The tiny town dreaming of the Football League

Keanu Marsh-Brown

Keanu Marsh-Brown’s goal earned Forest Green a 2-1 aggregate victory over Dover in the semi-finals

Forest Green Rovers will join the Football League for the first time in their history if they can overcome Grimsby Town in Sunday’s National League promotion final.

But just how much do you know about the world’s “greenest” football club?

BBC Sport looks at five things you may not be aware of about the non-league outfit, founded in 1889.

The smallest town with a league side?


Forest Green moved into The New Lawn in 2006 after leaving their old Lawn Ground, which was a few hundred yards away on the Nympsfield Road

If Forest Green do triumph at Wembley on Sunday, one Football League record will be broken.

The Gloucestershire town of Nailsworth, where Rovers are based, would become the smallest settlement to ever host a Football League club.

With a population of just 5,794, Nailsworth is home to around double the crowd that attended the second leg of Rovers’ 2-1 aggregate play-off semi-final win over Dover at The New Lawn.

Plans for an ‘Eco Park’


The new development dubbed ‘Eco Park’ is expected to cost around £100m

Last July, Forest Green unveiled plans for a new stadium within an ‘Eco Park’, to be ready later this decade.

Owner Dale Vince ambitiously and confidently declared that Forest Green “will be” a Football League club by the time they eventually move in.

The plans for an all-seater stadium and a 100-acre sports and green technology centre – all next to junction 13 of the M5 – have impressed supporters.

Similarities can certainly be drawn with Gloucestershire’s newest ‘environmentally-friendly’ service station, nearby on the same stretch of motorway, serving locally-sourced food, and this new stadium is part of Vince’s vision for a green club.

But their existing ground is hardly a menace to the environment…

An ‘organic’ playing surface

For example, in December 2012, the club won an award for growing a pitch without using chemicals.

The ‘organic’ playing surface, spread with cow manure, is thought to be the first in the world.

The surface was criticised by former manager Ady Pennock this season.

But with solar panels powering the electricity at The New Lawn and the club even using a solar-powered lawn mower to trim the grass, Vince has gone all-out in his aim to be the greenest club on the planet.

No red meat


The humble steak pie is not on the menu at The New Lawn, although meat-free alternatives are available

Should Forest Green achieve promotion, fans of League Two clubs visiting the Gloucestershire side next season won’t be seeing beef burgers and steak pies on the menu at The New Lawn.

That’s because owner Vince has introduced vegan-only food for supporters.

But the players themselves are banned from eating red meat and dietary habits have been known to be a factor during recruitment.

Then, add all the above to a philosophy of ‘Moneyball’, using statistics to determine which players to sign, and you have one very unique football club.

Just who is the manager?


New Rovers boss Mark Cooper (left) will be watching on as caretaker Scott Bartlett (right) leads the team at Wembley

When Forest Green sacked boss Pennock to “boost their chances in the play-offs” just one week before the first leg of their semi-final against Dover, eyebrows were certainly raised.

A seven-match winless run did suggest some problems, but the team had just achieved their highest ever league finish.

However, caretaker boss Scott Bartlett has guided the team safely past Dover over two legs, after a league win against the same opponents in the final match of the regular season.

On Monday, former Swindon Town manager Mark Cooper was announced as Forest Green’s boss for next season after leaving Notts County.

In departing Meadow Lane after just 10 matches, Cooper may have left the oldest club in the Football League to join its newest member.

But what role will he play at Wembley? Owner Vince says Cooper will “share his experiences” of last year’s League One play-off final with Swindon, but Bartlett will be the man in charge this Sunday.

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