Football: NON-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK: Consolidation the key for Forest Green's Conference debut
Friday 14 August 1998
"Last year our only aim was consolidation. We just wanted to find our feet in the [Dr Martens] Premier," Rovers' manager, Frank Gregan, said yesterday. "But we had an amazing start, and we realised that perhaps we were better than we thought we were."
In fact, Rovers were good enough to go on to win the title with a five- point advantage over their only serious rivals, Merthyr Tydfil, and thus maintain a rise that has taken them from the Stroud and District League to the top level of the semi-professional game. Now the country's best non-League clubs, like wealthy Rushden, must find their way to The Lawn, Rovers' compact ground perched on a hillside outside the small town of Nailsworth.
Rovers' only previous taste of national fame came in 1982, when they beat Rainworth Miners' Welfare at Wembley to win the FA Vase. The Conference, as their manager admits, is a big jump. "Our sole aim is staying up," Gregan said.
At odds of 50-1 (Rushden are the 5-2 favourites) for the title, Rovers are the joint favourites for relegation. "The bookmakers don't often get it wrong," Gregan added. "Unlike the other two promoted teams [Barrow and Kingstonian], we haven't spent much money on our squad."
Gregan, a former Army man who arrived at Rovers for his first managerial job in 1994, has brought in two former Cardiff City players, Nathan Wigg and Jimmy Rollo. Another summer signing, the former Bournemouth defender Ian Hedges, has damaged ankle ligaments and will be out for two months. Most of last season's squad remain, including Chris Honor, once of Bristol City and Airdrie.
Gregan knows his team face a tough start in the Conference. "Our first seven fixtures are horrendous," he said. (After Rushden, their next two home games are against Cheltenham and Stevenage and they also face early trips to Woking and Doncaster). "We're wondering where we're going to pick up any points. But you have to get on with it."
n After the collapse of talks with a potential replacement for its previous sponsors, Vauxhall, the "fifth division" will now be known as the Football Conference.
Latest in Sport
Arsenal vs Tottenham player ratings: Mesut Ozil? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? Nacer Chadli? Who was the star man at the Emirates?
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Stoke City vs Newcastle analysis: Window woes leave Alan Pardew bereft of flair
Manchester United risk Uefa row over plan to play lucrative midweek friendlies
Cristiano Ronaldo banner: This is how Real Madrid striker reacted to the stunt by Manchester United fans
- 1 Expert urges cat lovers to own just one animal each
- 3 The Simpsons death: Creator Al Jean would 'kill himself' before character like Homer or Lisa
- 4 British man raped while urinating in bushes at Oktoberfest beer festival in Germany
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
'Women, walk wherever you want' posters taken down in Stamford Hill following 'unacceptable' signs separating men and women
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...
£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...
£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Progressive Recruitment are cu...