Who Are Ya? - Forest Green Rovers
How Long Have You Supported Forest Green Rovers?
A good few years now and ever since I moved to the area and someone invited me along to a game and I loved it straight away. There was a real honesty about football in the National League and the entertainment value was brilliant; it was the perfect antidote to Premier League and International football. I haven't looked back since.
Last Season's League Finish?
3rd in the table and promoted via the playoffs.
What Do You Think Of Your Manager?
He joined the club as a former player who was fondly remembered having scored goals from midfield and won player of the season with us, so he had plenty of goodwill amongst fans. I like that he wants to play attractive football and at times last season it really was a joy to watch. Defensively we have been vulnerable on and off for some time and that is a concern and something of a reputation for his sides. Cooper has got some way to go to prove to me that he can maintain a happy dressing room - too many players seem to have been moved on for "non-footballing reasons" in his short time with us and often not handled in the best manner. I personally don't enjoy how he has blamed players by name and taken aim at fans during interviews at times. I hope he improves on these points and brings us more success, but only time will tell.
Hopes/Expectations This Season?
At the start of the season: I hoped that we can be in and around mid-table come the final third of the season and with League 2 often being quite tight I would love a last minute run for the playoffs and then who knows? I expected to stay up as an absolute minimum, the club has waited long enough to get promoted and both FRG and Lincoln fans know how hard it is to get promoted from VNL will be if relegation was to happen.
Right now: I'd be tempted to settle for finding a defence that picks its self, stop conceding so many goals and not leave it until the last few games of the season to stay up!
One(s) To Watch?
Christian Doidge - he will play at a higher level sooner or later, his goal record in the last 12 months speaks for its self and I wouldn't bet against him getting a Wales cap at some point.
Keanu Marsh Brown would be another if he was being selected, we've all seen what he can do and many are baffled by his omission.
Finally Dale Bennett - one of the most consistent players we have and always gives everything. He's a quiet man off the pitch but an absolute warrior on it; if we had XI players as desperate to win as he is we would be in a very good position. He's solid at RB and would be an addition to a lot of teams in L1/L2.
Top Seven Predictions?
This league is so hard to predict. I imagine Exeter, Luton, Mansfield etc will all be knocking around, but expect a few surprise packages and it wouldn't surprise me if one of our clubs does the double bounce and goes up again.
Bottom Two Predictions?
Cheltenham Town and Yeovil Town.
Thoughts on Lincoln City?
I have a huge amount of respect for Lincoln and the Cowley brothers after last season. They did an exceptional job, not just in showing the know-how to win the league and go on a cup run, but generating a real positive feel-good-factor around your club. When Ady Pennock got sacked I had hoped the Cowleys would come to Forest Green and last season only served to enhance their reputation in my eyes. I just wonder how long you can keep hold of them and how far they can go in the game. At the time I begrudged some of your 'gamesmanship' last season, but in equal measure I enjoyed watching Liam Noble kick the ball in to the corner from a drop ball at Wembley, so who am I to judge?
Surely it's time for us to get one over you lot? 2-1 to FGR. In all honesty it depends who scores first and whether we can try to make it to half time without conceding.
Random Fact About Your Club?
Jilly Cooper is writing her latest novel based on her experience of the club.
What are your proudest and most embarrassing moments as a Forest Green Rovers Supporter?
Proudest: Getting promoted to the football league
Most embarrassing: I like what Dale Vince has done but he is so straight talking it sometimes gets misinterpreted. "we will win the league..." only sets you up for a fall.
Do you have a Supporters Trust and what role do they play at the Club?
We have a supporters club which arranges away travel (subsidised for members), raffle etc. They do a good job.
Which was your favourite match involving Forest Green Rovers?
Playoff final vs Tranmere - everything seemed to come together on the day with some good goals and some fantastic keeping from Sam Russell. The fact we lost at Wembley the year before only made it better.
Which was your least favourite match involving Forest Green Rovers?
Playoff final vs Grimsby - we had a lot of injuries going in to the game (as Tranmere did last season) but I still don't think we picked the right team / formation and we paid the price ultimately.
How much pressure do you believe Mark Cooper is under? Some of his post-match reactions over the past 12 months - particularly his tendency to name and shame his own players - have been extraordinary to onlookers.
The pressure is definitely rising and some fans have let Cooper know that they don't like certain things he does (players being 'forced out' etc). There is a split between fans who want to give him at least until the end of the season and those who would gladly see him leave tomorrow and then those who sit somewhere in between. You won't have to look too far on our forum to see the reasons why (man management, taking digs at fans, concerns over the transfer policy and pre-season schedule etc). The next two games are absolutely huge and he needs to win at least one of them if he wants to get some fans on board and relieve that pressure. But before we have even kicked a ball he needs to use a different tone in his press interviews to try and build some bridges with fans. His exclusion of Marsh Brown continues to raise questions; he was marginalised last season for the same "fitness concerns" but as soon as he came back in to the squad he helped fire us to promotion. We could certainly do with his talent and experience to give the team a bit more balance.
What do you honestly think of the plans to build a £100 million wooden eco-stadium by the M5? A signpost to the future for all clubs, or a rich man's folly?
A lot of the cost is to build the business park that forms part of the plans as do a wider range of sporting and community facilities. Although our current stadium is nice enough, it seems to have reached its natural capacity limit in terms of parking and transport infrastructure. Football stadiums need to offer more income streams now if clubs are to be sustainable and that really isn't much of an option where we are. I don't think it's too surprising that a lot of clubs seem to be building new stadiums, even much further down the pyramid. I think the challenge is to the architects to build something that has atmosphere and personality (and include standing areas!). It will be a shame to move in many respects, but I'm not quite sure what the longer term alternative would be.
Some of the adverse publicity the club has generated in recent times has been remarkable: an inflatable football in the possession of a middle-aged Grimsby Town supporter and his 14-year-old daughter, and a late arrival by a Southport fan have appeared too much for FGR to cope with. What has been the problem?
I've heard different sides of the stories to both incidents mentioned and wouldn't really know where the truth lies anymore. I don't think we are the only club to do it and it pales in insignificance to some stories elsewhere e.g. Stevenage vs Grimsby earlier this season etc. I think we are a bit of an easy target at times, but equally I think we could probably do a bit more as a club to make other fans feel more welcome. I think that's something a lot of clubs could work on. That said our fans are a friendly bunch and always look forward to having a drink with opposition supporters.
Please accept that this is a genuine question: where do you think Dale Vince's dream will leave Forest Green Rovers once the dream is over? Is that a concern for long-term FGR fans?
It's not too much of a concern for me and a bit of a no brainer. A lot of fans will always take a swipe at clubs with wealthy owners and I understand that, but a lot of the time it seems to be protectionism from fans of more established clubs who like to base league tables on attendances etc. A lot of people often don't realise the story behind Dale Vince's takeover either. The club was on its knees and he was approached to keep it afloat and it probably wouldn't exist now if he hadn't accepted the request. When he looked at the state of FGR it was a right mess financially and he decided he wanted to do it properly and give it a long term future that is sustainable. Whether people agree or disagree, he has set out a really clear strategy to do that which is commendable. Whatever happens, it's better than what would have happened had he not stepped in, or at least it will never be any worse.
Do you think Cooper will be FGR's manager this time next season?
I hope he is, as it would mean he has adapted his approach towards players and fans and been successful on the pitch. My gut feeling and his employment record suggests probably not.
Are you as fed up as the rest of us hearing about the lack of meat in your food offerings?
Yes! Firstly, the food is better than a lot of other clubs offerings and people make out. Secondly, its only one game a season for away fans and many who complain won't even go to that match! I think a lot of fans find it easy to 'bandwagon' without really thinking about it. It just seems a bit out of perspective.
Any form of coverage your club receives almost always centres around off-field issues such as the veganism, new stadium plans or the wage bill. Is this annoying or disheartening? Or just something you've come to expect?
I have come to expect it and its part of the value the club gives back to Dale Vince and his financial investment, so I think the vast majority of fans are happy with it. The veganism thing is interesting and has created a lot of debate on the terraces. Anecdotally it has changed a lot of fans eating habits whether just reducing meat / dairy or going completely vegan. Nearly all agree it has helped their health, so maybe there is something in it!? Away from the national press we have some really good local coverage which focuses more on the football with the ever popular Bob and Billy Hunt on the radio and Ash writing for the paper, which keeps us all happy.
I think it's a shame that the national football press hasn't picked up on our really successful Ambassadors scheme which is run with local schools or how we have so many women and children attending matches - it should be something other clubs want to emulate and is probably a bit more relevant to the future of the game than "mowbot".
Our playing style also attracted a bit of interest and was one of the main reasons Jimmy Bullard came in to training for Soccer AM.