‘I couldn’t go there...’ - Former Bristol Rovers man reveals he turned down Bristol City

The Gas striker rejected the advances of Bristol City but later departed the Mem for a return to London
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Former Bristol Rovers striker Barry Hayles has stated that he 'couldn't go there' when news came in of a bid from inter-city rivals Bristol City. The Robins had submitted a bid for the forward on the back of a stellar campaign in 1997/98.

Hayles played alongside Peter Beadle, who did turn out for the red side of the city, as well as Rovers, as well as Jamie Cureton, who had interest from Ashton Gate but never joined. The 50-year-old had scored 23 goals in the old Division Two, which is now known as League One, winning the Golden Boot.

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Dubbed as relegation favourites at the start of the season, Hayles' goals under Ian Holloway's stewardship helped them get to the play-offs. They beat Northampton Town 3-1 with Hayles on target as well as Beadle and Frank Bennett, but disaster struck in the second leg. They suffered a 3-0 defeat to the Cobblers, which saw them lose 4-3 on aggregate, allowing Grimsby Town to go up in the final.

After the conclusion of the campaign, which was the closest they have got to getting back to the second tier, rivals City put in a bid, with chairman Geoff Dunford encouraging him to hold talks with the Robins. City had finished second that year and went up after being automatically promoted, offering Hayles a chance to play at a higher level.

But speaking to the Daily Star, the popular Gas striker admitted that he couldn't cross the divide and leave for the other side of Bristol. He said to them: "Bristol City had put in a £2m bid in that was accepted by the club but I turned it down, I couldn't go there."

Despite their play-off heartache, Hayles remains and geared himself up for another season in the third tier. He scored nine goals in 17 appearances for Rovers as they tried again for promotion, but table-topping Fulham came in and prized him away for £2m. The Cottagers, managed by Kevin Keegan, won the league with 101 points and Hayles got eight goals in 30 games.

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The London-born striker would go on to five-and-a-half-seasons at Craven Cottage, scoring 44 goals in 175 games. As for Rovers, Jamie Cuerton ended up finishing as the league's top scorer the year Hayles departed with 25 goals, but the Gas finished 13th.

"I took the gamble and stayed but when Fulham came, it was a perfect fit to go back to London," admitted Hayles when he eventually left the Mem.

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