The first Saturday in January is historically one of the most looked forward to date on the footballing calendar. It is of course FA Cup third round day but with the magic of the cup having waved its wand against Forest Green Rovers as they became victims of a shock exit it will be inconsequential to Rob Edwards’s team this year.
Midweek saw them make an exit from another cup competition when they lost at home to Chelsea U21s on penalties.
I watched the highlights of the St Albans game and thought that it was a disastrous result for the club. I had watched pretty much all of the Bradford City game the week before and towards the end, it looked very much as if Rovers were delighted to take the point. They seemed to lack the ambition to want to run the risk of losing a point in order to gain all three. That’s not what you want to see from a team that many (myself included) believe will win automatic promotion this season. It looked like the flying start was about to splutter. I was wrong, totally and absolutely, the St Albans result was used to spur the team on.
One of the most crucial attributes a team needs is confidence. The St Albans game could easily have sapped the team’s confidence, hence the reason I thought it was such a poor result. It could have been the start of a blip during which points became hard to come by. In these situations, wins turn to draws and draws turn to defeat despite there being very little change in performances. It just happens.
That hasn’t been the case with Rovers, their response to the St Albans defeat has been magnificent running up four consecutive league victories and proving the doubters like myself well and truly wrong. Their confidence hasn’t been dented and tremendous credit must go to Rob Edwards and his staff for the way they got a brilliant response from the players. That doesn’t happen by accident, that is superb man-management.
The midweek exit could not have happened under better circumstances, they didn’t lose the game, they lost the penalty shoot out. Confidence will not have taking a hit from that. Confidence and momentum are now firmly on Rovers’ side. They have six league games in December, it’s going to be a massive month and one that will hopefully see the steam roller ploughing ahead.
Times have changed. The first Saturday in January no longer has the same importance as it did in days of yore, in fact, the FA Cup 3rd round this year revolves around the second Saturday in January as New Years Day’s league fixtures take priority. The first of January sees Rovers entertain Stevenage and if at the end of that game Rovers are still top of the table with a six-point lead or better then the St Albans game will have been a blessing in disguise. Promotion trumps all, the cups really are insignificant when you are genuine automatic promotion contenders. The dream continues!
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 on to achieve under the late Trevor Horsley’s successor Dale Vince.
Follow Frank on Twitter: @Greegers