A BLACKTHORN BUCCANEER ARTICLE
Standing on the terraces year after year, all of us hear countless idea's about this and that, which are related to the club in one way or another. In truth, most of these idea's go straight through one ear and out of the other. Of all the idea's I have ever heard in all my years as a Rovers supporter, the one sticks out by miles, far beyond the thinking of any of the others, was an idea I heard when I was only 15 years old and had only just started work. My only interests in life at that time were, Bristol Rovers F.C, wanting to get a motor bike, H.M music, girls, history and above all things and the coolest... being a Tote End boy.
Armed with this incredibly high, I.Q level, to help hold me up in life...a pure chance meeting, right at the beginning of the 1969-70 season with a group of slightly older Tote enders, of the skin headed faction (I was a Greaser...one of the Tramp faction) was about to create a totally new interest within my young mind that would haunt me for the rest of my life.
The power of image fronts was the subject these boys were focused on and more so, on the power that a well worked image front can have in transforming or giving a fresh look to just about any given object that you can think of. The very fact that all big business concerns, fully understand the massive importance of a powerful, positive, eye catching image front in promoting not only just their products, but in illuminating these businesses themselves, demonstrates why this device (image fronts) is deemed so very important to them in the very first place. For big business, an eye catching, image front is a money spinning device first and formost and is therefore seen as being an essential, basic building block in the development of that business . Perhaps Bristol Rovers as a club could learn something from this line of hard nosed thinking, because in truth Bristol Rovers has always had a chance, not only to create a powerful, commercal image front for itself, but could also go one step further up the ladder and create a spectacular, spiritual one too.
The object that these old Tote End boys wanted to transform with a fresh look, was in fact the face of our very own football club, Bristol Rovers. The reason those boys wanted to do this in the first place, was because at that time, it was widely believed among a vast number of our supporters, of all age groups that Bristol Rovers F.C had one of the finest potentual image fronts that could be found anywhere within the nation...and that promising thought was based totally upon our clubs traditional and swashbuckling nickname...'THE PIRATES'.
The thing about the Pirate title that so impressed all of our supporters at that time was how the title, so perfectly blended itself with Bristol's past history as being a world famous, historic port... a place that had once hosted some of the most famous and feared outlaws of the sea, these so called, Sea Rovers, Buccaneers, Pirates! Bristol was in fact the birthplace of one of the worlds most fearsome and remembered pirates of all time, Blackbeard! Surely something could be made out of all of this powerful colour, romance and heritage that would, not only put our own club, up in lights before the nation, but also help promote Bristol itself on to the whole country. Just imagine that, Bristol Rovers F.C, promoting the blazing, swashbuckling heritage of Bristol onto the counrty... what a massive concept that was and one wonders forever, how the people of Bristol would have viewed that over time?
The two great problems in getting this Pirate image front concept off the ground and up and kicking like a wild bronco was first, how in the hell could you get our clubs leadership to start reading from the same page as the supporters were. Many fans at that time, had long wondered why our club leaders had never connected with this wonderful line of thinking well before... after all our clubs very own founders had gifted us with this inspired Pirate title in the first place, surely that fact alone should have acted as some kind of clue that we had something very colourful and important here, that could be worked with and developed.
Bar skinning alive,10 screaching cats, directly outside a packed boardroom, how on earth could you get these people, our leaders, to sit up and take notice of what the fans were thinking and saying on this subject was almost beyond the thinking of any mortal man. If an idea was going to make a mark on them, then god almighty, it would have to be something totally extraordinary. Well believe or not this is what those boys had believed they had done here, created an idea that would not only kickstart the Pirate image front into full life for the first time ever but also give the club a high spirited method of display that would be utterly light years ahead of its time. Good god, if man could land on the moon in 1969, then why back on earth, could we not, land an utterly stunning idea on the people of Bristol? . .
The idea of raising the fearsome, world famous, battle flag of the Pirates high up over, our old Eastville stadium was thought up for a very good number of reasons and the pure intelligence and the deep thoughts that lay within this idea were just utterly staggering to me then and in fact they still are even today. The motives for this bigger than life thought ran as follows...
A) The thought of raising this head turning, eye catching, battle flag, high up over our ground, promoted the thrilling idea that this jaw dropping enactment would be noticed for miles around our stadium and serve as a striking visual advertisement for the club whenever it was playing at home. (in those days the Eastville staduim could be clearly seen from the Ashley Down Rd) The ligitamate right to raise the swashbuckling, world famous flag was all based upon the history of Bristol itself and therefore the idea had real spiritual value built into it, right from the very start.
B) As a natural by-product of raising the swashbuckling, battle flag of the Pirates over the stadium, our club would be promoting the heritage of Bristol itself...the two things just went hand in hand, perfectly together.
C) On a purly commercial level how on earth would the general public, the business community or the national media be able to ignore such a powerful, head strong display. Those Tote End boys believed that this device would enhance the magnetic drawing power of the club to pull in more support from the Bristol area because it would be viewed as a clear act of high spirit, by the club. People by nature are drawn to things like that...S P I R I T.
D) The idea was also designed to brillantly counter the belittlement of our club by the fans of our nearest rivals which had reached near boiling point in 1969. During these times it was well known that the red half absolutely dreaded the thought of this ultra, Bristol friendly image front being brought to life...why the hell we did'nt, just begs to be fully answered to this very day?
E) The boys felt that the design of the fearsome Jolly Roger should be based upon the world famous Skull and Cross Swords, not the bones. The motive for this thinking was simple yet brillant... the grim, skull and cross bones in modern times is also used as a poison icon and with the club being right next door to the old Gas works, well I'm sure you can work the rest of this out, totally by yourselves. Besides, the swords had a far more dashing, swashbuckling feel about it, which seemed to tie itself in, far more closely to those once, famed outlaws of the sea.
With this background now set into everyones head, what the boys had in mind was just light years ahead of its time and it still haunts a good number of people even to this day...proving that brain power clearly belongs to no class of person and the stupid concept that only those who wear the 'old school tie' can come up with good ideas is utter B S. WHAT, WHAT, OLD BEAN!... God how I have always hated snobbery.
The way these boys viewed, how their idea would create max public impact, was put forward as being a bit of colourful, historical drama, in which the club would grasp hold and mimic the fearsome, old Pirate tradition of the sea's, by raising up the battle flag of the Pirates whenever the enemy is spotted. Hence once the two teams began to run out on to the pitch, so the match day battle flag would be raised, high up over the stadium (precisely like how the Pirates of old would have used their flag, when moving against an enemy ship ) and there the flag would stay, right up until the game was over (hence the battle ended) and then lowered and removed from public view right up until the next home game. This now you see it, now you dont method of using the flag would only help to add, to the whole power of the display and without any doubt at all, would have created a massive amount of interest out on the streets, in what the club was doing. The preset answer to that question would be...upholding the swashbuckling heritage of Bristol and our clubs nickname as the Pirates...How could anyone counter a reply like that?
The other key reason for the tradition being, to capture the eyes of the general public, the business community and the national media. The small out lay in money needed, to get the whole flag raising tradition up and running would be more then paid back by the amount of interest the device would stimulate and the advertising power that the flag would generate and transmit. Lets face it and there is no play on words here, that this iconic, world famous flag would be utterly impossible to ignore and would totally help to raise the clubs whole profile, far above where it stands today. It was believed that both this flag and this one tradition would work hand in hand to make our club famous beyond all reason!
All big business concerns, clearly look at ways to raise their profiles. Bristol Rovers has had this fantastic, eye catching, near magic device (the Pirate image front) in its top pocket for well over a century now and has never, ever used it properly...Why? Other sporting concerns all around the world who share this top class, swashbuckling image front dont seem to have any problem with using it...Why do we? Good God, the history of Bristol not only grants us this, it almost screams out to us, to wake up and use what we have got here in this breathtaking device! Is it that hard, to admit that we got things wrong here in the past, on good number of related matters?.
Sadly this wonderful, old idea from 1969, was as far as I knew, simply ignored by the club. (a little bit like a bunch of farmers with a cow, who dont know how to milk the old girl)! For a while, I stayed in contact with one of the key boys who was behind this thought, but never once did he report, anything positive back...I still shake my head, in near disbelief at the commercial blindness of our clubs leaders at that time. Another slightly younger fan than myself, remembered hearing about the idea while standing in the old North stand. A number of fans had been talking about it and so inspired was this young boy by the thought, that the first thing he did when he retuned to school and was in art class, was to draw a picture of the Eastville stadium with the Pirate flag flying proudly high above it. "THIS IS MAGIC, THIS IS I M A G I N A T I O N".
How much would it have cost our club to pay a world class, image consultant to come up with an idea of this high standard, just staggers the mind? I have often wondered to myself over the years, was the problem with the idea, created, simply because it came from a group of Tote End Skinsheads, who were not wearing ties...I was a Greaser and their idea did'nt trouble me, two bits! After the year 2000 the group, the Blackthorn Buccaneers on a far lower level of thinking, raised their own Jolly Roger flag from the Blackthorn terrace itself for years, just to test out if this wonderful old idea would work in catching the eye of the national media. The fact that their flag was constantly picked up by T.V stations, countless times over the years, not only gave our club an extra degree of much needed colour but also proved that this old idea, did in fact still have, a real commercial value to it..this wonderful, old idea still holds on by its finger tips. According to the early traditions of our fans, this whole concept about the Rovers holding a world class, commercially aggressive, go get em, image front, took hold when our club first entered the football league in 1920.... In 2020, that will mark 100 years, that our club has just sat on its butt and done pretty well nothing with this high impact, high profile, commercial tool and I just cant think of anything on this level which has been more helpful to Bristol City F.C in staying ahead of us, on the commercial platform. A whole rethink is needed on how we present ourselves forward to the nation and on the clubs reaction speed to deal with issues on this level, which is dreadfully, dreadfully slow. In the commercial boxing ring, our club was knocked clean out by the city decades ago... new thinking and tactic's are desperately needed!
This is a haunting story that has troubled many a mind over the decades. How on earth would our club have looked today if we had done that, one wonders? This whole article was written in honour of those working class, old Tote End boys and their fantastic idea from so long ago. (backtothefuturetote) .