Can Forest Green survive in League Two?
By Simeon Gholam
Last Updated: 22/09/17 8:11pm
The smallest club ever to play in the Football League, Forest Green Rovers face a battle to maintain that status as they adjust to life in Sky Bet League Two.
Despite existing for more than 100 years, 2017 was the first time that the little village club from Nailsworth - with a population of just over 5,000 - managed to find their way up into the professional leagues, via the play-offs and Wembley last season.
Even before promotion, the club have become famous in recent times for their owner Dale Vince, a millionaire businessman who has turned Forest Green into a green club famous for vegan burgers and an ecological image.
Vince has spoken in the past of ambitions to lead them even higher. But it's been a tough start to life in the EFL.
Eight games so far have yielded just one win, and a defeat of any kind at home to Swindon on Friday night - live on Sky Sports Football from 7pm - will see them drop into the relegation zone. They're currently above the line on goals scored.
Despite that, boss Mark Cooper is not worried. "I don't think you get a true reflection of the table until fifteen or so games," he said.
"This is a start, but we have to maintain that commitment we showed in the Lincoln game (a 1-0 home loss). We need to stop making silly mistakes and we will be fine. We won't steer too far away from our principles, but we are trying to play the best way to win a game."
Forest Green were so close to the perfect start on opening day. Two goals from Christian Doidge had them in control against Barnet at the break, but they eventually let the lead slip into a draw.
An early exit in their first Carabao Cup outing swiftly followed as they lost to MK Dons, before reality set in with a 2-0 loss at pre-season League Two favourites Mansfield.
Forest Green soon bounced back, though, as they recorded their first Football League victory, clawing their way back from 3-1 down to beat Yeovil 4-3 in an epic encounter at The New Lawn.
Unfortunately, though, it wasn't a sign of things to come. Four league defeats in a row followed before an important 1-1 draw at Port Vale, one of two clubs currently below them in the table.
Vince was positive of more progress in pre-season. "League Two is the first big step for us," he told Sky Sports News last month. "We want to be a Championship football club in a few years time. That's been our ambition since getting started here a few years ago.
"We hope to do well in League Two but we won't be in a hurry, in the same way in which we weren't in a hurry to leave non-league. We want to do it right and take sustainable steps so that as we move on we can sustain ourselves in the higher leagues."
It's no surprise that sustainability is the buzz word of a man like Vince. But if he doesn't know already then he'll soon learn that the EFL is a brutal place and one that doesn't wait around for you to find your feet.
If there are real ambitions for Forest Green to keep on moving up, then three points against Swindon would be a great place to start.
Don't miss the Sky Bet League Two clash between Forest Green and Swindon on Friday night, live on Sky Sports Football from 7pm.