With a busy summer ahead, and the promise of many twists and turns before the transfer window slams shut it is undoubtedly one of the most important periods in the recent history of Bristol Rovers Football Club.
As the captain of The Pirates ship on its maiden voyage post summer clear-out, Darrel Clarke faces a mammoth task in bringing in the correct faces to mount yet another credible promotion push for the 2017-18 campaign.
In a recent interview with BBC Radio Bristol, former Gas favourite Geoff Twentyman quizzed our gaffer on a variety of topics ranging from stadium matters to the inevitable questions regarding transfer business and incoming players. Clarke stressed that the current state of the English market means that signing players from other football league clubs can command hefty fees and that often dipping into overseas leagues can be a risky if worthwhile gamble to take. With a considerable number of hits and misses in the past when poaching players from foreign shores I thought I would take a look back at some of our former acquisitions signed from clubs outside of Britain.
Signed in 2012 by Scottish manager Mark McGhee, Broghammer arrived in England having spent his entire playing career in the lower regions of the German football pyramid. Showing promise in his earlier years the winger represented his country on 16 occasions as a youth and played for the second teams of current Bundesliga sides Hoffenheim and Stuttgart. A recommendation from McGhee’s former teammate Felix Magath brought the then 22 year old to the shores of England and in 2 seasons with the club Broghammer managed to rack up a reasonable haul of 40 appearances scoring twice in the process. Although largely hampered with injuries the wide-man was a popular figure thanks to his direct running and humble attitude but ultimately he returned to his homeland in 2014 after being released by the club and now plays for regional side SV Wiesbaden.
Affectionately referred to as “The Latvian“ by many Rovers fans, the nickname could not be more appropriate as the energetic midfielder was an unlikely holder of one of the most commendable achievements in European Football at one point. With 167 international appearances for his country of birth, Astafjevs wrote his name in the record books in 2009 by becoming the most-capped player for any European nation prior to being surpassed by Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon earlier this year. Signed by Ian Holloway in 2000 from Latvian club Skonto Riga the midfield magician quickly became a fan favourite with battling displays in the centre of the park as well as being a regular goalscorer in his 3 year stint with The Gas. Ultimately released by Ray Graydon, the player is still remembered fondly to this day and is still involved with the game having managed a number of teams in his native Latvia
Who? Some might ask, and the question is understandable considering Baldvinsson failed to make a single appearance for Rovers and mysteriously returned to Norway after just 2 weeks with the club. A current Faroe Islands representative, the central defender arrived from the Norwegian second division in 2012 and much mystery surrounded his signing. A fully fledged international and captain of his former side Ålgård the 22 year old had plenty of potential but seemingly let homesickness influence any prospect of having a career playing in England. Since leaving Rovers Baldvinsson has had a sporadic career playing for a number of clubs in Scandinavia as well as a brief spell back at the club he was signed from. In Rovers history the defender will go down as one of the great flops….that is if anyone actually remembers him.
A well-travelled striker, Ipoua joined Rovers after spells with a number of clubs in Spain and went on to establish himself as somewhat of a journeyman playing for 9 clubs during his time in Britain. 3 goals in 24 appearances after a failed trial at Crystal Palace saw the Cameroonian released by The Gas however he managed to resurrect his career in the football league with prolific spells at Gillingham and Scunthorpe United. Remarkably Ipoua is still playing at the age of 41 having been in his native Cameroon since 2007 with Oryx Douala.
Judging by some of the recent overseas players to join Rovers, Darrell Clarke will have to operate cautiously in the transfer market if he is looking to bring in some new faces from abroad. Despite some of the noticeable flops to join us over the years from foreign shores the prospect of signing a hidden gem such as Astafjevs is a mouth-watering prospect for any fan of the club. Undoubtedly we are in for a busy and hopefully productive summer of incoming players – expect the unexpected.
Featured Image Credit: The Memorial Stadium