On the evening of Friday 2 February, the Supporters Trust, with the cooperation of Bristol City Football Club, hosted a dinner to commemorate the historic actions 25 years earlier of the Ashton Gate Eight.
At the eleventh hour on February 3, 1982, Peter Aitken, Chris Garland, Jimmy Mann, Julian Marshall, Geoff Merrick, David Rodgers, Gerry Sweeney and Trevor Tainton had all agreed, in the most pressing of circumstances, to tear up their contracts to save Bristol City from extinction.
When these eight players and their partners entered the dining area at the Dolman Exhibition Hall, the 275 assembled guests rose as one and offered a prolonged standing ovation. The whole evening was charged with emotion.
Guests were treated to footage of the Eight’s glorious playing days and newsreel of the events leading up to the crisis of 1982. They also received a 40-page commemorative booklet, which proved to be just the ticket for autograph hunters.
City legend Paul Cheesley expertly hosted the evening, introducing special guests Marina Dolman and Fred Wedlock, the latter keeping everyone amused with his unique style of songs and humour.
The players answered questions from fans in an honest and open way, clearly appreciating the opportunity to thank the Supporters Trust and put the record straight on one or two things. At the end of the evening, each player was presented with a unique red Bristol Blue Glass decanter engraved with a personal message from the fans.
The night was a tremendous success and down to a lot of hard work by a few Trust volunteers and the support of many in the Bristol City community. The Trust would like to thank the Club and all the night’s sponsors, in particular Robert Del Naja for sponsoring production of the booklet.
The event attracted coverage on local TV, Sky Sports and BBC Football Focus, the producers recognising the historic nature of the events of 1982 and the fact that such a sacrifice on the part of players would be unthinkable in the game today.
Proceeds from the dinner and future sales of the commemorative booklet will go toward the production and installation of a commemorative plaque for the Eight.