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.
Forest Green Rovers are playing at the level they are now and looking forward to a bright future mainly due to the efforts of two men. Trevor Horsley and Dale Vince, writes Frank Gregan.
I remember during my first season at Rovers getting beat 6-2 at home by Newport (the only time during my fourteen years as a manager that one of my teams conceded six goals home or away) and thinking ‘Harry Potter couldn’t turn this club around.’
Fast forward six years and the club had progressed from playing in front of a hundred supporters to averaging around a thousand a match and instead of signing trainees from Bristol City and Rovers attracting full England internationals and former Premier League players to the club. That can’t happen without investment and somebody needs to write the cheques.
During my time it was Trevor who had to dig deep to fill the gaps when the inevitable cash flow problems arose. ‘Cash flow’ was the only thing I can ever remember Trevor and I arguing about.
One example springs to mind. We were in the middle of a relegation battle in 2000. We couldn’t win a throw-in in the final third let alone a game. We had just lost at home, it seemed like the thirty-fifth defeat in a row and next up was high flying Scarborough away. We hadn’t budgeted for an overnight stay and I was adamant that we had to stay over if we were to get anything from the game.
Trevor was kind enough not to say “we could stay in the Caribbean for a week and you’ll not get a point” but he made it clear he was going to have to pick up the tab for the hotel out of his own pocket because we were skint again. I dug my heels in and he relented, even though he knew he was probably chucking a couple of grand or so down the drain.
We got mugged by Scarborough. They turned the heat up full blast in our dressing room and despite my protests to the referee we had to get changed and deliver the half-time team talk on the pitch.
The dressing room was a sauna, the Paras could have used it for jungle training. Our preparation was ruined and we were bitter and twisted and feeling sorry for ourselves before a ball was kicked. The electronic scoreboard in the corner of the ground after nine minutes read: Scarborough 3 Forest Green 0.
I can extrapolate with the best of them. We were going to get beat 30-0! It ended 5-0 and afterwards I walked into the boardroom for a drink with Trevor and he was just his customary self, win lose or draw. “You alright?” he asked. No mention of the wasted money, no mention of the drubbing. He knew exactly what to say and when to say it. At times like that the manager needs supporting and Trevor was different class when it came to man-management.
Somehow we managed to avoid relegation with a great escape during the last three games thanks to goals from Paul Newman, Richard Attenborough, and Harry Houdini! And I bought a few shares in the Hilton hotel chain.