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2019/20 - Forest Green Rovers - League Two

200px-Forest_Green_Rovers_F.C._logo.jpg

League Table - Finances - Graph - Transfers

Season Review

We burst out of the blocks with three wins, which set the tone for a season during which we were never out of the top four. We rode our luck through some injuries and general poor play to take our chances when they came, and by Christmas we were well and truly in the ascendancy as far as the title race went. Seven points in the three games between Boxing Day and NYE only reaffirmed this.

2020 started with a 0-3 home loss to Premiership high-flyers Newcastle in the third round of the FA Cup (they finished 4th), but we got the cash and eradicated any further fixture congestion, having exited all other cups early on. We established a double figure points lead over 4th place and by this point, anything less than promotion would be a massive choke.

By the time the choke did come, it was already March and all that was threatened was the title itself. When we beat Coventry 2-0 on the 7th, we held an eight point gap over them in second. Five games later they were on top by a point, as we were insipid. They still held that margin going into the final three fixtures, but we won the lot and them only two, crowning us league winners for the third consecutive season and giving me manager of the season honours.

Goal of the Season

[video=youtube;N8xVJ4ZFSmU]

The goal that secured the title, fittingly scored by the skipper. A fair goal too.

Key Men

Ramon Phillips - He ran hot and cold, but still ended up with 20 goals, and a call-up to the Euros as a result, in addition to the L2 player of the season award. Has plenty of development left in him.

Marcus Hewlett - He was underwhelming in a loan spell last season, but upon joining permanently and being given a starting role, he proved a more than adequate replacement for Rooney. His 19 goals included a hat-trick on his "second debut" for the club.

Nicolai Risvig - Re-united with my captain at Supermarine and he didn't disappoint, notching nine goals and 17 assists in a seamless transition to league football.

Kenny Coton - A very solid campaign for the teenager, and his consistency showed a maturity beyond his years. Earned an England under 19s cap too.

Bo Nøhr - Kept a clean sheet in nearly half of his appearances, and a 6.91 average rating for a keeper is excellent.

Next Season...

From experience, the jump from League Two to League One is greater than from the Conference, so I think we'll need some more quality to avoid a relegation dog fight. A couple of quality central midfielders are at the top of my shopping list. Will get my scouts looking closely at youths released by Prem clubs because we're at a point where the better ones may consider the club now.

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Swindon Supermarine

2011/12 - Evo-Stik Southern Premier - 1st (promoted as champions)

2012/12 - Blue Square South - 2nd (lost in play-off semis)

2013/14 - Blue Square South - 2nd (lost in play-off semis)

2014/15 - Blue Square South - 4th (play-off and FA Trophy finalists)

2015/16 - Blue Square South - 1st (promoted as champions)

2016/17 - Blue Square Premier - 9th (resigned)

Forest Green Rovers

2017/18 - Blue Square South - 1st (promoted as champions)

2018/19 - Blue Square Premier - 1st (promoted as champions)

2019/20 - League Two - 1st (promoted as champions)

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2019/20

Charity Shield: Man Utd (Arsenal)

Premiership: West Ham (Bristol City, Swansea, Sunderland)

Championship: Middlesbrough; Brighton, Leeds (Crystal Palace, Portsmouth, Burnley)

League One: Sheff Wed; Wrexham, Blackpool (Burton, Morecambe, Torquay, Carlisle)

League Two: Forest Green; Coventry, FC United, Newport County (Hereford, Mansfield)

Conference Premier:Salisbury; Darlington (Dag & Red, Boreham Wood, Ebbsfleet, Tranmere)

Conference North: Corby; Oldham (Dunstable, Kendal, FC Halifax)

Conference South: Stevenage; Yeovil (St Albans, Canvey Island, Lewes)

Ryman Isthmian Premier: VCD Athletic; Kingstonian (Ware, Hemel Hempstead, Margate, Aveley)

Evo-Stik Northern Premier: Altrincham; Alfreton (Frickley, Witton Albion, Burscough, Bishop Auckland)

Evo-Stik Southern Premier: Worcester; Aylesbury Utd (Horsham, Hinckley, Bishop's Cleeve, Rushall)

Ryman Isthmian Division One North: Wealdstone; Brentwood (Redbridge, AFC Hayes)

Ryman Isthmian Division One South: Dulwich Hamlet; Whitehawk (Chipstead, Godalming)

Evo-Stik Division One North: Warrington; Lancaster City (Durham, Ossett Albion)

Evo-Stik Division One South: Ashton Utd; Buxton (Loughborough Dynamo, Atherstone)

Evo-Stik Division One Central: Brackley; Slough (St Neots, Sutton Coldfield)

Evo-Stik Division One South/West: North Greenford; Frome (Beaconsfield, Hungerford)

---

FA Cup: QPR (West Ham)

League Cup: Newcastle (Norwich)

Johnstone's Paint: Oxford (Sheff Wed)

FA Trophy: Stalybridge (Salisbury)

---

Champions League: FC Porto (AC Milan)

Europa League: Bayern Munich (Borussia Dortmund)

Super Cup: Barcelona (Man City)

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just read your career and it has been brilliant! Your progress with forest green is amazing. finishing top 3 times in a row is an incredible achievement.

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Thanks - I've never gotten three straight promotions on any version of the game, let alone three titles. I've also only ever gone from non-league to the Premiership once, and that was with Rovers on FM11.

Meanwhile Phillips has demanded a move to a bigger club. Will offer him out and see what I can get.

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2020 European Championships: France (Germany)

Germany make it back to back major tournament final losses, as Antoine Griezmann scores in the 112th minute for a 3-2 win.

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fgphillipstransfer.jpg

They probably have a point, but he gets his move to a bigger club and the club gets a reasonable deal given Phillips joined on a free initially. We also have a 15% sell on clause in place.

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2020/21 Season Preview - Forest Green Rovers - League One

200px-Forest_Green_Rovers_F.C._logo.jpg

Transfers

Media Prediction: 24th

Title Odds: Didn't catch them

Captain: Al Bangura

Vice-Captain: Andy Harris

---

The big story of the summer was the departure of Ramon Phillips. While we may have gotten a slightly lower price for the Welsh international, it is 100% profit and gives the player his desired chance in the Championship.

We have signed some excellent players and go into the season with what I believe is a strong squad...

Jacques Holmes - A great looking holding midfielder with plenty of experience at this level with Plymouth. At just 20 he looks like he could develop into a strong Championship standard player.

Richard Higton - Another handy looking player, will provide an option down the left and in the centre of midfield.

Remell Morris - Not the same class as the man he replaces, but he has pedigree, having scored 22 goals in the Conference last season for Woking.

Thulani Ngulube - Our only signing for a fee, the Scottish-born South African will provide competition at right back.

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And the man to replace Phillips is Graham Phelan, signed for £40K from Bohemians as his contract was running out.

He looks like he could become a leading Championship player with the right development, and he has gotten his Rovers career off to the best possible start:

fgwhelandebut.jpg

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Brilliant effort with the successive promotions, rather interesting to see FC United go up with you, don't they start in tier seven?

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They do, but they have a high reputation for obvious reasons.

As for the promotions, we've certainly benefited from some weak leagues which has allowed us to ride out the leaner periods. Still, it's something that I've never managed before. We lost 0-2 on the opening day of the League One season at Wycombe however, who had 20 shots to one, so we have a little while to go before we're a contender at this level. A finish in the 10-15 range would be great, especially with four relegation spots.

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Brilliant effort with the successive promotions, rather interesting to see FC United go up with you, don't they start in tier seven?

For interesting read annoying.

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What is annoying is our defending in League One. Appalling would be a better adjective for it. In Coton's case at least he can use the fact he's just 18 as an excuse, but I think a new keeper and a couple of new centre-halves will be on the shopping list.

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I think Phelan is auditioning for the role of Jorg Albertz. His left peg is an absolute cannon...

[video=youtube;9oop17jNns8]

[video=youtube;kaHuPE7O0bY]

[video=youtube;6F-epd2udLc]

And one fizzed along the carpet, just to mix things up a bit...

[video=youtube;lhZV-sIhrns]

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It appears Sinead O'Connor is in our youth intake this year...

fgsinead.jpg

Unfortunately, she is crap and won't be getting a contract.

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2020/21 - Forest Green Rovers - League One

200px-Forest_Green_Rovers_F.C._logo.jpg

League Table - Finances - Graph - Transfers

Season Review

If you'd have offered 8th place before the season I'd have snapped your hand off, but it certainly was slightly disappointing given we held a play-off spot up until the final day, and then could only draw 0-0 at already relegated Barnet to miss out by a point. We were actually 4th at one point but a tough run of games at the end of the season, plus a season-ending injury to Phelan, meant we limped home.

Certainly no complaints however, as we would've been fodder in the play-offs. We were very good at winning the games we were favoured in, however against the top few sides we were really found wanting. We also relied heavily on our home form, winning 14 games at home and only five away. Cups were a non-starter as usual.

The season ended on a sour note as I really cracked it and transfer-listed two of my three centre-halves, after one too many match ratings in the mid-fives.

Goal of the Season

[video=youtube;kaHuPE7O0bY]

Of all of Phelan's goals, this was the finest of the lot. 84th minute, 1-1, and he takes it in his own half, dribbles past a couple of unleashes a bullet from 20 yards to stun Wycombe.

Key Men

Graham Phelan - Is one season too early to dub someone 'talismanic'? Immediately upon his arrival Phelan was sensational, and was so often the difference in a 1-0 or 2-1 result. Of his 25 league goals, about five were tap-ins and the rest stunners.

Marcus Hewlett - 15 goals and eight assists represents a solid season in the support role, and he continued to be a workhorse up front. Unfortunately his wage demands make it unlikely he'll be at the club next campaign.

Shane Dunk - The former Stoke City youngster is really developing into a fine player, and notched a 'double double' in goals and assists. One of the few guys in the squad I feel could cope at the next level.

Richard Higton - He was an absolute menace down the left, leading the division with 20 assists and 4th with 2.88 successful dribbles per game.

Next Season...

If we can consolidate with another top half finish I'd be very happy. The squad still lacks quality in certain areas and needs a complete overhaul defensively, and if we were to somehow sneak another promotion we would get knocked about a lot. I think we're going to need another 2-3 seasons in this division.

----------

Swindon Supermarine

2011/12 - Evo-Stik Southern Premier - 1st (promoted as champions)

2012/12 - Blue Square South - 2nd (lost in play-off semis)

2013/14 - Blue Square South - 2nd (lost in play-off semis)

2014/15 - Blue Square South - 4th (play-off and FA Trophy finalists)

2015/16 - Blue Square South - 1st (promoted as champions)

2016/17 - Blue Square Premier - 9th (resigned)

Forest Green Rovers

2017/18 - Blue Square South - 1st (promoted as champions)

2018/19 - Blue Square Premier - 1st (promoted as champions)

2019/20 - League Two - 1st (promoted as champions)

2020/21 - League One - 8th

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2020/21

Charity Shield: West Ham (QPR)

Premiership: Man Utd (Brighton, Aston Villa, Leeds)

Championship: Sunderland; Blackburn, Leicester (Southampton, Wigan, Blackpool)

League One: Crystal Palace; Newport County, Crawley (Plymouth, Chesterfield, Barnet, Rochdale)

League Two: Bradford; Exeter, MK Dons, Carlisle (Burton, Fleetwood)

Conference Premier: Oldham; Woking (Bishop's Stortford, Kidderminster, Cheltenham, Walsall)

Conference North: Colwyn Bay; Accrington (Alfreton, Harrogate, Aylesbury Utd)

Conference South: Truro; Hayes & Yeading (Hampton & Richmond, Basingstoke, VCD Athletic)

Ryman Isthmian Premier: Maldon & Tiptree; Waltham Abbey (Grays, Faversham, Whitehawk, Bury Town)

Evo-Stik Northern Premier: Stafford; Worksop (Woodley Sports, Chorley, Ilkeston, Warrington)

Evo-Stik Southern Premier: Weston-super-Mare; Tiverton (Slough, Bideford, Frome, Halesowen)

Ryman Isthmian Division One North: Needham Market; Wivenhoe (Tilbury, Soham)

Ryman Isthmian Division One South: Horsham; Margate (Folkestone, East Thurrock)

Evo-Stik Division One North: Hyde; Frickley (Clitheroe, Goole)

Evo-Stik Division One South: Carlton Town; Witton Albion (Rainworth MW, Kidsgrove)

Evo-Stik Division One Central: Chalfont St. Peter; Hinckley (Aylesbury, Northwood)

Evo-Stik Division One South/West: Dorchester; Bridgwater (Thatcham, Salford)

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FA Cup: Liverpool (Tottenham)

League Cup: Arsenal (Stoke)

Johnstone's Paint: Rotherham (Barnet)

FA Trophy: Cambridge Utd (Chester)

---

Champions League: Marseille (Real Madrid)

Europa League: Juventus (Arsenal)

Super Cup: Bayern Munich (FC Porto)

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Id say this was a successful season by all means :)

Graham Phelan looks fantastic for the League One, and 25 goals just proved that!

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It was certainly a successful season, but just a bit of a sour end when we had a real chance at the play-offs.

---

Anyway, forum opinion time. Hewlett has left the club, and two of my longer term striking targets have become available on frees. The role to fill is the supporting striker, who takes the ball deeper and is an aerial threat at set pieces. Who would people go for?

Richard Hayes

fgrickhayes.jpg

A former QPR academy product, he spent last season with relegated Rochdale, scoring 15 goals. He is excellent in the air, strong and a good finisher, however he won't put his head in the tough places without a little hesitation. First touch and passing are also good for the role he would be asked to play.

Callum Walker

fgcalwalker.jpg

At just 20, he couldn't agree a new deal with Dag & Red and should find himself a league club. Walker is brave and aggressive when it comes to attacking the ball, and combines a great work rate with excellent stamina. He's scored 40 goals in the last two seasons, but his only league experience is a handful of games in League Two for Oldham as a 17-year-old.

Thoughts?

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Nothing compares to your posting, Nobby.

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2021/22 Season Preview - Forest Green Rovers - League One

200px-Forest_Green_Rovers_F.C._logo.jpg

Transfers

Media Prediction: 18th

Title Odds: 40/1

Captain: Al Bangura

Vice-Captain: Andy Harris

---

It's been a fairly quiet summer in terms of personnel changes, but all the players we signed will have a chance at making the first XI. I ended up going for Hayes up front, and also brought back one of my real life favourite players, Eddie Oshodi, to add some experience to the back four.

We also picked up a couple of genuinely exciting prospects...

Jake Bastow - The current England u19 international joins at the end of his contract with Bristol Rovers, and looks a fine player. His passing and stamina make him a perfect choice to lie deep in midfield and look to pick out passes.

Julian Heitmeier - Released by Dortmund, the German winger was on trial at Wrexham but was more than happy to sign a contract at The New Lawn.

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Some results just make every annoying thing in the game seem completely insignificant...

fgbournemouth.jpg

Second round of the Johnstone's Paint, and away to league leaders Bournemouth. They beat me three times last season, scoring 13 goals in the process, then played me off the park to beat me 0-1 in the league earlier this season.

We go up 2-0 early and are playing them off the park. Then they score four goals from four shots either side of half time. But we battle on, square it up, and just as it looks like going to pennos, up steps Phelan with a great diving header with ten seconds to go, completing his hat-trick in the process.

God, I need some new defenders though.

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cotonsigning.jpg

Really happy with this. He's still only 19, but has come of age and put together a really consistent season so far, made more impressive by the fact he hasn't had a stable defensive partner. A couple of Championship clubs are sniffing around, but if he goes it will be seven figures or close to it.

Also has made a couple of England u21 squads, without winning a cap yet.

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Epic Bournemouth game, and I imagine defenders that don't concede penalties would be great.

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I actually don't mind conceding penalties too much as at least it shows the defender is somewhere near an attacker, something mine don't often do.

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Well...

fgipswich.jpg

I've applied for this as it's a job that does interest me. I can see us staying in League One for a good few seasons yet, and Ipswich, while sitting 20th currently, provide a good challenge to consolidate and maybe push for promotion to the top flight.

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Unfortunately they opted to bring back Terry Butcher who is listed as an icon of the club.

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Great career here City! I'd say, however, it the job is offered, go for it. Its a club that is ready to rise and you with it.

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Thanks cerud, however they chose to re-appoint club icon Terry Butcher. I'm pretty happy to stick where I am, and when the Derby job came up a week later and I was again deemed the favourite, I kept well away. We're exactly halfway through the campaign and sit in a play-off spot, and if we can maintain our league position it would represent an excellent season for the club.

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Even if you get relegated you'd still be in a higher division than Forest Green, go for it I think.

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Just caught up on this. You have done amazingly well with Forest Green and deserve the opportunity at a higher level. I would take the Birmingham job.

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After going to Championship table-toppers Sheffield United and winning in the 3rd round, we somehow pulled this result out:

fgeverton.jpg

Enough to put us back in the black, with a home tie to come.

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We ended up going down 0-1 at home but drew a big gate, so good for the finances. Unfortunately they have slipped back into the red again, but at least they're manageable.

I decided to turn down the Birmingham job too, purely as I want to manage in the Championship as it's one of my favourite to manage in. I considered delaying the decision until the end of the season, but I'd rather build a side in the second tier than take one over looking to bounce straight back. That will in all likelihood still be Rovers.

I think the only Prem job I'd consider at this stage would be Fulham.

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40 played, and the top ten currently looks like this...

fgtableapril.jpg

So we're almost assured a play-off berth, but automatic promotion is unlikely. To be honest I think we'd get absolutely battered in the Championship, and even in this league we've put in some absolutely appalling displays, particularly defensively. However our strengths have been our ability to consistently pick up points against the lower teams, and also the fact that we've rarely lost more than one or two in a row, so the points have continued to mount. Surprisingly, our away form has been better than at home. We're also coming off a surprise 3-1 win at Exeter so confidence is building for the final run.

Good thing is we've already played Southampton, Bournemouth, Exeter and Blackpool twice.

Despite the money-spinners against Sheffield Utd and Everton x2, our finances are still staying around £200K in the red. I have passed up two excellent prospects on frees (including the next David James) as we can't afford to splash wages on squad luxuries at the moment.

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fgpromobattle.jpg

We have won our last six matches, while Bournemouth imploded with a couple of losses to poor sides. The equation is pretty simple: win two more and we're in the Championship.

Our last two fixtures are at home to Coventry and away to AFC Wimbledon, who are 13th and 22nd respectively, the latter almost certain to be relegated when we play them. The Cherries have two home games, but they are Blackpool and Exeter.

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And what do you know. Three points clear going into the final match against already relegated AFC Wimbledon...

fgwonbles.jpg

Entirely predictable but still annoying. Two 'match engine specials' (long clearance, defenders stand still or run the wrong way, striker goes through) had us struggling, and despite dominating possession and shots, we choke. So play-offs it is.

I think the most frustrating part was Bournemouth grabbed a 91st minute equaliser the previous round to prevent us being promoted.

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2021/22 - Forest Green Rovers - League One

200px-Forest_Green_Rovers_F.C._logo.jpg

League Table - Finances - Graph - Transfers

Season Review

A quite stunning season. For most of it, we were exactly where I wanted and expected us to be, which was around the edge of the play-off spots. We put in some terrible displays against the top sides and beat most of the sides around us, essentially establishing ourselves as a solid top-half team but not a genuine promotion contender.

We sat solidly in the top six after 30-odd games, before a run of three losses in five games, which included 2-5 at Southampton, 0-5 at Swindon and a 1-2 home loss to Wigan in which they could have scored ten. I have no idea what happened from here. We didn't change tactics or risk a team meeting, but we won our next seven league games, to take a three point lead over third-placed Bournemouth. As detailed above, we then proceeded to choke against a relegated side with nothing to play for, and missed out on automatic promotion on goal difference.

---

So we looked to bounce back against the manufactured abortion that is MK Dons. We hadn't lost to them in four attempts, or so the media told me. This counted for nothing as we conceded a 20-yarder in the first half. Bringing on Hayes after an hour was a master stroke, as he poached a brace to give us the ascendancy going into the home leg.

I expected our opposition to attack from the off, but surprisingly they never even threatened, as we maintained possession with ease for over an hour. We didn't score, but they didn't look like it either. Then came one of the moments that seem to frequent my FM play-off adventures. A long ball is pumped forward, well over the top of their striker, and my keeper collects. But what's this? My centre-half Lester has decided to pull back on said striker, 15 yards off the ball, and concede a penalty and get a red card in the process. So we're level on aggregate again, and a man down heading into an additional half hour. But Dunk slams home a header in the first half of extra time, we hold on, and a second choke is avoided.

We're up against Blackpool, who overcame an 0-1 home loss to Exeter in their semi-final to score with all five of their shots in the away leg. The game is at Wembley, but they are listed as the 'home' side, which always makes me nervous. Such nerves are calmed as Phelan jinks through a few defenders to open the scoring in the 22nd. He is truly brilliant. But they strike twice in five minutes soon after, and we go into the break a goal down and conceding far too many set pieces for my liking.

They continue to look the better side after the restart, before Phelan slots his second in a rare foray forward. 2-2. We start playing wider, and suddenly they can't cope with Dunk and Higton down the wings. The latter is set up by Phelan and makes no mistake to finish a stunning passing move. 15 to play and we're back in front. The expected onslaught isn't coming, and Higton grabs his second in the 84th with embarrassing ease. They've given up, and we look closer to a 5th than them a 3rd.

Goal of the Season

[video=youtube;EAO9XeFvQNw]

The decisive goal which broke a 2-2 deadlock in the final. We really do play some gorgeous football at times.

Key Men

I'm going to post a review of the full squad from the Play-off Final shortly, so stay tuned...

Next Season...

I fully expect to be relegated, and if you offered me 21st on goal difference I'd snap your hand off. Our performances against the top sides in League One don't bode at all well for a promotion, and we don't have the financial clout to get a lot of quality in. It may work to our advantage with familiarity, but I'll need at least two good centre-halves and a good holding midfielder. Hopefully the board will finally expand our scouting range so I can at least hunt for some cheaper foreign bargains.

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Swindon Supermarine

2011/12 - Evo-Stik Southern Premier - 1st (promoted as champions)

2012/12 - Blue Square South - 2nd (lost in play-off semis)

2013/14 - Blue Square South - 2nd (lost in play-off semis)

2014/15 - Blue Square South - 4th (play-off and FA Trophy finalists)

2015/16 - Blue Square South - 1st (promoted as champions)

2016/17 - Blue Square Premier - 9th (resigned)

Forest Green Rovers

2017/18 - Blue Square South - 1st (promoted as champions)

2018/19 - Blue Square Premier - 1st (promoted as champions)

2019/20 - League Two - 1st (promoted as champions)

2020/21 - League One - 8th

2021/22 - League One - 3rd (promoted via play-offs)

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2021/22

Charity Shield: Man Utd (Liverpool)

Premiership: Arsenal (Newcastle, Leicester, Sunderland)

Championship: Brighton; Aston Villa, Huddersfield (Barnsley, Newport County, Crawley)

League One: Southampton; Bournemouth, Forest Green (Preston, AFC Wimbledon, Wycombe, Carlisle)

League Two: Plymouth; Gillingham, York, Chesterfield (Northampton, Morecambe)

Conference Premier: Chester; Colwyn Bay (Lincoln, Kettering, Hayes & Yeading, Stalybridge)

Conference North: Blyth Spartans; Stafford (Gainsborough, Southport, Walsall)

Conference South: Eastleigh; Eastbourne Boro (Maldon & Tiptree, Tiverton, Kingstonian)

Ryman Isthmian Premier: Canvey Island; Sutton Utd (Wivenhoe, Whyteleafe, Braintree, Dulwich Hamlet)

Evo-Stik Northern Premier: Stafford; Worksop (Frickley, Lancaster City, Carlton Town, Witton Albion)

Evo-Stik Southern Premier: Basingstoke; North Greenford (Dorchester, Brackley, Chalfont St. Peter, Bridgwater)

Ryman Isthmian Division One North: Bury Town; Uxbridge (AFC Hayes, Waltham Forest)

Ryman Isthmian Division One South: Maidstone; Ashford Town (Met Police, Corinthian-Casuals)

Evo-Stik Division One North: Chorley; Burscough (Trafford, Brigg)

Evo-Stik Division One South: Newcastle Town; Ilkeston (Shepshed, Atherstone)

Evo-Stik Division One Central: Halesowen; Hemel Hempstead (Sutton Coldfield, North Leigh)

Evo-Stik Division One South/West: Frome; Bashley (Sholing, Biggleswade Town)

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FA Cup: West Ham (Middlesbrough)

League Cup: Chelsea (Tottenham)

Johnstone's Paint: Stockport (Salisbury)

FA Trophy: AFC Telford (Oxford City)

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Champions League: Sevilla (AC Milan)

Europa League: West Ham (Internazionale)

Super Cup: Juventus (Marseille)

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Okay, for the player review, I'm going to list the starting XI and subs from the Play-off Final, with a review of their performance in the final and also the season on a whole. Please note this does not include regular defenders Dave Lester and Thulani Ngulube, who missed the final due to suspension and international commitments respectively.

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Starting XI

GK: Bo Nøhr - 6.8 rating, 3 saves, 2 conceded

Our reliable 'keeper could do nothing about either goal, but made a couple of key second half saves. On the season he was very solid, notching up his 200th club appearance and being called up by Denmark several times, without actually making his international debut.

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LB: Adama Kader - 6.2 rating, 3 interceptions

Third choice at the position, he was forced to fill in and was quite poor. He is a back-up at best and it showed, and his season was unspectacular. Did the job when required on a few occasions though.

DCL: Eddie Oshodi - 6.8 rating, 15/17 passes completed

Eddie was solid enough, as he was all season. Had a few 'mares along the way but his form improved dramatically when he was moved to left-back in the final third of the campaign.

DCR: Kenny Coton - 6.9 rating, 8 interceptions, 6/6 headers won

Had a reasonable final, particularly the second half. Overall a very solid season from the youngster, and he was excellent in our April charge to promotion. He "rallied the troops" before each of our final three league matches, and will be promoted to vice-captain next season with a view to succeeding Bangura.

DR: Andy Harris - 7.1 rating, 7 interceptions, 6/7 tackles won

Probably our best defender on the day. Had his usual no-fuss season, and has been with us since the Conference South. Valuable as he can play both full-back spots.

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CM: Al Bangura - 6.7 rating, 22/25 passes completed (sub off 69 min)

He was a bit of a passenger in the final, as we lost the midfield battle in the first half. Still, his season was solid and he remains an important dressing room figure. Notched up 400 league appearances for the club too.

CM: Jake Bastow - 6.9 rating, 36/41 passes completed, 4 interceptions

Managed to get more of a hold on the game than his midfield partner, but his performance summed up his season, in that he didn't do as much as expected. Still, he is very young and has a lot of promise.

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AML: Richard Higton - 8.8 rating, 2 goals, Man of the Match

Had a blinding final, scoring the third and fourth goals and generally running riot down the left. He has this ridiculous ability to get his crosses in, which resulted in 17 assists in only 32 starts.

AMR: Shane Dunk - 8.4 rating, 2 assists, 5/5 headers won (sub off 84 min)

Caused no end of problems down the right, in an appropriate postscript to his winning goal in the semi-final. At 193cm, he is part of an FM12 trend of illogically tall wingers, but 18 goals and 12 assists established himself as one of the hottest prospects outside the top flight.

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SC: Graham Phelan - 8.8 rating, 2 goals, 1 assist

Just magical. Scored a brilliant solo opener, then got us back on level terms early in the second half. In total he grabbed 27 goals and set up another 17 in a devastating campaign, earning himself a debut call-up to Ireland's World Cup squad.

AML: Richard Hayes - 6.8 rating, 19/23 passes completed (sub off 90 min)

He has a very quiet final, but his goals got us here in the first place. 20 goals and 10 assists represents a very good first season in black and white.

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Subs

Craig Campbell - 6.9 rating (on 69 min)

He really did change the momentum, as we got a foothold in midfield after he came on and ended up scoring twice. Had a good season and Championship football should boost his development nicely.

Remell Morris - (on 84 min)

Came on at 4-2 so not much time to make an impact, but 17 goals made him a lethal sub, with at least half coming in his 22 appearances off the bench. Scored a number of equalisers or winners and will continue that role next season.

Nicolai Risvig - (on 90 min)

He's a favourite of mine, but he barely played all season and only got on at the end as a token gesture. Has been a fine player but his level is probably League Two.

Julian Heitmeier - (unused sub)

Unlucky not to get on the field, but he announced himself as a very exciting prospect who will get plenty of opportunities to build his career here.

Kyle Coady - (unused sub)

Back-up keeper, only made three appearances. He has some talent but if I don't sell him, he'll be loaned out next season.

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2022 World Cup: Spain (Uruguay)

The Spaniards are far too good, even being afforded the luxury of missing a penalty in their 3-0 romp. Man City's workhorse midfielder Ángel Losa grabs a brace.

Meanwhile, Australia cap off a two year period where they've dropped from 19th to 56th in the world with a third straight group stage exit. Yet the job is still not available.

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2022/23 Season Preview - Forest Green Rovers - Championship

200px-Forest_Green_Rovers_F.C._logo.jpg

Transfers

Media Prediction: 24th

Title Odds: 40/1

Board expectation: Avoid relegation

Captain: Al Bangura

Vice-Captain: Kenny Coton

We are quite predictably the least favoured team in the division, and getting off to a good start will be crucial. Coton is promoted to vice-captain, primarily to groom him for the captaincy when Bangura retires, but also because I was impressed with his leadership at the tail end of last season.

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A fairly solid off-season and some really good players brought in. It didn't start well when the board advised that they expected us to avoid relegation at the very least, then gave me a total wage budget which is less than title favourites Newcastle are spending on a single full-back! I could have gotten more funds but didn't want to commit to a mid-table finish, although signing a new two-year deal gives me some security.

The biggest bonus was having the scouting range increased to cover all of Europe. As such, my scouts found a few players who had been released by bigger clubs on the continent and I was able to strengthen without splashing out heavily on transfer fees. Lester and Risvig left to clear up some wage budget, while I also sold a sell-on clause I had from a previous transfer for Jacob Holmes to Wrexham, and this went towards the wage budget too.

First came Ed Groves for £5K from Barnsley. Surprisingly he can't play centrally given his height and physicals, but he immediately strengthens left-back which has been a problem position for us. Next in was Mihailo Tisma who was released by Cardiff, after only making two league starts in two seasons (and scoring three goals).

Rennes then gave me a gift, releasing 19-year-old Alain Owona, who has the potential to be a Premiership standard central midfielder and should prove a danger from set pieces. From the same French scouting trip comes young Qatar international Fahad Al-Ansari, who will provide genuine competition in goal after being released by PSG.

Despite the above signings, central defence remained a big problem. Polish u21 captain Maciej Machaj signed cheaply but still looks a rotation option at best, and all my other targets wanted wages too high, even free-agent veterans looking for one final club.

Then, a week out from the new season, one my scouts in Croatia found an absolute gem in Luka Marsic plying his trade at Varazdin in the Croatian third division. As we go into our first league match he is still considering a contract offer after a £60K bid was accepted, so hopefully he is available for our first away fixture at Leyton Orient in a week's time, where he can mark club favourite Martyn Rooney.

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We kick off the season at home to Bournemouth, very aware that games against the fellow unfancieds will define our season. We are also temporarily ground-sharing with Swindon Town as the New Lawn is expanded to comply with league requirements.

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