And now the good news: if Bristol Rovers fail to achieve automatic promotion tomorrow, their return leg of the play offs will take place at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday 3 May at 12.45. So why does it matter? Because the tribute to Ben Hiscox, between Bristol Manor Farm and Stoke Gifford FC, is scheduled to take place on Monday 4 May at 1.00 pm. Clash averted, because the fear was that both fixtures would clash.
Having talked to people, there were fears that a clash might have affected the attendance and thus reduced sums raised for this, the ultimate good cause, but I was never convinced it would. I never believed it would have made any difference. I know the people of Stoke Gifford and some of those from Bristol Manor Farm and I certainly know a lot of Bristol Rovers fans. I do not believe a single Gifford dweller or Gashead would have prioritised one game over another – they are both hugely important in very different ways – and we would have seen a lot of people turning at the Creek and leaving early having done their bit. So now we can concentrate on ensuring that as many people turn up on the day and support this great day, and not have to leave early.
I cannot say enough about Bristol Manor Farm who have shown huge class since Ben’s accident. They were among the first clubs to pay a minute’s respect, they wore T shirts with Ben’s name on at the GFA Final, they have helped organise and publicise this game. Ben was always telling me about what a great club it was, what great people they were and how much he enjoyed his time there. And now, Ben’s service to the club is being repaid with interest and I know I speak on behalf of an awful lot of people when I say, quite simply, thank you.
I realise that, for many people, things remain tight financially, so Manor Farm are inviting people to pay what they deem appropriate and what they can afford, so everyone is welcome to attend. And we have seen what a unifying force football can be and this is is a golden opportunity to show the world how, in the words of Bruce Springsteen, we take care of our own.
If everyone who attended the funeral and subsequent celebration at the Beaufort Arms came along on Bank Holiday Monday, just think of the atmosphere we could generate and the money we could raise for the family. I have got to know the family well since Ben’s accident and they have been deeply moved and greatly helped by the outpouring of love they have received from the community. We need to ensure that we all stick together and remind them that they are not, and never will be, alone.
So get your diaries out, put a great entry that says Bank Holiday Monday 4 May Bristol Manor Farm v Stoke Gifford at the Creek and I’ll see you there.