Forest Green Rovers are the 17/18 League Two playoff winners. Not quite sure how this happened to be honest, the second half of the season was pretty atrocious so League One could be dangerous. But before we get to that let’s go over those playoffs. Rovers started their semi final tie against Crewe Alexandra at home, where a sold out crowd at The New Lawn greeted Sylvan with a heroes welcome before kick off. The teams remained deadlocked at 0-0 following a nervy first half but 2 minutes after the break midfielder Callum Evans slotted home a tidy finish from just inside the box to give Rovers a 1-0 lead. Following the goal the nerves seemed to hit and they played the rest of the game on the back foot, before Crewe equalised in the 87th minute via a cracking strike from outside the box by George Cooper. The game ended 1-1 meaning Rovers would have to do the work away from home to get to Wembley for their second successive play off final. That’s exactly what they did when an early ball over the top from centre back Lee Collins put Christian Doidge through on goal to open the scoring for Forest Green after just 47 seconds. Rovers managed to defend pretty comfortably a lock up a 2-1 aggregate win and it was off to Wembley for the final versus Chesterfield.
Chesterfield had run out pretty convincing 5-2 winners on aggregate versus Accrington Stanley in their semi final and held the psychological advantage of a 2-0 victory over Rovers the previous month. However much like the previous game against Crewe, Rovers came out of the gates quickly with Reece Brown playing in on loan Wolves man Will Randall after 3 minutes to give Rovers the lead. Forest Green weren’t done yet and 5 minutes later Keanu Marsh-Brown laid off Reece Brown who drilled it home from distance to up Rovers two up within 10 minutes. To make matters worse for Chesterfield, Forest stopper Brad Collins would save a Gozie Ugwu penalty in the 38th minute leaving Chesterfield looking beaten. The second half would prove uneventful and the 2-0 victory at Wembley would be enough to secure League One football for Forest Green next season.
What a first season! It’s pretty safe to say that first season promotion wasn’t in the 10 year plan for European football, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. Before we get down to anything exciting however we need to see how we stack up to the goals laid out in our Blueprint post. Somewhat surprisingly the club had the 10th highest salary bill in League Two but we ended up in 6th so we can call that a success. Also our net transfer spend was £0 so we’re two for two. Next up, it took a bit of a row with the board who are kind of in debt, through no fault of Sylvan’s it is worth adding, but we managed to upgrade the clubs youth recruitment system from really really bad to just really bad so there’s some limited infrastructure progress. Only one of our 4 goals for the save have proved a bit tricky and that’s the academy graduate one. The current set up isn’t very strong at all, although there is one promising youngster (Jordan Stevens, centre mid) and we had a decent left winger in our batch of youth candidates, so these are the two we’ll be focusing on giving playing time next season. There is a rule in League One that you have to include one club home grown player in your match day squad which should force our hand a little as none of the first team meet that requirement. However the only downside is that as far as FM is concerned Jordan Stevens isn’t club homegrown until the end of the third season, despite my in depth research (Wikipedia) suggesting he’s been in the Rovers academy system for a while now.
In contract news, during the run in Will Randall extended his loan stay until the end of next season, and Wolves also didn’t require any of his wages paying which saved us the £750 a week (50% of his contract) that we had been paying to begin with. Other huge contract news is Sylvan went back into the boardroom after achieving promotion and demanded a multi-year deal and will now remain at the club until 2021. A few players we’ve decided will be leaving at the end of the year when their contracts run out, most of whom didn’t really play much of a part this season but were too old/rubbish for anyone to take them away sooner. One notable big name exception is Keanu Marsh-Brown, the teams highest earner, never really looked the part all season despite making 49 appearances in all competitions. In fairness to him he was asked to play out of position for much of the year but he just never seemed to fit the system so we’re going to look elsewhere as we prepare for League One.
We had a few players make appearances in the end of season awards. On loan Chelsea keeper Brad Collins and midfielder Reece Brown made League Two team of the year. Christian Doidge was 2nd top goalscorer in the division and was named fans player of the season & Reece Brown made another appearance grabbing young player of the season.
So going into the summer break we look like this:
We’re going to trust the lads who got us up and I feel the nine starters we have there will be good enough to make up the base of our side going into our first spell in League One. Also Cooper & Evans on the same level as the other midfield three so we’re pretty deep there. Arestidou (wonder if he ever considered a career as a policeman?) wouldn’t be an awful option in goal but we’re probably going to look to upgrade, possibly bringing back Brad Collins who it looks like will be leaving Chelsea on a free. There’s an obvious need on the left wing, we probably will see multiple natural left footers coming in to avoid some of the issues we had at the position this season. The final thing underlined on our shopping list is a ‘change of pace’ striker, most of the struggles this year came when Doidge wasn’t having much luck in front of goal, so hopefully bringing in someone quality who can offer something different will help keep us consistent. Other than that we’ll be looking for depth/competition at a few other positions and should hopefully be in a good spot to try and stay up next year.
The next update will be the transfer review + a look at how the 2018/19 season has started as this post has dragged on a bit longer than I’d planned. Big thanks to anyone who’s been following the save so far, going to look into ways to get a little more creative with the series going forward, starting with a tactical guide of how our Forest Green system works so keep on the look out for that coming soon™!