Home > Football, Previous clubs > My time at Bristol Rovers…Part 1. Re-location, re-location, re-location.

My time at Bristol Rovers…Part 1. Re-location, re-location, re-location.

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Having left Hull City for Bristol in the summer of 2004 I was looking forward to the new challenge at Bristol Rovers. Ian Atkins had just taken over  and was given money to spend. The relegation threatened season had pushed the club into trying to assemble a promotion push for the 2004-05 season.

I was one of many brought in that year. Stuart Campbell, Steve Elliot, Robbie Ryan, James Hunt, Craig Hinton, Richard Walker, Craig Disley were among the names added to the playing squad that year.

We all came from different places around the country and all needed to relocate down to Bristol. There was simply no way round it. I was living in Grimsby at the time and the house went on the market the day I signed.

While we were all down in Bristol we all stayed together at the Chairman’s hotel, The Beeches. It is always a strange time when you need to relocate. I was obviously down in Bristol and the family was back in Grimsby tying up the sale of the house. It was the same for all of us. It wasn’t easy either. None of us were sure how long it would be to sell our houses and fully relocate. Our house managed to sell pretty quickly but it still meant the whole of pre-season in a hotel. It may sound extravagant but it really isn’t.  In the first few weeks, when there were no friendly matches, we were allowed the weekend home. Friday afternoons meant negotiating the M5. I was fortunate because Stuart Campbell also lived in Grimsby and I knew James Hunt very well from Northampton Town so we made the journey together. Monday training was changed to evening time which allowed us to have the extra night at home with our families. I had not expected this type of treatment from Ian Atkins but it went down well and, looking back, allowed us to gel quicker as a squad and feel happier until our families joined us full-time.

A pre-season tour to the Isle of Man was scheduled. I had heard lots of stories from players that had previously played in their pre-season tournament and how bad it was. I never used to like going away in pre-season. Sure, it was all part of it. Get the squad away for a bit of team bonding and some quality training. Although it is a necessary part of the preparations I always enjoyed my home comforts during pre-season. Pre-season is the toughest time of the year for any professional footballer. You are pushed to the limit, even beyond that sometimes, in the quest to be fit enough to hit the ground running. No manager needs an excuse to claim that they want to have the fittest squad in the league. I have heard it said from each of my managers at every club I have played for. So if I’d have had my choice after a hard days physical training when you are exhausted I would much rather return home to my own home with what I know rather than a hotel.

This actually turned out to be a decent trip. The matches didn’t have too much pressure attached to them. We were told to go out and play and because we had so many good footballers in the squad that sounded like the perfect thing to say. Even though Ian Atkins was well-known for his direct style which had brought him a great deal of success at Northampton Town in particular he had assembled a squad of technically gifted players. Was Ian Atkins about to change his football philosophies?

We squeezed in a couple of rounds of golf and a few drinks on the last night. We were all a bit nervous as to how many to have that night. We all wanted to make a good, professional impression so started off slowly. Ian Atkins kept getting the drinks in at the hotel bar and before we knew it, it was about 4am and we were all plastered. I had heard a few stories about Ian Atkins prior to my arrival. I had not spoken to him too much during negotiations as an agent got involved with it. This type of behaviour didn’t seem to fit the bill at all so it was all good up to this point.

Pre-season flew and it was Mansfield away on the opening day. As many of us were in the hotel in Bristol together we had been in each other’s pockets for more or less 6 weeks and had got to know one another pretty well.

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  1. October 18, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    nice one Jamie, interesting stuff. Gasheads are on tenterhooks for more insight into the Atkins era! Not our favourite manager by a long stretch…

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