SHEFFIELD UNITED: Blades set to enter cauldron

Bobby Gould: Knows a thing or two about the Bristol clubs
Bobby Gould: Knows a thing or two about the Bristol clubs
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GASHEADS? Wurzels? Squatters?

Football drives a wedge through Bristol so deep even the correct terms of abuse provoke fierce debate.

In fact the only thing Rovers and City can agree on, according to a recent poll of terrace opinion, is that apart from each other Cardiff are the next best team to beat.

Sheffield United dip their toes into this combustible cauldron tomorrow after being handed a trip to the Memorial Stadium in the first round of the FA Cup.

Danny Wilson knows the 48 months he spent in charge nearly five miles away at Ashton Gate has blown any chance of a red carpet welcome while defender Matt Hill, another City old boy, joked earlier this week that the Rovers faithful will be looking forward to giving him pelters nearly as much as the match itself.

So what lays in store for the 31-year-old and his manager? Why won’t United’s latest opponents cut them any slack?

“I can remember going to Eastville, where Rovers were playing at the time, with City in the Gloucester Cup,” Bobby Gould, who spent time on both sides of Bristol’s sporting divide, told The Star last night.

“And I’ll never ever forget the first tackle that went in between two of the guys. I watched it and was absolutely scared to death!

“After that I spent the rest of the half making sure I was in the old outside left position because I was thinking there was no way I was getting involved in that.

“My manager asked me during the interval ‘Where the hell do you think you’re playing?’ and I replied ‘This is meant to be an end of season game and people are flying in like that?’

“He quickly pointed out that, between City and Rovers, there’s no such thing. Friendlies don’t exist.”

United, of course, are no strangers to neighbourly disputes themselves. Indeed, while encounters between Rovers and City ranked eighth on the Football Rivalries Report hostility meter, their clashes with Sheffield Wednesday were one place higher on this infamous list.

Gould, who represented City before accumulating over 200 appearances for Rovers as both a manager and a player, explained: “There’s a river which runs through Bristol and Rovers have always traditionally been on the Gloucester side of that but, really, there’s no obvious geographical split.

“You get families that are mixed. Where some members follow City and the others follow Rovers.

“But, even so, it would be wrong to deny that there can be a certain venom involved whenever these two teams meet.

“The longer you live in this part of the world, which I still do, the more you appreciate what it means to people.

“It’s great to see Rovers back in Bristol - we had a spell when I was there and we had to play in Bath - because it goes without saying it’s where they belong but they never lost their identity because of the characters involved.

“I can remember being invited to City a while back because they were opening a new ‘Legends’ suite and that was probably the first time I’d been booed walking onto the pitch at Ashton Gate!”

“As a professional, there’s rarely a difficulty in playing for two great rivals because you give everything for whoever is paying your wages at that time although naturally there are exceptions to the rule,” Gould added.

“Genuinely, I wish both clubs the best and hope they do well.

“We’re so fortunate in this country to have so many great derbies and Sheffield is undoubtedly one of those too.”

Gould’s name is synomous with FA Cup competition having steered Wimbledon to a memorable victory over Liverpool in 1988.

Now a presenter for radio station TalkSport having also managed the likes of Coventry City, West Bromwich Albion and Wales after retiring in 1979, he said: “What a lot of people probably don’t realise is that I’ve actually won it twice without ever being on the pitch.

“They forget I was the non-playing substitute for West Ham when they beat Fulham in 1975.

“I can remember telling the boys at Wimbledon just to savour every single moment. To make sure, when they did their lap of honour, to make sure it was the slowest walk of their lives because it’s absolutely magical.

Teams and ref

Bristol Rovers (possible): Etheridge, Kenneth, Broghammer, Brown, Paterson, Riordan, Brown, Lund, Clarkson, Richard, Eaves.

Sheffield United (possible): Long, McMahon, Maguire, Collins, Hill, Flynn, Doyle, McDonald, Williams, Blackman, Porter.

FRED GRAHAM (Essex): will be making his second visit to Bristol in the space of a week having taken charge of City’s defeat by Hull six days ago. Averages over three cautions per game this term but has not shown a red card since January when Doncaster Rovers defender Habib Beye saw red at Ashton Gate.