My head remains semi-mangled following the passing of our friend Ben Hiscox and my thoughts as I drove to the Gifford’s away game at Easton Cowboys were and remain very much with his family and friends. I had travelled to the game to give as much support as I could, which probably wasn’t very much, to Ben’s team mates who had decided to play this game. Last week, I would have described the game as vital and critical, but this week, whilst I did want our boys to win, somehow it didn’t matter quite so much. And we didn’t win. The lads really gave it everything. They left nothing on the pitch but they knew as well as I did, probably far better than I did, that they did not have their usual edge, and how could they? They were bound to be down a level in terms of physical fitness. How could you not when you have been unable to sleep properly for the best part of a week? And mentally? They probably felt even worse. These are not excuses for the 2-0 defeat. It’s life. You cannot turn it on at the drop of a hat. I was just proud of these boys who had the strength to play the game in the first place. Every single one of you are winners in the eyes of the people of Stoke Gifford.

Ironically, there was probably only one person who might have made that crucial difference yesterday. Someone who habitually scored – how shall I put it? – unorthodox goals. Someone should frame Ben’s shin pads and display them in the clubhouse!

After the game, I was privileged to meet up with Ben’s mum and dad, Gloria and Clive, his partner Zoe and his sister Rachel. They came back to the clubhouse to meet up with everyone and how proud we were. The clubhouse was packed with most of the usual suspects and, I am pleased to report, there was a strong atmosphere. Not one of great joy and celebration, obviously, but of incredible solidarity. It felt like we were all in it together. I can also report that I heard some very affectionate and, it has to be said, very funny stories about Ben. This may sound ridiculous at a time of emotion and distress and I am sorry if I am saying the wrong thing, but Ben Hiscox always – and I mean always – made me laugh. And can I break a secret? Nick Day, local BCFM radio presenter and Bristol Rovers PA Man – and, I suggest honorary villager! – asked me to find out the kind of music Ben liked so it could be added to a tribute he was making. His sister Rachel thought about it for a while and then replied, “Westlife!” She explained that, unlike her, he was not much of a music buff but he was very fond of Westlife’s Greatest Hits! My reaction should really have been something along the lines of, “Oh that’s nice, Rachel!” and not “He what?” which I actually said. Sorry about that, Rachel, but I suppose we should not really be surprised by anything from that lovely man! Thankfully, we have now found something a little better!

It’s important to say that, behind the mask, everyone is still hurting. The emotion remains red raw, especially with his family and closest friends. I know they gained strength from the totally natural display of unity they experienced last night in the clubhouse where Ben Hiscox so often held court and they now know, if they didn’t before, that this village will never desert them.