A win is overdue
By Keith Brookman
Watch out Forest Green Rovers should be the message emanating from the Rovers camp this week, as we look for our first home win on the opening day of a season since 2001/02 when a Steve Foster goal was enough to see off Torquay United.
A crowd of over 10,000 were at the Memorial Stadium to see that game, which marked the return of Gerry Francis for his second stint as manager.
Saturday’s game brings to an end a run of six consecutive away games on the opening day of a new campaign; the last time we were at home was against Northampton Town back in 2015/16 and guess what? We lost that one as well!
You have to go back to 2011 for our last opening day win, and that was against AFC Wimbledon, which was our first game under Paul Buckle and that was probably as good as it got for him!
(image courtesy of Neil Brookman)
Traditionally, of course, the first day of a new season is also a day for debuts when summer signings make their first league appearance for their new club.
Last season no fewer that nine players appeared in a league match for Rovers for the first time, namely; Harry Anderson, Nicki Anderton, Trevor Clarke, Paul Coutts, Luca Hoole, Mark Hughes, Harvey Saunders, Connor Taylor and Luke Thomas.
That didn’t quite match the 11 players handed their debut by Buckle in that match against AFC Wimbledon in 2011, when three of them, Scott McGleish, Matt Harrold and Adam Virgo also scored their first goals for the club in a 3-2 win. It’s obvious that there won’t be so many opening day ‘first timers’ this time around!
(image courtesy of Alan Marshall)
To summarise, since the year 2000 our four opening day wins have been against Torquay United (2001/02), Scunthorpe United (2003/04), Mansfield Town (2004/05) and AFC Wimbledon (2011/12) while there have been draws against AFC Bournemouth (2000/01), Barnet (2005/06), Port Vale (2007/08), Grimsby Town (2014/15), and Sunderland (2020/21).
That means there have been 13 opening day defeats in the same period, though it’s not all bad news because we have won four promotions in the period covered and not won on the opening day of any of those campaigns!
We have met Peterborough United on the opening day on three occasions during that time, and lost every game!
Joe Barton is the twelfth manager to take charge of a Rovers opening day fixture this millennium, following in the footsteps of Ian Holloway, Gerry Francis, Ray Graydon, Ian Atkins, Paul Trollope, Paul Buckle, Mark McGhee, John Ward, Darrell Clarke, Graham Coughlan and Ben Garner.
Only Francis, Graydon, Atkins and Buckle have won opening day games since 2000 so let’s hope that Barton will be in charge of a first day win for the first time since 2011 when he sees his side take on Forest Green at the Mem.
We are overdue another opening day victory, though if we lose and gain another promotion, I doubt if any of us will complain!