Saturday, 24 July 2010

Forest Green Rovers FC (England)

FGR are based at the top of a hill overlooking the beautiful Cotswold village of Nailsworth in Gloucestershire. That a team from such a tiny settlement can make it as high as the fifth tier of English football is a testament to the power of the pyramid system. And of course it helps a little if you've got rich benefactor onboard to help you out a little with the financials. It would also surprise a lot of people to discover that they are the longest serving members of the Conference National - especially after the many last minute relegation escapes they've had in recent years.

But they're not just short term flash in the pans as they've got a long and proud history too. Formed in 1890 as Nailsworth & Forest Green, they first played in the Stroud & District League, before becoming founder members of the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League in 1922 - a competition they won in 1935, 1950 and 1951. The were also founder members of the Gloucestershire County League in 1958, before working their way up though both the Hellenic and Southern Leagues. Successive promotions in 1997 and 1998 saw them finally reach the National Conference - the highest level of English non-league football, which is where they they've stayed ever since - but only just.

Their highest league finish was a very nice eighth in 2008, and along the way they've also won the FA Vase in 1982, and were FA Trophy finalists in both 1999 and 2001, getting to play at Wembley and Villa Park in the process. Perhaps their biggest moment came in the FA Cup in 2009 when 4836 crammed into their New Lawn stadium to see them lose bravely 4-3 to Derby County after leading them 2-0 in a live televised match.


They've had a couple of name changes in their time too. In 1989, the club's board thought it would increase both their profile and their fanbase by changing their name to Stroud FC - after the nearest big(ish) town, some five miles away. this proved so unpopular that three years later it was changed to Forest Green Rovers - a name they've retained to this day. The 2009-10 season was a difficult one. Despite being relegated after a 2-1 defeat to Greys, they were reprieved when Salisbury were fined a drop of two leagues after being found guilty of financial irregularities. Added to this, their main benefactor has had to withdraw his financial assistance after suffering a period of ill-health. So let's wish them well in what could be a tricky year for this proud and battling team from an unlikely part of the country.

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