Rovers supporter Ian Dougall received a special treat on Saturday as he enjoyed the 'Press Experience Day' which he won as a part of the Ultimate Season Ticket Package.
Ian, along with his two sons Alex and Ross, was given an access all area's day pass in order to witness first hand the workings of a match day from the press' perspective, below is Ian's account of the day:
As I passed through the “gates” of The Keepmoat on a sunny August morning to claim my prize of a media day, accompanied by my sons, Ross and Alex, I reflected on our journeys past from Forest Green to Wembley and the wonderful family experiences provided for us and many Rovers’ fans by the Ryan Revolution.
Now was our chance to access the inner world of our club; to be honest, meeting the players topped our hope list.
The opposition were Bournemouth, not the most prestigious of opponents in the Championship, where fallen giants battle to ascend to the riches and glories of the Premiership, but a skirmish both sides would hope to win.
Having pipped them to the Division One title in the spring, there was a keen recent record of rivalry, whilst both clubs are led by youthful, energetic and ambitious managers.
We passed through the hallowed entrance for players and officials, and I can report that we were met by a series of friendly, down to earth, welcoming people, from Suzanne on reception to Media Manager Steve Uttley.
The spacious dressing rooms were awesome, and as I eyed the racks of fruit and fluid replacement bottles, I made a mental note to improve my diet.
Then the moment we had hoped for. Rob Jones entered the room, immaculate, lean, towering and the room space seemed to diminish as he strode to his corner.
He had the demeanour of a man who meant business and I’ll “always believe in”…. James Husband is here and Boys 1 and 2 are chatting away talking football, natural, pictures are being taken, they are laughing and Copps has slipped in, light of foot, healthily glowing, fresh of face and the family favourite is now having his photo taken with us and yes I too am posing and thanking him and you know I can’t wait to show my mates and my missus and mum and this really can’t be topped.
A wander down the tunnel, an inspection of the grass and plastic pitch mix and I find myself in the press room, surveying the stadium through the panoramic windows.
I have calmed down and survey the working space, a hushed place where each journalist is cocooned in personal zones. The only movement is to and from the pie and peas table, and then the inhabitants focus silently on their lunches and I presume deadlines for their employers.
A bloke I recognise from the telly comes in and he’s taller and younger in the flesh. There is no real encouragement to chat as they are working, distant-this is probably the dullest pre-match place in the ground on match day, they are not here to play, socialise.
Needs a bar to break the ice. Steve Uttley and Tony Bluff are fine hosts and chat unstintingly- generous, knowledgeable and patient.
Ross and Alex opted to undertake their own research, and reported back that the quality of beer in the downstairs public zone was acceptable, and I am pleased to confirm that they had been thorough in their sampling. Good investigative journalism eh?
At this point, we had the pleasure of being joined by Brian Flynn. The man is an absolute joy-witty, down to earth, totally engaging, the perfect package for a pint in the pub. His stories, not least about Brentford, and generosity of spirit will stay with us.
Now for the match report. On 62 minutes Ross Turnbull made a wonderful save, Paul Keegan was a deserved man of the match and Mark Duffy looks a fine signing. That’s it folks, but one “off “ performance does not neutralise the sound start we have made and I reckon we are evolving into a fine unit under Paul Dickov.
Whilst I was professionally beavering away watching the match from the outside gallery to produce my match sentence, Alex and Ross were inside and enjoyed the company of Jamie McCombe and Kyle Bennett, who in common with all we met were open, friendly and generous.
Warmth and lack of any arrogance was a recurring theme from all at the club.
All that remained was the press conference, and the consecutive arrival of the managers brought life to the expectant room, whose chairs had been organised in ranks like a small school hall on assembly day.
First Eddie Howe, an articulate, relaxed character who had the benefit of bagging the 3 points. Now for a serious point- a couple of journalists clearly wanted to elicit a story around a touchline confrontation between the managers, almost willing Howe to concede he might have been the victim of aggression from the Rovers’ boss.
To his credit, Howe spoke respectfully of Dickov, but it did make me wonder about stereotyping in sport, and how intelligent characters like Dickov may struggle with a media who like to stir up easy stereotypes of fiery, confrontational Scots.
Paul then entered the room and the evident but silent fuming frustration from his team’s performance made me fear the room may be too small to contain him and the assembled crew.
His candid assessment of events were refreshing: “Our most disappointing performance”, “devoid of intensity and workrate”, “I will not allow complacency to settle”.
He determinedly challenged the curse of play-acting players trying to get his players dismissed, and referees who can’t adjudge handball accurately. He is a winner, as proven by his own playing record at the highest level, and I believe he will prove a fine manager.
Normally, it’s a real downer when your team loses, but in witnessing the manager’s passion I found it reassuring to know that somebody probably surpasses the levels of fans’ disappointment. A powerfully charismatic man, he earns respect; after he left, there was the silence of a Midwest prairie town blown away by a whirlwind.
Time for a final photo shoot in the dugout with the boys, a thank you to Jade for her hospitality, and we then exited through the main entrance, where stragglers awaited a late autograph from the players.
A wonderful day for us, despite the result, in a genuine community, family-friendly club. Thank you for the opportunity.
After the completion of his press experience Ian kindly donated £50 to our official charity partner Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice.
Ian, Ross and Alex