Taken from “Something to Shout About, The History of Forest Green Rovers AFC” Tempus publishing Ltd ISBN 0-7524-4072-1, RRP £15-99.
The Club began their life in the Hamlet of Forest Green in October 1889, founded by the local Non Conformist Church Minister. In 1894 Forest Green Rovers became founder members of the Mid Gloucestershire League (MGL), the first “socker” league in the county outside Bristol.
The Rovers first team competed in two leagues almost every season from 1900 until 1922 and again from 1928 until 1937. (This was quite common with leagues generally not having as many teams as those today).
They switched from the MGL when it folded in 1902, to become members of the newly formed Stroud League and also members of the Dursley and District League which they won in 1903, the Clubs first silverware.
The Stroud League was won in 1912 under the name “Nailsworth and Forest Green United”, the separate Nailsworth Club having amalgamated with Rovers at the top of the hill above the town.
After a break for the Great War, Rovers enjoyed a period of great success winning two football leagues and three cups in both 1921 and 1922. They then joined the newly formed Gloucestershire Northern Senior League with Cheltenham Town among others in 1922.
1926 was the year that their field was officially enclosed and given the name “The Lawn”, where Rovers played from 1889 to 2006, and in 1927 a crowd of over 5000 saw them lift the County Cup beating the Sharpness “Sharks” in nearby Dursley.
The committee members then bought their field at auction on 1936 for the princely sum of £120, and the Northern Senior League was won for the first time in 1938.
After the Second World War, the Forest Green Welcome Home committee became the Forest Green Rovers Supporters Club, and with their voluntary graft and enthusiasm “The Lawn” was transformed into one of the premier grounds in the County, playing host to County matches and Cup Finals from the 1950s onwards.
The Supporters Club built their own Social Club which opened in 1968, providing revenue unheard of in previous eras, and with John Duff, an ex player elected as Chairman, an ambitious upward flight was put in motion.
Rovers joined the newly formed County League in 1968 and played under manager Peter Goring, (the ex Arsenal number 6), for the next 11 years moving up again to the Hellenic League in 1975 under Peter’s stewardship.
In 1982, Rovers achieved fame at Wembley winning the FA Vase 3-1 and at the same time winning the Hellenic League and moving into the Southern League Midland Division.
High hopes over the forthcoming years dwindled into thoughts of what might have been and Rovers struggled throughout the 80s near the foot of the table. In a bid to turn the Club’s fortunes around Rovers were renamed Stroud FC but this proved near disastrous with many life long fans and committee members turning their back on “Stroud FC”.
The arrival of Trevor Horsley in 1992 saw the Club name changed back to Forest Green Rovers and the rest, as they say, is history.
Frank Gregan arrived as manager in 1994 taking the club to the Southern League Southern Division title in 1997 and into the Southern League Premier Division for the first time. The following year a showdown with Merthyr Tydfil in front of a record crowd of 2962 at the newly upgraded “Lawn” saw the Little Club on The Hill through to the Conference.
Rovers were everybody’s favourites for relegation in 1999 but instead they went back to Wembley in the FA Trophy becoming the first club to appear in both the Trophy and Vase Finals, a sign of how far the club had come. The Trophy final was lost to Kingstonian 1-0, but 12th place in the league confounded the pundits.
Relegation was avoided in the last five minutes of the last game the following year, but in 2001, under Nigel Spink, Rovers returned to the Trophy Final at Villa Park this time losing to Canvey Island again by the only goal of the game.
A best ever finish of 9th in the Conference was achieved in 2003 under Colin Addison but this was then followed by further relegation battles up until 2006 when relegation was again avoided on the last day of the season.
Whilst the team were struggling on the pitch, ambitious plans were put forward in 2002 to move the Club to a new Football League standard ground 400 meters away, still in the Hamlet of Forest Green. Planning permission was granted in 2005 and the new stadium was built over the next year, funded by the sale of the old ground for housing development. Carrying on a tradition set by supporters back in the 1950s the new stadium was painted from head to toe by supporters all on a voluntary basis.
The New Lawn was officially opened in September 2006 which also coincided with the appointment of Jim Harvey as manger on a long term contract. Jim guided Forest Green away from the bottom of the league to a respectable mid table finish in 2007.
The New Lawn
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