January 31st 2017, Deadline Day. Normally a day surrounded with hyped up loan deals & expensive flops. As well as this, a day that is normally, in Bristol at least, quiet as a night
out on Long Beach Road. This reputation has been well & truly crushed with a dramatic bomb shell. At 16:00 on Tuesday the 31st of January 2017 it was confirmed on Twitter that the speculation was true. Matty Taylor had crossed the dreaded River Avon. North to South. Blue to Red.
Let us rewind back to the 3rd of May 2014, one of the darkest days in the history of Bristol Rovers, relegation out of the Football League following a defeat at the Memorial Stadium to Mansfield Town. The world that was Non-League awaited. Just 4 weeks later and the transfer of Matty Taylor was confirmed from would-be Promotion Rivals, Forest Green Rovers. Over 130 appearances later with a very respectable 67 goals to his name including outscoring every player in the Football League during the 15/16 season contributed to successive promotions for the Rovers taking them back to the 3rd tier of English Football for the 1st time since 2011. What a fairytale 24 months. A new owner, attendances continuously on the up & the “Gap” was as small as its been for a number of years in Bristol. Clear blue skies.
There has been little connection between the two clubs in recent years apart from a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy derby in 2014 at Ashton Gate. No direct transfers have taken place since 1987 when a mere £16,000 fee was agreed for the sale of Trevor Morgan. Fast forward exactly 30 years and for an “Undisclosed Fee” Matty Taylor made that leap. This move could only be described as brave, by the neutral, such as myself. Perhaps one of the biggest talking points regarding the move is the reported fee of just £300,000. Pennies in the game nowadays. This was the apparent Release Clause fee in Taylor’s contract, which was just 6 months old. A release clause can be beneficial but also, detrimental. Once its agreed, that’s it. For a player of Matty Taylor’s quality, this seems a very odd figure to agree upon. Bristol City have certainly snapped up a bargain whilst also stamping down their authority in BS3.
With a goal-scoring record to your name such as that held by Matty it is only understandable to have your eyes open to opportunities to further to your career & I believe that this would be the understanding of each and every Gas Head. However, this isn’t just a step-up, this is a move to the home of their fiercest rivals who are currently fighting against relegation in the Sky Bet Championship. That is a real kick in the teeth. The timing also provided Rovers with no time to replace, leaving them with just Ellis Harrison and Rory Gaffney as regular first team replacements.
Looking upon this from the fence I like to sit on, Bristol City have sent out a clear message that they are still the Big Boys in Bristol and will not run the risk of facing two derbies in League One next season. But who knows? Christ, they could swap places if Rovers’ dream 2 years continue and Lee Johnson fails to rectify the form City started the season with.
Only time will tell.