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‘Forest Green meeting Sunderland as equals is beyond my wildest dreams’ – Frank Gregan


Well, thank goodness for that. It’s over. Forest Green Rovers will be playing League One football next season.

Cue cries of “it’s not over until it’s over’ but this contest is. The fat lady has been sharing her dulcet harmonies ever since the referee blew the final whistle on Tuesday night. Forget the “mathematical certainty” baloney, automatic promotion is now in the bag. Promotion as champions would be the icing on the cake but hey ho, there’s many a good cake without icing!

There was a scare along the way. That seven game winless streak mustn’t be swept under the carpet and needs to be addressed in the summer and the reasons behind it identified. Let’s be honest, four points from 21 is sackable form and if Rovers had have been anywhere else apart from streets ahead at the top of the table the chances are there would be a new gaffer at the helm. There’s a logical argument that given the way Rovers have bounced back with three successive wins replacing the head coach would have been a huge error. It would have been but that’s not how football works, it’s a result driven business and four points from seven games inevitably leads to a desk clearing if your side are slipping down the table. That massive points cushion acted as a parachute and quite rightly enabled Rob Edwards to finish the job.

There are some huge clubs in League One and there will be a massive buzz of anticipation running through the club. I remember looking at the League Two table when Forest Green found themselves in the same league as Bolton Wanderers not quite believing it could happen. When I was the manager at Rovers, Bolton were a Premier League club and I used to work on their scouting staff covering the non-league scene for them. That’s how big the gulf was between the two clubs.

But there is a possibility of something much bigger in the offing from my perspective next season. Something that I would never have thought possible. I’m a Geordie and a fervent Toon supporter and the possibility of Forest Green meeting Sunderland as equals is beyond my wildest dreams. Sunderland are of course Newcastle’s bitter rivals although in my case I much prefer the rivalry to be friendly and banter-driven. 

I remember when Newcastle were relegated to the Championship the delight that the Mackems took from Newcastle having to face relative minnows. “Enjoy Burton away” was a taunt I endured frequently. Newcastle United and a team I had faced many times as a manager, Burton Albion playing in the league as equals was surreal but Sunderland travelling to the Cotswolds will be a similar trip through the looking glass. 

Now that I’ve deemed Forest Green promoted my time perusing the lower leagues is focussed on League One and my hope that Sunderland blow their promotion chance. Forest Green Rovers V Sunderland in League One. Now that’s a fixture worth flying home for!

In a regular column, iconic former Forest Green manager Frank Gregan has teamed up with Stroud Times to look back on his time at the New Lawn.

Now living in Spain and a published author, the former sergeant major joined Rovers in 1994 – leading his side to back-to-back promotions and Wembley final. Frank transformed the club from non-league minnows, charting the way for what they have gone onto achieve under the late Trevor Horsley’s successor Dale Vince.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @Greegers

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