Here are chairman David Wilkinson's programme notes from the Bristol Rovers edition of This Is Our Town.
Today we entertain the officials, players and supporters from Bristol Rovers. It's just under three years since we last faced the Pirates, when we lost 2-0 under the caretaker management of Andy Awford, a week before we welcomed Nathan Jones to the club.
Perhaps the most memorable game to me was on Boxing Day in 2007, the last time we were in League One, where we managed an amazing rearguard action to draw 1-1 at their place whilst ending up with only eight men on the pitch. Tense
isn't the word for it! We look forward to another challenging match this afternoon.
Our recent form has been somewhat of an enigma. Our performances have deserved better, and apart from a spell against Peterborough, we have rarely been outplayed. It's always gratifying when even the opposition say we played well, but it doesn't earn us any points.
There has been a lot of discussion recently about modern football including ownership of league clubs, it being particularly noted how few are owned by fans, supporters or people connected with their local communities. This is particularly true in the Premier League and Championship.
We noticed a tweet from Nick Owen recently celebrating the 60th anniversary of his first game against Leeds United, which got us thinking about the supporting history of the Board. Nick, as you all know, resigned as chairman a year ago having been our figurehead for nearly ten years. Although he was never a member of the Board or an investor in 2020, he played an invaluable role representing us
with the media and as our most famous fan, after Eric of course. We continue to owe him a debt of thanks for all he did through those difficult years.
It is amazing how so many of us began to support so close together. Our first season in the top flight was 1955/56 so perhaps that higher profile, at the
time, drew us in.
Mike Herrick tops our list, his first game being Blackpool here in September 1957, which we won 2-0 in front of 19,567 with goals from Allan Brown
and Mick Cullen.
Bob Curson is next having been at the same Leeds game as Nick, so he too has made his 60th year. The game ended as a 1-1 draw in front of 13,497
on a Wednesday afternoon with the goal scored by Brown.
My first game was the next one, against West Ham, in September 1958, which we won 4-1 in front of 25,715 with goals from Gordon Turner (2), Brown and Dave Pacey. We were unbeaten for the first ten games of that season and I was hooked. Sadly, we lost the FA Cup Final at the end of the season and were relegated the following year, which began a ten-year slide down the divisions. However, that was
not enough to dim my enthusiasm, nor that of my present 2020 colleagues.
Mick Pattinson was next watching us play Spurs with his dad in late 1958, a game we lost 2-1 in front of 23,592 fans with a goal from Billy Bingham. Mick's dad was landlord of the Hare and Hounds pub in Old Warden and couldn't go very often, so
Mick would tag along with customers instead.
Gary Sweet's first game was in September 1971 against Middlesbrough. We won 3-2 in front of 13,001 with goals from Vic Halom, Robin Wainwright and Peter Anderson. Gary told me that he wanted to support Arsenal after taking a liking to
Charlie George, but it was short-lived until his mum clipped him round the ear and told him he was going to see his home town team the next day. We all owe his mum a great debt of gratitude!
Paul Ballantyne's debut game was in 1972 in the League Cup replay against Birmingham City. We drew 1-1 with a goal from John Aston to take it to a second replay, which we managed to lose 1-0 at the neutral venue of the County Ground,
Although he had been close to attending on an earlier occasion, Stephen Browne's first game was here against Aston Villa in 1983. He was brought along by his grandad, who, ironically, had trialled with Villa before the war. We won 2-1 with
goals from Trevor Aylott and David Moss in front of 10,924.
What is the point of all this you may ask? Well, it's about credentials and custodianship. I doubt there is a club in the country where the current Board of
Directors and investors have some 370 years of supporting their Club. If you include vice presidents, who are former chairmen, investors and directors,
the numbers go off the chart.
Where the majority were born in, or have a major connection to the town, and have proved their resilience by continuing to support throughout
adversity. We know the highs and the lows. We have reached the top and touched the bottom.
There are those in connection with our planning applications, who try to cast doubt on our motives. They don't know us. We are a steadfast bunch. When 2020 was put together we backed a plan, and ten years on that plan is still good and we are more determined than ever to make it happen for the Town and the Club.
If there are any youngsters watching for the first time, can you imagine in 2078 looking back to today, as we are looking back to our first games? That's why we are only custodians of this unique Club and why our plans are so important.
Whilst I'm on the subject of determination – Alastair Cook – what a shining example of a sporting professional! Could I close by extending on behalf
of us all our congratulations to our fellow Hatter. What an incredible achievement. We wish him every success in the future and a happy retirement and
hope to see him in the Kenny again soon.
Enjoy the game.
Come On You Hatters!