Last weekend saw the end of Mark Cooper’s reign at the New Lawn and the first female jockey to win the Grand National, writes Frank Gregan.
Whilst the success of Rachel Blackmore dominated the national back pages the change in the hot seat at Forest Green Rovers is the more salient news in the Five Valleys area.
Mark has done a tremendous job. The club is in a significantly higher league position than when he joined. They are not only in a different division, they are in a different world playing league football for the first time. He was the gaffer that made that happen and nobody will ever be able to take that from him. It should and will, ensure his place in Forest Green’s history.
I mention Rachael Blackmore’s achievement because it was fantastic for sport. There are very few sports where women can compete under exactly the same terms as men and come out on top. She had a brilliant Cheltenham Festival and the National win has confirmed that she is one of the very best National Hunt jockeys.
Dale Vince is quoted as saying that he is willing to consider applications for the vacant head coach post from both men and women. I think that’s brilliant, I have many failings but misogyny is not one of them. The one caveat I would apply is that he/her/they must be the best person for the job.
The club is innovative at setting standards that others would never dare to consider but a token appointment out of left field is not what is required at this crucial time. It has to be someone who can carry on the momentum. Sexism, racism, and ageism should never be tolerated but the most dangerous ism facing Rovers now is tokenism. This can’t be an appointment to grab the headlines and gain publicity, it has to be an appointment that takes the club onward and upward.
The requirement is simple. Use all the cool fangled fancy vocabulary you like but all the next gaffer needs to do is win football matches. I’ve seen so many changes in football during recent years particularly in relation to training techniques here in Spain but the fundamentals never differ. It’s all about winning and accumulating the required number of points to achieve your goal and the only way to do that is to ensure that the players respect the gaffer and the gaffer is consequently able to get the very best out of the players.
There’s a dumbed-down phrase commonly used by managers and head coaches. “The bloke with the most money will win the most matches.” That maxim is true, it’s possible to punch above your weight on occasions but money is the major key to success in football and I’m led to believe that Rovers are spending more than enough to be competitive. The tools are there for the right man or woman to take the club forward but the appointment has to be a solid one, based on logic and experience, not innovation and experimentation.
I’ve heard Dale using the term “ground breaking’ and I admit that scares me. Now is not the time for thinking outside the box, it’s about ensuring the right things happen on the pitch so that the forward momentum continues. A female appointment doesn’t have to be a gamble, there are some phenomenal coaches out there, Jill Ellis springs to mind, what a coup that would be for the club but she sets the standard of female candidates that needs to be considered.
They really are a rare breed because women’s football is still in its infancy. One thing Dale is right about is something that needs to be broken – the ceiling of League Two.
In a regular column, iconic former Forest Green manager Frank Gregan has teamed up with Stroud Times.
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