Where Are They Now? Bristol Rovers Division Three Champions 1989-90
By Neil Fissler
BRISTOL ROVERS have spent most of their history living in the shadow of bitter rivals City, but one night in May 1990 they gained sweet revenge.
The Robins were on the verge of being crowned Division Three champions. All they needed to do was avoid defeat by their homeless cross-city rivals.
The Gas had been forced to leave their own Eastville Ground four years earlier because of financial difficulties and were ground sharing with Bath City.
But Gerry Francis had built a team that was about to pull off the unexpected, and leading scorer David Mehew remembers they just hung in there.
“City were top all season but had a little blip towards the end. We kept it going, then we went there in the second last game.
“If they won or drew, they were promoted, but if we won we were promoted. In the end, we beat them 3-0 at Twerton Park, Devon White scored twice and Ian Holloway got the other.
“Then, in the last game of the season we went up to Blackpool and beat them 3-0. I scored, as did Phil Purnell and Paul Nixon, to win the title,” he said.
It was the first time that Rovers had finished as league champions since the days of Bert Tann when they won the Division Three (South) title in 1952/53.
Mehew believes the side didn’t get the recognition they deserved, especially when it came to give out the end-of-season awards.
“There wasn’t really any expectation,” he said. “It wasn’t really spoken about. It was more of a case of ‘let’s see what we can do, we are better than teams think so let’s keep going’.
“The interesting thing was we didn’t have one player in the PFA team. It was all Sheffield United, Notts County, where Neil Warnock was manager, and Bristol City. We weren’t a fashionable team, but the reason we won the league was that we were a team.
“Everyone had a job and mine was to get on the end of set- pieces and score goals. It was better being a scorer than a hard worker, which I wasn’t.”
- Andy Reece: Midfielder who twice played at Wembley for Rovers. He returned to the West Midlands where he became a policeman. He has also coached at various Non-League clubs and scouted for Northampton.
- Paul Nixon: New Zealand international striker, now a PE teacher in Hamilton, Waikato.
- Ian Willmott: Midfielder who enjoyed a long career in Non-League. Still based in his native Bristol where he is running his own chiropractor practice.
- Steve Yates: Central defender, who played in the Premier League with QPR. He became Rovers’ kit man in 2003 after a spell living in Greece and is now a first-team coach.
- Vaughan Jones: Welsh Under-21 international defender and captain. Became a financial adviser for eight years but is now a tenant liaison officer for his local council.
- Ian Alexander: Full-back who played in the Football League Trophy defeat to Tranmere Rovers. He lives in Wotton-Under-Edge in Gloucestershire and has worked for a recruitment firm in the construction industry.
- Phil Purnell: Winger. After his career was ended by a broken leg, he went to work in the insurance industry and was with Brighton Williams in Bristol. He has also coached at Rovers’ academy.
- Roy Dolling: Spent 38 years at the club as youth development officer, physio and goalkeeping coach before retiring.
- Geoff Twentyman: Defender whose father Geoff played for Liverpool. Apart from a short spell as Ian Holloway’s assistant at Rovers, he has worked in the media and is a presenter on BBC Bristol.
- David Mehew: England youth midfielder whose son, Olly, plays for Forest Green Rovers. He has managed Gloucester City and Mangotsfield United and has been a sales executive for United Managed Services.
- Christian McClean: A striker who played in the final of the Football League Trophy at Wembley. Lives in his native Colchester and is a firefighter for the London Brigade.
- Peter Cawley: Defender whio won a promotion at Southend United and went into management with Tony Adams at Wycombe Wanderers. Now works as a London cabbie.
- Nigel Martyn: England international who was the first £1m goalkeeper in England. Spotted by the Rovers’ tea lady on holiday. He now lives in Yorkshire and has worked in the media.
- Devon White: Striker who has been relegated five times in a long career. He is back living in his native Nottingham, where he returned to his pre-football trade of an electrician.
- Billy Clark: Central defender who played for Forest Green Rovers in an FA Vase final and managed Rovers’ youth team for three years before moving to Bath City as academy manager, where he has been since 2009.
- Ian Hazel: Midfielder who has managed a number of Non-League sides around London and has also worked in Fulham’s academy. He scouts for Millwall and runs a company that hires out school facilities.
- Marcus Browning: Wales midfielder who was a play-off winner with Bath City, Gillingham and Bournemouth, where he has coached the youth team. He is now running a window cleaning business.
- Ray Kendall: The kitman died in December 2005 after suffering a heart attack, aged 76. He served the club for 50 years in various capacities.
- Gary Penrice: A striker who was a plumber before playing for QPR in the Premier League. He has scouted for a number of clubs from his base in the Cotswolds. He has also worked for the Wasserman Media Group.
- Des Bulpin: He has worked for a number of clubs under Francis and also Holloway and was his first-team coach at Millwall.
- Gerry Francis: England international midfielder who enjoyed a long career in management, twice managing Rovers. He now works in the media and is first-team coach at West Brom.
- Geoff Dunford: Became chairman of the club, like his father, Denis. A businessman with interests in a restaurant, hotel and recruitment, he is still a vice-president at the club.
- Ron Bradley: Still a director of then sponsors Design Windows.
- Tony Wood: The former commercial manager has lost contact with the club.
- Kenny Hibbitt: He went into management with Walsall, Cardiff City (three times) and Non-League Hednesford Town. Now working for the Premier League, assessing referees.
- Tony Sealy: Forward who won promotion to Division One with Southampton. He has been the director of operations at Hong Kong Football Club for the last 22 years.
- Ian Holloway: Midfielder who helped Wimbledon win promotion. He went into management with Rovers in 1996 and is now in his second spell in charge of QPR, and has also worked in the media.
Tagged Bristol Rovers, Gerry Francis, Ian Holloway