We’re delighted to welcome BBC Radio Gloucestershire commentator Billy Hunt as a columnist on Forest Green. He will be giving his views on the biggest talking points on FGR.
What a season we’ve just had. From thinking there weren’t enough striking options this time last year to thinking the championship was lost on the penultimate day to winning the league in dramatic fashion on a memorable away day in Mansfield.
As the previous manager mentioned after the last game. Out of the 92 league teams, only four win their league. On pure maths, that’s a 4.35% chance of winning a league and something Forest Green fans will savour for years to come. Especially when you consider that the previous two seasons fans couldn’t fully celebrate their victories due to lockdowns, including the noisy neighbors up the road.
At one point it looked like it was going to be easy. After the 4-0 thrashing of Tranmere in January, which was touted as a huge first v second match against a Tranmere team unstoppable at home, Forest Green opened up a 10 point gap, with bookmakers paying out on them to win the league and a sense of inevitability of them winning the title.
It wouldn’t be Forest Green if it was easy though. A blip turned into a slump, turned into a decline, turned into a plummet which almost turned into a capitulation. Winning four from the last seventeen games isn’t champions form. However, scraping points when needed including a vital home win against in-form Mansfield along with no other teams really pushing them they managed to secure promotion away at the lesser Rovers of Bristol.
There is no doubt that Forest Green were a very good team. Nothing much changed from the team in January to the one that stalled. There was also a feeling when they lost, they weren’t playing awful, just that some teams seemed to have found them out and the swagger had gone. Rob Edwards said after promotion was secured that he knew some of the aspects on what went wrong, obviously, he wasn’t around long enough to let us know what it was. Being found out, double marking the influential wingbacks, piggy backing Jamille Matt (and the referees allowing teams to do), players’ heads turned by other clubs, managers’ heads turned by another club… We can only speculate.
The trip to Mansfield was a memorable one. I was reflecting over a coffee before the game thinking that promotion was the main thing and it’s not the end of the world if we win the league. I think I and fans were kidding themselves. The feeling of winning must be amazing for the players, being the best is what you play sport for, not to become second best. As we know the fans certainly enjoyed winning the league, just a shame the club had to pick up the trophy from junction 13 of the M5, which is where of course the club will be playing in the championship in the future.
On reflection, it was an amazing season. Forest Green won the league and fans need to remind themselves of that. The connectivity between the players, managers and fans was something that hadn’t been around for the previous few seasons. The united joy of going up made the feeling of betrayal a few days later worse.
Bring on next season, we’ve had our weekends off and football ready. Whilst winning the league may be hard (but not impossible!) let’s just hope it’s enjoyable and the togetherness of the club and fans continue throughout.