The Sound of Football: Bristol Rovers (Andrew)

Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here

Bristol Rovers

Nickname: The Pirates

Ground: Memorial Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 11,626

Song: Goodnight Irene

Rod Hull was a children’s TV presenter during the 1970s and 80s. He was famous for his puppet Emu, which he used to ‘attack’, in a light-hearted way, children and celebrities. Rod was a popular presenter, and many were upset that he had been killed in 1999 by… Manchester United.

Rod was watching United play Inter Milan in the Champions League when he decided to improve his TV’s reception by climbing onto the roof of his house to adjust his aerial. Tragically, he slipped and fell from the roof and through a greenhouse.

If only Rod had watched Bristol Rovers instead of Manchester United. Bristol was Rod’s favourite team, and there’s little chance of seeing them play in Europe. The only major cup competition the club has won was the 1972 Watney Cup. A competition held before the start of the season was contested by the teams that had scored the most goals in each of the four divisions.

The closest the team ever came to playing in a European competition was the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1992/93. While the club played in the group stages in England, when it came to playing the games in Italy, Rovers lost out to West Ham United. After both finished, a coin toss was held over the phone with the same points and goal difference. West Ham won the toss and played abroad in Rovers place.

In 1974 Rod Hull and Emu recorded ‘Bristol Rovers All The Way’ and the B-side ‘I’d Do Anything’ with the Bristol Rovers squad. Normally, the football players are tone-deaf in a song, but this one has some of the most off-key singing since Cheryl Cole tried to sing live. It’s not played today.

The club’s official nickname is ‘The Pirates’, reflecting the maritime history of Bristol. The local nickname of the club is ‘The Gas’, from the gasworks next to its former home, Eastville Stadium.

The Gas started as a derogatory term used by Bristol City fans against their rivals but was affectionately adopted by the team. In 2001, the club honoured the fan’s support by awarding them number 12 in the squad to recognise them officially as the club’s 12th man.

The club’s official song is ‘Goodnight Irene’, an American folk song from the 1930s. The lyrics tell of the singer’s troubled past with his love, Irene. Several verses make explicit references to suicidal fantasies, making it appropriate as a football song as losing games can make fans suicidal.

It was first sung at a fireworks display at the Eastville Stadium the night before a home game against Plymouth Argyle in 1950. During the game the following day, Rovers were winning quite comfortably. The few Argyle supporters present began to leave early, prompting a chorus of ‘Goodnight Argyle’ from the Rovers supporters – the tune stuck and ‘Goodnight Irene’ became the club song.

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