By Tony Leighton
Bristol Rovers manager John Ward is hoping that plans for a new stadium will be given the green light via this month's judicial review into planning permission for re-development of the club's current ground, the Memorial Stadium.
The Pirates have shared the Memorial Stadium with Bristol Rugby since 1996, having for the previous decade ground-shared with Bath City at Twerton Park after leaving their home of almost 90 years, Eastville, in 1986.
Ward, who is in his second spell at the Rovers helm after being in charge during the early 1990s, knows only too well what it would mean to the club and its supporters to establish themselves in a permanent home base.
The manager told football-league.co.uk: "The club is desperate to get its own base and to have our future decided by ourselves rather than others, so I certainly hope that after the review we will get the go-ahead.
"When I came back to the club 15 months ago the chairman wanted me to look after the football side so that he could put all of his efforts into the new stadium project, which I know has been taking a massive amount of work.
"Twenty years ago when I was here we were ground-sharing with Bath, which wasn't ideal - especially for our loyal supporters. So the closer we get to hopefully having a new home, the more exciting it gets for us."
While chairman Nick Higgs is leading the quest to prepare for a new stadium, Ward is looking to lead his team away from the lower end of the Sky Bet League 2 table as they continue to recover from a poor first half of the season.
As 2014 dawned, the Pirates were just one point above the relegation zone, but in their last 10 outings - four of which they have won - they have lost only twice and have collected 16 points to move six clear of the bottom two.
Ward said: "Our squad is much stronger and has more experience in it now than we had earlier on in the season, when we had a relatively young group and often had 18-year-old boys sat on the substitutes' bench.
"The youngsters have done well when called on, but with no disrespect to any of them you can't ask kids to carry you through a 46-match season. So it was good that we were able to bring in more experienced players during January.
"We've become more more competitive and we've picked up some good results. So although we can't forget the importance of the situation we're still in, we're looking towards our last 12 games of the season in a very positive light."
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