THE first day of the season cost us a play-off place.
The 8-0 defeat of Hyde fooled us all. It disguised the fact that not only were we getting the same old dross, we were getting expensive dross.
High wages, long contracts, the signings of Barnes-Homer and Mangan, Marcus Law added to the coaching staff and a sports psychologist. A big budget was being blown.
We had plenty of players but no team. The mistakes of last season had not been addressed. The inevitable managerial change should have come after the home defeat to Tamworth. Instead we had to wait for four more defeats. With Gary Seward in charge a shaming FA Cup defeat followed. The only way was up.
The managerial appointment was important. A host of applicants were sifted through and a strong list emerged and there was a news blackout at the club.
Ady who? This was the question many of us asked – we soon knew. A genuine football man had been appointed with a true vision for the club. Post-match press conferences changed. No longer were excuses and tension the norm. No longer was the world against us. Instead we had honesty, realism and at times humour.
Form picked up and at one stage the play-offs looked possible, however the inherited problems were a ball and chain locked to the manager’s leg.
The first one he identified immediately. It was the inability of the team to defend crosses and corners.
If the opposition did not win the first ball their determination saw they won the second.
All season goals have been conceded to corner kicks or from the inability to subsequently clear the ball.
The goals given away have cost us dearly. At Halifax, home to Braintree, on Saturday against Woking and away to Barnet instantly spring to mind, but there are many more. Some supporters praise individual defenders but collectively we have a poor record. Sixty five goals have been scored against us.
The figures for Luton are 33, Cambridge 31, and Braintree 38 (as at April 20).
These are the standards we have to meet. Improving our defensive record will be a pre-season priority. At the time of writing we have the eighteenth worst defensive record in the league. I absolve the forwards from criticism. We are the fourth highest scorers in the league.
These statistics however obscure the manager’s main problem. He has too many players on high wages and long contracts.
We saw in the transfer window how difficult it is to ship out players. We shall see the same again in the summer.
We may start next season with players on the books no one wants, worse than that, in order to accommodate them we may be unable to accommodate some we wish to keep.
Without doubt the wages/contracts situation is our manager’s biggest problem I am afraid those expecting a huge clear out may be disappointed. Contracts have to be honoured.
This look back is not all doom and gloom. Rovers can be entertaining to watch.
Ady’s team more the ball forward quicker than before on occasions do so using the whole width of the field.
Lee Hughes has brought a mature presence and an astute football brain, Marcus Kelly has a sweet left foot while James Norwood has matured in so many ways, scoring goals at home and away. He is my player of the year. Whether playing as one of the twin strikers or wide in mid-field he runs at defenders with pace and determination. He has a buccaneering spirit and if his beard (yes – he is growing one) develops we may have our own captain Jack Sparrow.
Visiting The New Lawn remains a joy. My guests are always impressed and many return.
In so many ways Forest Green Rovers present the acceptable face of non-league football. We have a club with the infrastructure to take us into the football league and for that the chairman deserves full credit.
My man of the season award is a joint one, going to Sam Reid of the Supporters Club and coach supremo Ken Boulton. Anyone who knows them is aware of how deserved they are of this award.