Football: NON-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK: Consolidation the key for Forest Green's Conference debut

THIS TIME last year, Forest Green Rovers were preparing for their first season in the Dr Martens League Premier Division, after winning the Southern Division title the previous campaign. Few at the little Gloucestershire club dared to dream that they might win promotion once again. But they did just that, and tomorrow they make their debut in the Football Conference with a home fixture against Rushden & Diamonds.

"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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss