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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 12:58 GMT
The Duke calls the tune
BBC Sport Online's Paul Fletcher says Rovers FA Cup win over Derby was badly needed but wonders how long hat-trick hero Nathan 'The Duke' Ellington will remain at Rovers.
If ever a club needed a serious dose of FA Cup magic Bristol Rovers are probably it.
Rovers win over Premiership strugglers Derby County has been overshadowed by Cardiff's fiery victory over Leeds and Manchester United's scintillating comeback at Aston Villa.
But in the context of Rovers dwindling fortunes, the Pirates' win at Pride Park is nothing less than sensational.
Rovers, currently 19th in Division Three, thrashed their Premiership opponents, racing to a 3-0 lead before Fabrizio Ravanelli scored a consolation goal for the Rams.
Suggestions that Rovers will return to Division Two with ease have proved unfounded and the team have struggled in the most uncompromising of divisions.
The club itself was put up for sale last October.
But a backer failed to materialise and vice-chairman Geoff Dunford took the club off the market at the start of 2002, citing a need for stability
To make matters worse bitter rivals Bristol City are third in Division Two and pushing hard for promotion.
Life for the Gasheads, as Rovers supporters are known after their former ground Eastville's proximity to a gas works, has rarely been worse.
Gerry Francis, revered at Rovers during his first spell in charge between 1987 and 1991, returned to the club in June 2001.
But he proved unable to halt Rovers slump and left the club on Christmas Eve, citing personal reasons and suggesting he may not return to football.
The main cause for optimism is Ellington, nicknamed the Duke by Rovers supporters.
Ellington, still only 20, struggled last season to fill the boots of the departed Jason Roberts but still finished as the club's top scorer with 18 goals in all competitions.
The Duke, who joined Rovers for £150,000 from non-league Walton and Hersham in 1999, was plagued by injury at the start of the current campaign.
But he scored a hat-trick on Boxing Day and followed that with his heroics against Derby.
He now has 13 goals so far this season despite playing in a team badly short on confidence.
Thompson is in no doubt that Ellington has the ability to play at the top level.
"Nathan can go all the way, he's got a lot of desire and thinks nothing but football - you can't get him off the training pitch," said Thompson.
But for all the hope that Ellington's hat-trick against Derby brings to the Memorial Ground, Rovers supporters must already be fearing the worst.
Rovers have built a deserved reputation as a club with a real talent for unearthing strikers - and then selling them.
Marcus Stewart, who scored 19 goals in the Premiership last season for Ipswich, was sold to Huddersfield in 1996, the year after his strike partner Gareth Taylor, now with Burnley, had left for Crystal Palace.
Stewart had joined Rovers as a trainee, Taylor after failing as a trainee at Southampton.
Barry Hayles, signed from non-league Stevenage Borough in 1997, was sold after 17 sensational months for £2.1m to Fulham.
Jason Roberts, signed for £250,000 from Wolves, had two brilliant years at Rovers in partnership with Jamie Cureton, but was sold to West Brom for £2m in July 2000.
Cureton - demanding a transfer following the sale of Roberts - joined Reading for a knockdown £250,000 shortly afterwards.
And perhaps worst of all - Bobby Zamora.
Zamora came through the ranks at Rovers but, after a highly successful spell on loan at Brighton, was allowed to join the south coast club permanently for a paltry £100,000.
As Rovers slid out of Division Two last season, Zamora scored 31 goals for the Seagulls as they romped to the Division Three title, winning by 10 points.
Rovers supporters are hoping Ellington will be at the club long enough to ensure their team are promoted out of Division Three.
But that is unlikely to happen this season.
And if the club's recent policy of selling strikers is anything to go by it seems unlikely Ellington will be around long enough to lead a serious revival.
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