Located in the small town of Nailsworth Gloucestershire, Forest Green Rovers was established in 1889 representing the Forest Green area of Nailsworth. The name rovers was adopted in 1893, and a year later the club became members of the Mid Gloucestershire League.
The club’s first ever match was a 1-1 draw with fellow Stroud side Brimscombe, and Rovers would go on to finish their debut season in third place.
Nailsworth finally became an urban district in 1894, and there was a huge effort from the local community to ensure that a football team represented the 5800 populated town.
This led to Rovers altering their name to Nailsworth Association Football Club and local members of the Nailsworth community replaced many players. The club continued to play at the original Lawn Ground stadium in Forest Green. However, the club withdrew from the league during the 1896-97 season.
In 1911 Forest Green merged with Nailsworth to form Nailsworth and Forest Green United. The club remained at the Lawn Ground and would go on to play in the Stroud & District League.
The next seventy years would see the club progress through Stroud’s regional leagues before they would finally earn promotion to the Hellenic Premier Division in 1975 under the management of Peter Goring.
In 1989 the club was renamed Stroud Football Club. However, mid-table finishes eventually resulted in spells flirting with relegation. The Nailsworth based club would revert to their original name six years later although further struggles would continue for Rovers until they were transferred to the Southern Division in 1995.
A debut season in the Southern Division saw Forest Green finish eighth under Frank Gregan in the 1995/96 season. A solid start to life in a new league was followed by a dream campaign for the Nailsworth locals as Rovers would go on the win the 1996/97 Southern League and would earn promotion to the Football Conference.
Forest Green’s early years in the Conference saw them established as regulars in the fifth tier of English football. However, eight years after their promotion Rovers would be relegated from the Conference after finishing 20th In the 2004/05 season.
A nightmare season was somewhat saved after Rovers relegation was eventually reprieved after Northwich Victoria were demoted due to issues with their stadium. Five years later and Forest Green were once again relegated from the Conference but were once again saved by another reprieve as Salisbury City were expelled for breaking financial rules.
The club’s transformation would take its biggest step yet as Rovers were taken over by Ecotricity owner and multi-millionaire Dale Vince.
Vince’s introduction to the club saw him attempt to make the club more eco-friendly, including removing red meat from player’s diets, banning the sales of red meats in the ground as well as treating the pitch with organic fertiliser.
The introduction of Vince to the New Lawn Stadium saw an immediate improvement on the pitch for Rovers. The 2014/15 season saw the club qualify for the National League play-offs for the first time in their history after finishing fifth. However, a 3-0 aggregate defeat to Bristol Rovers ended any hopes of promotion that season.
The following campaign saw Forest Green finish runners-up in the league, qualifying them for the play-offs once again. A first-ever trip to Wembley for Rovers ended in heartache for the Nailsworth club as a 3-1 defeat to Grimsby saw them fall short of League Two once again.
However, the following season would finally end years of hurt for the world’s first vegan football club as the introduction of former Swindon Town manager Mark Cooper would see Rovers promoted to League Two after a third-place finish and a 3-1 aggregate play-off win against Dagenham Redbridge saw Forest Green with another day of destiny at Wembley with the side hoping for a change of fortune.
The opponents for Cooper’s side were National League runners-up Tranmere Rovers and Forest Green would see the most significant day in the club’s history as a 3-1 victory would see Rovers promoted to League Two. This historic achievement made Nailsworth the smallest town to ever host a Football League club.
Forest Green’s debut season in League Two saw them finish their 2017/18 campaign in 21st, accumulating a total of 47 points, enough to see them avoid the drop.
A slow start to League Two saw Rovers win only one of their 13 opening league fixtures. This led to the club sitting rock bottom of the table with just six points from a possible 39.
However, a 1-0 away win at the Ricoh Arena saw Forest Green victorious against promotion pushers Coventry City, and it would inspire Cooper’s side to three successive victories.
The club’s league survival was a reasonable achievement for Rovers considering their lack of experience in League Two, and with the backing of Dale Vince in the transfer market, Rovers could become a real force next season.
A personal highlight for the Nailsworth faithful would be an away victory over Gloucestershire rivals Cheltenham Town in April. Despite only finishing a point from the drop, Forest Green will feel there’s plenty to build on in the upcoming campaign.
Rovers striker Christian Doidge was the standout player in the club’s individual awards as the 25-year-old would scoop the Supporters and Players Player of the Season award, as well as taking home the Golden Boot with 20 goals.
Macclesfield wins: 1
Games drawn: 1
Forest Green Rovers wins: 1
How to get there
Car: When planning a trip here, don’t try and find Forest Green on your map, look up Nailsworth, south of Stroud in Gloucestershire. The best way to approach is from the M5 and exit at junction 13 and head for Stroud on the A419. At Stroud turn onto the A46 towards Nailsworth. This will bring you into the centre of the town when you reach the Information Centre take the first right at the mini roundabout into Spring Hill, which goes up a steep hill sign posted Forest Green. The Lawn is at the top of this hill. Turn left at the roundabout at the 'summit' into the stadium entrance. There is no parking available in the club car park for visiting fans unless you are a blue badge holder who has pre-booked a space. A short distance away down Nympsfield Road is Nailsworth Primary School which offers parking at £5 per car. Otherwise, there is plenty of on-street parking in the area, although please be considerate to local residents.
Train: If traveling by public transport the closest train station is Stroud. Walk 3mins from the station to the bus stop outside Merrywalks Shopping Centre and catch the 63 bus to Forest Green which takes approx. 30mins.