Forest Green Rovers: Big signings but not big spending
FOREST Green manager Dave Hockaday feels it is unfair to brand his club the big spenders of the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Previously renowned as a village outfit punching above their weight, Rovers have made the league sit up and take notice this summer with a string of high-profile signings.
Four new forwards have arrived in the shape of Magno Vieira, Phil Marsh, Ben Wright and Omar Koroma, but Hockaday is keen to point out that the size of his squad has actually diminished since the final game of 2011/12.
Jeffrey Imudia, Callum Henry, Curtis McDonald, Jake Thomson, Michael Pook, Charlie Griffin, Michael Uwezu and Tommy Wright have all been released, while on-loan striker Liam Henderson has returned to parent club York City.
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Goalkeeper James Bittner has also been made available on a free transfer, so any suggestions of player overload at the New Lawn are wide of the mark.
Hockaday said: "What we've done is got rid of nine players and brought in four, so we're actually reducing the size of the squad.
"The good thing is that every single member of that squad, without exception, I could play on a Saturday and have the utmost faith in them.
"We're paying reasonable money but not top money like some clubs whose names I won't mention.
"What we're offering is security and a long-term vision with two or three-year contracts, and anybody wanting to sign our players will have to offer serious money to break those contracts."
Bittner was loaned out to AFC Totton last February following the signing of Sam Russell from Darlington, but he still has a year left to run on his contract. Hockaday hopes either a permanent or loan move can be arranged for the 30-year-old, but would otherwise welcome him back for pre-season training on June 28.
"We've put James' name out there and he's available on a free transfer or a 12-month loan," he said.
"He has been great for us but we went and got Sam and I believe he has taken us to a new level. James appreciates that and he wants to find himself another club – he's got another ten years to play.
"We'll help him as much as we can, but in the meantime he's a Forest Green Rovers player and if injuries or form dictate things he is available for selection."
Meanwhile Rovers have confirmed they will host a pre-season friendly against Championship side Cardiff City on Saturday, July 28.
Rovers' pre-season programme includes home matches against two other Football League opponents in Swindon Town and Wycombe Wanderers.
FGR PRE-SEASON SCHEDULE: Tues, July 10 – Brimscombe & Thrupp (a) 7.45pm; Sat, July 14 – North Leigh (a) 3pm; Tues, July 17 – Cirencester Town (a) 7.30pm; Weds, July 18 – Wycombe Wanderers (h) 7.30pm; Fri, July 20 – Shortwood United (a) 7.30pm; Tues, July 24 – Swindon Town (h) 7.45pm; Sat, July 28 – Cardiff City (h) 3pm; Tues, July 31 – Slimbridge (a) 7.30pm; Fri, Aug 3 – Wealdstone (a) 7.30pm.