They have a new owner, who has quickly overseen promotion from League Two, and is well down the road to building a new stadium. We could be talking about our own chairman but this is billionaire banker Wael Al Qadi, who took over Bristol Rovers in February looking, like PS, to build a self-sustaining football busienss.
A lifelong football fan and member of the Jordanian FA, Al Qadi thinks he has spotted particular potential in the Pirates, or the Gas (take your pick), following the club’s resurrection from the National League to League One in consecutive seasons and the promise of a big-city population to tap into.
Not that the new owner has gone out and told manager Darrell Clarke to spend loads of his billions buying lots of new players to keep that recent success going. The opposite in fact, with purse strings kept taut and signings sparse, the watchword being evolution rather than revolution.
Clarke has hinted at a the arrival of a couple of new players “at the right price” before the transfer window closes at the end of the month but the club’s best acquisition of the summer remains their leading scorer for the past two seasons, Matty Taylor, who decided to sign a new contract despite the temptation of reported interest from the likes of Leeds United and Oxford.
The fact the club presumably persuaded Taylor he can go places with them speaks volumes for the size of the belief of the new owner that their emergence from the shadow of neighbours City is just around the corner.
Whether that can be done on this largely League Two squad remains to be seen, but despite the shortage of major signings, the undoubted team spirit which has raised them this far and the feelgood momentum of back-to-back promotions still carries a threat. So Scunny will need to be at their Rotherham best rather than the humdrum at Hartlepool to get something from this opening game of the new season.
Rovers obviously have a lot of faith in Clarke, recently handing him an extended contract. He was appointed in 2014 after double promotion success at Salisbury City, and actually in that first season led Rovers to relegation from the Football League for the first time since the club’s elevation to the competition in 1920. However, he brought them straight back up via the Conference play-off and last season they went up again after finishing third in League Two.
Results this pre- season have been a mixed bag, starting with a 5-3 defeat of non-league Mangotsfield that found Clarke at his most blunt. “Only five or six of the players come away with any credit. The rest of them were not good enough.
“What I expected was not there tonight. I don’t give a monkey’s about what happened last season. I need to know that the players are in the right frame of my mind for the challenges that are ahead, even at this early stage.”
Suitably kicked up the behind, what followed from his players was a mixed bag – wins at non-league Salisbury, Bath and Weston-super-Mare before a 2-0 defeat at Exeter, a 1-1 home draw against Aston Villa, a 5-1 home thumping by Swansea, a 3-0 defeat on their Spanish training camp to Spanish third tier side CE Sabadell, before ending last Sunday with a 3-0 home win over League Two new boys Cheltenham.
Not too convincing and as Rovers striker Rory Gaffney admits, this side are now “stepping into the unknown”. Given Rovers’ recent rise from relative obscurity, for this game anyway, so are Scunthorpe.