James Piercy

Bristol Live

In terms of historic moments in 2022 there was really only one event that dominated the Bristol sporting landscape. Bristol Rovers’ promotion on the final day of the League Two season, having not occupied a top three berth until the final moments of their 7-0 victory over Scunthorpe United was a football fable made true.

A moment like that has many stories, from the supporters in the stands to the management and ownership, and the various twists and turns of the nine months that had preceded it. But I wanted to highlight my piece, “Thatchers on tap, Danny Cipriani and Fatboy Slim - Inside the Bristol Rovers promotion party” on the immediate aftermath inside the dressing room. I tried to depict the very human emotions, both amusing and poignant, from players, staff and families joining in the celebrations, full of joy and disbelief, in trying to illustrate the heart of what had happened on an improbable day in the club’s history. As sports journalists, how we attain, receive or acquire information can feel orderly, contrived and sometimes a bit too serious for its own good, but this felt thrillingly random, visceral and, most of all, fun, in fitting with what had transpired over the extended 105 minutes of action on May 7. Bristol City weren’t able to attain such levels of unrelenting adrenaline, but they remained fascinating in their evolution as a team and a club under Nigel Pearson. A dispute that erupted in the space of 24 hours between the manager and chairman Jon Lansdown over what seemed, at least at the time, a relatively innocuous observation by the latter revealed elements of the culture war at the centre of the football club. My comment piece, “Nigel Pearson, Jon Lansdown and the Bristol City storm that contains an unknown ferocity” provided context and opinion to supporters over not just what had taken place, but how and what it meant for the club moving forward. What the 2021/22 season, far beyond just football, told us is that professional sport means little without fans and the welcome return of spectators post-pandemic brought a richness, depth and sense of occasion back. Supporters are the lifeblood of football clubs, but also football clubs are the lifeblood of those fans, giving identity, purpose and a collective soul among strangers. In that context, my tribute to a beloved Robins supporter who sadly passed away this year felt important. “He was one in a million - Remembering Mr. Bristol City Martin ‘Tinners’ Henneberry” was about one man’s love for his club, but also his love for those who shared that passion, who joined him on all those away days spanning five decades; what made him special but also how he enriched their experiences. It is a wonderful sport, for the excitement it provides, but most of all, it is a social sport that creates friendships and relationships for life; human connections that we shouldn’t take for granted after what the world has been through so far this decade.