|Rickie Lambert - Lifted from: bbc.co.uk|
Cue mass excitement across the city for the first competitive derby meeting in 6 and a half years. I wonder if a Rovers player can make themselves an overnight hero like a certain Rickie Lambert did back in 2007? It could be the catalyst to future legendary status.
All local derbies are big games, especially when the two sides haven't met for a considerable period of time, but this occasion has every sub-plot you could think of. There is a heavy favourite, an underdog, an almost certain sell-out, players participating that have crossed the red/blue divide and a watching audience of millions across the country due to live TV coverage. Admittedly there will be significantly less hype for this derby than the Arsenal-Spurs game received at the weekend but this will be better, trust me. Sky customers will get value for money. The game has all the ingredients for a dramatic ding-dong between two rivals that truly hate each other.
Our red neighbours, who will be known in this article as the 82ers for obvious reasons, are playing in League One this season and are winless after 5 matches. Despite that, they have progressed to the third round of the Capital One Cup and have some big name players in their squad. Experienced striker Marlon Harewood signed over the summer and the Robins managed to retain Sam Baldock following their relegation last season to increase their chances of scoring goals in the third tier. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas is their other first choice attacker and he has quickly become a fans favourite at Ashton Gate due to his explosive speed and skill. He has to be up there as the first target of a Tom Parkes cruncher, surely?
|John Ward - Lifted from: thisisbristol.co.uk|
The City ranks is littered with talented players and John Ward's Rovers will know they are in for a real test tomorrow evening. A strong and organised back-line is essential and an attacking intent is required if we want to cause our hosts some problems during the 90 minutes. Having said that, we shouldn't fear playing against City, not by any stretch. They are without a win in the league for a reason and we should play on the fact that they are heavy favourites to progress to the second round of the competition. The pressure is firmly on them, meaning Rovers should go out there and enjoy the experience, just like they did in 2007.
Sean O'Driscoll, the monotonous City manager, will be preparing his charges by informing them of the quality that lies within our squad. They can't afford to underestimate us. Ex-red David Clarkson has been superb in recent weeks and will have a point to prove against his former employers, something the 82ers will be more than aware of. At the time of Clarky signing for us their supporters were very surprised that we had attracted a player of his ability to League Two and that tells you all you need to know. He has looked a class above recently and I think we're beginning to see the real David Clarkson after an injury-ravaged first campaign at the Mem. I have a feeling that he will have a big say tomorrow night - hopefully it's for the right reasons!
Our entire defensive unit is also very strong and won't be pushovers to score against. Marshalled by an experienced goalkeeper in Steve Mildenhall, a back four of Michael Smith, Tom Parkes, Mark McChrystal and Lee Brown, when on-song, can be a very stubborn group to break down. The other standout performer who O'Driscoll will be instructing his players to stop is the talismanic John-Joe O'Toole, who will be more than up for this game. This is his type of match. Given his ability to contribute offensively and defensively he is a box-to-box midfielder that City will do very well to render ineffective.
Nobody reading this will need me to tell them just how fiercely passionate the atmosphere will be tomorrow night but if anyone was in any doubt they should be pointed in the direction of the expected attendance. At the close of play this evening (Tuesday 3rd), more than 16, 900 supporters had bought tickets, with Rovers having sold their entire allocation last week. With the deadline for ticket sales being extended until tomorrow lunchtime there is no reason why the game won't be a complete sell-out. There are plenty of Gasheads without tickets as they didn't even make general sale for away fans so it's a good job that Sky Sports are broadcasting the game live. Rovers are encouraging supporters to watch the match at the Mem with a pie and a pint to give them a taster of the camaraderie that Gasheads will be experiencing in the away end at Ashton Gate. I'm sure the bars will be buzzing, particularly if we can pull off a famous victory.
Many football supporters will know all about the potential of the Bristol clubs but won't have watched a Bristol derby before so this game will be of interest to many in the absence of other fixtures this midweek. Rovers will almost certainly be viewed as the underdog but I'm sure a large proportion of neutrals will be rooting for us. It's generally known that opposition supporters prefer Gasheads to 82ers!
|Gasheads - Lifted from: thisisbristol.co.uk|
The day itself will be just as special as the match and it's an occasion we should all do our best to enjoy. We don't often get opportunities like this. Take it for what it is - a local derby - and represent Rovers with pride and enthusiasm. Let's show the 82ers what we're all about and make Ashton Gate rock to the sound of 'Goodnight Irene'.
Believe, Gasheads. We can do this.