BRIS­TOL ROVERS 1973-74

DI­VI­SION THREE RUN­NERS-UP

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO RESULTS - By Neil Fissler

BRUCE Ban­nis­ter and his strike part­ner Alan War­boys were dubbed ‘Smash and Grab’ but it was their club Bris­tol Rovers who ended up vic­tims of a fi­nal day rob­bery.

Rovers were nailed on to win the Third Di­vi­sion ti­tle af­ter romp­ing clear of the pack when they went un­beaten for the first 28 games of the 1973-74 sea­son.

They went top on Septem­ber 22 and, de­spite win­ning only two of their last eight games, were still at the sum­mit af­ter draw­ing their fi­nal game against Brighton on April 27.

Ri­vals Old­ham Ath­letic had two games to play – at home to Charlton Ath­letic which they lost 2-0 and then away to Rovers’ West Coun­try ri­vals Ply­mouth Ar­gyle at Home Park.

The Lat­ics se­cured a 0-0 draw and the point was enough to take them clear of Rovers – to the an­noy­ance of Ban­nis­ter.

He says: “It was very, very up­set­ting be­cause we were so far in front it was a joke. Old­ham beat us to­wards the end of the sea­son and it en­abled them to go on and win the league.

“We were com­pet­ing with Leeds United, who were in the First Di­vi­sion, for the long­est un­beaten run from the start of the sea­son and went 28 games.

“We got beaten at Wrex­ham 1-0 on a pig of a night and Leeds went on for an­other cou­ple of games and took the record on their own.

“We should have walked the league from where we were, it shouldn’t have been pos­si­ble to lose it, but we man­aged to do that!

“Ob­vi­ously it was sat­is­fy­ing to be pro­moted, but it was frus­trat­ing not to have taken the Cham­pi­onship.”

The York­shire born duo of Ban­nis­ter and War­boys were given their tag line be­cause of their dev­as­tat­ing rep­u­ta­tion which yielded 40 of the 65 goals that Rovers net­ted.

War­boys (‘Smash’) fin­ished the sea­son as lead­ing scorer with 22 goals and Ban­nis­ter (‘Grab’) was right be­hind him with 18. John Rudge was their next high­est scorer with four.

Rovers had Wild West-style posters scarfs pro­duced af­ter Ban­nis­ter scored three and War­boys four in an 8-2 de­mo­li­tion of Brian Clough’s Brighton.

Big man

The pair are still great friends in their home county of York­shire 40 years later.

Ban­nis­ter says: “We had played to­gether for about half the sea­son be­fore, and had scored some­thing like a goal a game be­tween us in the time we played to­gether.

“Some­thing just clicked with us. He was a very, very big man, but he could play. We were very mo­bile with a lot of abil­ity on the ground.

“We were both York­shire lads, and when I first went down to Bris­tol speak­ing as I do, most peo­ple couldn’t un­der­stand a word I was say­ing.

“So it was great to speak to some­body who un­der­stood me. Alan is a good lad and he tells it how he sees it. I have a lot of time for peo­ple like that.”

1. Dick Shep­pard: The goal­keeper who also coached at Rovers was run­ning his own dou­ble glaz­ing busi­ness in Bris­tol be­fore his death in Oc­to­ber 1998 aged 53.

2. Jim Eadie: The goal­keeper who was an ever present still lives lo­cally and worked as a plumber for many years un­til re­tir­ing.

3. Richard Crab­tree: The third choice goal­keeper moved back to his na­tive Ex­eter where he is a civil ser­vant for the lo­cal coun­cil.

4. Lind­say Par­sons: The left­back man­aged Chel­tenham Town and coached at a num­ber of other clubs and was Stoke City’s chief scout un­til May 2013.

5. Frankie Prince: The mid­fielder has been a green­gro­cer, an odd job man, and now com­mu­nity of­fi­cer at Torquay United since 1992.

6. Mike Green: The cen­tral defender set­tled in Torquay where he owned a post of­fice in Sher­well Val­ley Road for over 30 years un­til re­tir­ing.

7. Alan War­boys: The striker ran the Ring O’Bells pub, Swin­ton, York­shire but is now an HGV driver for SYS Scaf­fold­ing near his Don­caster base.

8. Stu­art Tay­lor: The cen­tral defender was Rovers’ com­mer­cial man­ager, night club owner, pub­li­can and plumber be­fore run­ning an­other pub un­til ear­lier this year.

9. John Rudge: The for­ward man­aged Port Vale for 16 sea­sons and was di­rec­tor of football at Pot­ter­ies ri­vals Stoke City un­til May 2013.

10. Bruce Ban­nis­ter: The freescor­ing for­ward has run Sportsshoes Un­lim­ited in his na­tive Brad­ford af­ter re­tir­ing in 1982. He is also a di­rec­tor of Brad­ford Golf Club.

11. Mal­colm John: The for­ward be­came a school teacher in Lewis­town, near Brid­gend, and is now liv­ing in re­tire­ment in Flintshire.

12. Colin Dobson: The winger has worked for a num­ber of clubs and has been scout­ing for Wat­ford and Stoke City since 1998.

13. Gor­don Fearn­ley: The for­ward set­tled in Boca Ra­ton, Florida and was run­ning his own phys­io­ther­apy and law prac­tices un­til re­tir­ing.

14. Peter Aitken: The full-back held var­i­ous coach­ing posts and has been run­ning Rovers com­mu­nity depart­ment since 2000.

15. Trevor Jacobs: The right back has run sev­eral pubs and was a Rovers youth coach. He is now work­ing as post­man in Bris­tol for a sec­ond time.

16. Kenny Stephens: The right winger op­er­ates a build­ing com­pany in Han­ham, Bris­tol with his brother. He was chair­man of Han­ham Ath­letic for 12 years.

17. Bryn Jones: The mid­fielder set­tled in We­ston-su­per-Mare where he works for he­li­copter man­u­fac­tures West­lands.

18. Tom Stan­ton: The mid­fielder ran an an­tiques busi­ness in Clifton and a re­cruit­ment agency and then a com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany – Union Blue Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

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