There were one or two angry comments made to me after the last article I wrote. In the article, I highlighted what a superb time it is to be a Forest Green fan and how it is brilliant the amount of progress the club is making, and how exciting the move to Eco Park will be.
It’s been pointed out to me that in some (albeit a few) people’s minds the club is taking a step towards losing its identity. How can it remain Forest Green Rovers when its home is no longer Forest Green? It surely is only a matter of time before the club decides once again to use Stroud as part of its name. Stroud Rovers anyone? Over one hundred and twenty years of history consigned to the rubbish bin.
One word of that sentence is relevant – rubbish! The progress the club has made and is continuing to make is fantastic. Championship football is a real possibility in the future for Rovers, something that was inconceivable not that long ago. There is no comparison to the likes of Milton Keynes Dons who had no history and attempted to lay claim to Wimbledon’s past as they moved the franchise to a new location. Rovers will always be the club for supporters of football in the five valleys but the move to the new location opens the door to a whole new fanbase.
The M5 is littered with turn-offs for towns that have no league club for its inhabitants to support. There is no Championship club between Bristol and Birmingham (I’m happy to stand corrected, I’ve pulled that stat out of my head without checking) that in itself provides a massive opportunity to tap into a new supporter market.
There will always be a minority to whom progress is not the objective. I get that. There is nothing wrong with people in the five valleys wanting to support a non-league club. There are a few to choose from and if that is your taste, choose one and enjoy a different experience to supporting a Football League club with heady ambitions.
What has happened at the club during this regime’s era is nothing short of phenomenal. The history of Forest Green Rovers will always be there for all to see, it is written in tablets of stone. The badge may change, the name may change but the history will not. To put it in perspective, Newcastle United has had five different club badges in the last fifty years and St James’s Park bears no resemblance to what it looked like when I was a kid growing up. But the heartbeat of the club is still the same.
I, for one, cannot wait to see my first game at Eco Park, and to see the club in the Championship would be a dream come true. I’m sure that the vast majority of Rovers fans agree with me. Let’s hope it comes to fruition.
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