Home is where the heart is as Rockleaze Rangers gear up for big Hillside switch
PETER Bradbury and his enthusiastic Rockleaze Rangers comrades are rubbing their hands in anticipation at the prospect of an exciting new home, writes Simon Parkinson.
While Rangers have been making positive strides on the field competing impressively within the higher realms of the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League table, off the pitch a big milestone moment is fast approaching.
The former Coombe Dingle club have been operating without a home they can truly call theirs since the start of the 2017-18 campaign when Southmead CS Athletic offered them a base for the season on a ground-sharing basis, one which their temporary tenants felt was better equipped, and financially more viable, to cater for their four senior sides and veterans set-up.
More recently Rockleaze have been utilising the Arnall Drive facilities belonging to another of their County League compatriots, Henbury; a short-term fix ahead of an eagerly-anticipated switch to a brand-new UWE sports complex at Hillside Gardens, Frenchay.
Their first fixture at the impressive-looking £4.5 million development has been pencilled in for Saturday, November 17 when Broadwell Amateurs are the visitors.
For now it is business as usual as ambitious boss Bradbury continues to target a top-four finish this term – and a crack at promotion over subsequent seasons.
Rangers had won six of their opening eight games to pitch themselves fourth on the ladder heading into a big ‘home’ tussle with fellow high-fliers Frampton United on November 3.
And Bradbury acknowledged: “I’m very happy with our league results so far. To be honest there are still a few more gears the team can move up through as I know they can play better than they have been.
“We’ve been winning ‘ugly’ at times and many of our victories have been by the odd goal. But how can you complain too much when you’ve been winning them?
“The lads have achieved it by working extremely hard. We have a tight-knit and consistent group and it’s helped that where we used something like 40 to 50 players last season; I’ve not had to use more than 18 so far.
“Because they are a close bunch they’re on the same wavelength as each other and when things are going against us in games they just keep going and don’t panic.
“Some of our lads have said that we’ve been winning games from positions we might well have lost last year and people seem excited about our potential.”
Bradbury pointed out: “There had been a big turnover of players over the two preceding seasons and the lads are buying into what we want of them and the club.
“With four senior sides training together each week we’re regularly getting 30-plus players at sessions at any one time and there’s strength in depth now with people willing and able to step up and down levels when required.”
Of lofty future ambitions on bigger stages, Bradbury insisted: “We’re pleased with the start we’ve made but it’s only a start.
“We’re not resting on our laurels, though, far from it. Our chairman (Andy Myland) has made no secret of his ambition to make a play for promotion over the next few years, whether it be to the Toolstation League or Hellenic League.
“It’s a case of first things first and for me a top-four finish would be fantastic progress.”
Rangers’ back ranks were recently reinforced by the arrival of former Hallen man Mike Perham and his new manager said: “Mike’s been excellent for us at centre-half; he’s made a real difference.”