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.
When I joined Forest Green Rovers in 1994 we had no full-time employees. Three years later I left the army and became the second full-time employee, the first being local lad Rob Cook who doubled as a central midfielder and groundsman.
Being a full-time manager with part-time players is a bit strange so you end up taking on things outside of the normal remit. Consequently, I decided to create a monster.
There was this thing called the Wide World Interweb or something which had just moved from dial-up to broadband and everybody was using it for all manner of things, most of which could only be shown after the watershed.
I knew nothing about it but had heard that one of our rivals, Burton Albion had set up their own website and I decided that Forest Green needed to build a better one. We were the smallest club in the league and we were on the up. We had to continue our momentum, like a shark we had to move forward in order to survive.
Exactly the same as it is today, the club has to continue its onward drive otherwise the only gear available is reverse.
I made contact with the guy who had built the Burton website and like Andy Pipkin from Little Britain I pointed at his website and said ‘Want that one.” It wasn’t long before I was using Andy’s other catchphrase, “Don’t like it!” I met the tech guy and he talked a strange new language.
I wasn’t sure if he was from Halesowen or Hogwarts because of the magic he made appear on my screen. He was able to show me a template of images, text, and links that mesmerised me with their genius. After wooing Trevor Horsley when he had initially screamed “How much?” when he was told the cost we were up and running and became one of the very first non-league clubs with their own website.
We were sold all the features, Meet the Players, Map of our location (which was a bummer because teams stopped struggling to find us and turned up on time consequently not having to rush their warm-up) and the monster itself, the bane of every football manager’s life was one of the key features. The Forum. I was addicted to it. We were winning just about every week and I’d log in the following morning and bathe in my own self-appreciation and smile at the wonderful comments from our superb supporters as I nibbled on a slice of toast and drank my tea.
Then, a couple of years later, we started to get beat – almost every week and then twice a week. Public opinion turned quicker than a teenager walking in on their parents’ Sunday morning romp.
Hero to sub-zero was a rapid decline, I’ve rappelled out of a helicopter at a slower pace.
It’s at that moment when you realise that your profession is the easiest in the world because every football supporter truly believes that he could do a better job than you. That’s no bad thing, indeed it’s a positive, it’s what engages the supporters and brings them back week after week.
Criticism is an occupational hazard for a football manager. It goes with the territory because someone has to carry the can when things are not going right. There’s nothing wrong with criticism, it doesn’t even have to be constructive, it can and usually is an entitled opinion of a supporter.
What is unacceptable is when it becomes vile and repugnant. There are some cowardly keyboard warriors out there but fortunately, they are a tiny minority.
I’ve not been on an internet football forum since those dark days when greganisat*****.com was a domain name.
I just stopped reading them. They are excellent tools for supporters to share their views and vent their anger but remember folks, the one thing I can promise you is that your club’s football manager hurts more than anybody else at the club when things aren’t going to plan.
Follow Frank on Twitter: @Greegers