There were other much spoken about events that occurred that evening, but I managed to avoid them.
On the Bristol Post website the following day, I found a comment regarding the poor fan behaviour from a City fan named Jeff Ryan, aka ‘Vonner’, he commented that Rovers fans themselves “are no angels”, but one part of his post really rang true for me. He wrote: “It’s not a football disease but a social one – and games like this are simply a vehicle for these people to posture. And they do it with impunity
because they know they will get away with it.
Having said this, it has happened too many times under the banner of Bristol City football club.”