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Author

Will Carpenter

writes

Posted Thursday, April 2nd 2020

Bris Legends interviews: Al Charron

Hanging proudly on the wall of Al Charron’s Canadian home is a framed Bristol jersey, presented to him by the club’s supporters at the end of the 1998/99 season, after naming him their player of the year.

It provides the 53-year-old with a regular reminder of his time in the West Country, during which he played 40 first team games between 1997 and 2000, scoring seven tries.  

“I’m happy to have it here now and it hangs proudly at my home, reminding me on a daily basis of the great memories of a fantastic city, club and the people that make it so,” he says.

“My lasting memories of the club are how welcome I was made to feel by the good people of Bristol. The supporters were awesome to my wife Annette and I, but I really appreciated the love and kindness the people in Bristol showed me in good times and bad.

“Certainly, on my bucket list, is to get back to Bristol to take in a match and reconnect with some players and supporters for a few pints. I look very much forward to that day and I hope to make it happen sooner rather than later.

“So, really my lasting memory is the friendship bonds that were formed, and continue, to this day and beyond.”

Charron joined Bristol late in the 1997-98 season after Moseley, his previous club, was forced to make its players redundant. Bristol were relegated at the end of the season, but unlike many of the players, Charron chose to stay.

The 76-cap Canadian international was a pivotal figure in Bristol’s instant return to the top-flight following promotion at the end of the 1998-99 season. He scored a try at Exeter in the first game of the season and appeared in both the second row and back row.

Charron was injured at the start of the next season, and then fell afoul of the overseas players ruling at the time. Bristol had signed Gus Pichot and Henry Honiball, and they could not field Charron when these two were playing. His 1999-2000 appearances were mainly confined to European games and domestic cup matches, including a famous European Shield quarter final win in Biarritz, during which shoulder popped out twice during this match, but didn’t stop him playing on.

“I came from Moseley after they went into financial receivership, and later that summer, Bristol would do the same – so, 1998 was proving not to be a good year for Moseley, Bristol and certainly not for me,” Charron explains.

“When I joined Bristol, they were struggling and so was I health wise, as I had endured a major complication from knee surgery that delayed my start to the season at Moseley. I was not 100% and still was not when I joined Bris, who as a club, were not in a good place.

“When Malcolm Pearce came aboard as a majority backer, I was offered a contract and I ended up re-signing with Bristol for less money but again for two years. I had other club offers and options, but I felt I owed it to the club, city of Bristol and the supporters for the support I received after the Moseley situation.

“I strongly felt the right thing to do was to sign back on and hopefully bring them back up through promotion. I was glad to be part of the team that enabled us to do that - there were some trials and tribulations along the way, but I was super pumped to get Bristol back where they belonged.

"I have always been flattered to be remembered so fondly by the Bristol supporters and the players I shared the training paddock and playing field with, albeit during what ended up being just a short stay at this famous club."

Al Charron

“It was a real honour to wear the Bristol jersey. I took great pride in whatever jersey I wore throughout my career - be it for my country or a club jersey, in Canada, the UK or France. The reason being is that there is history in that jersey. The players who came before you help cement honour, pride and tradition in what it takes to be a person fortunate enough to wear that jersey.

“Bristol, with a long history of success and producing many internationals, had that in spades. I took great pride every time I was fortunate to wear that jersey and set about to prove my worth every time I took the field with that very privilege. I hope that showed in the performances I put in, because it truly was an honour for a Canadian kid to play rugby in England for a great club like Bristol.”

Charron left Bristol at the end of the 2000 season and went on to play for Pau and Dax. He was given a standing ovation when he came on as a replacement against Newcastle in his final home game – and the former second row or back row remains hugely grateful for the support he received at the club.

“If I could just finish by saying that I have always been flattered to be remembered so fondly by the Bristol supporters and the players I shared the training paddock and playing field with, albeit during what ended up being just a short stay at this famous rugby club.

“I’m very humbled by the accolades and believe you me, I would have gladly played there for the rest of my professional career, or gone there earlier, if circumstances had been different, such was the fun and enjoyment I had there.”