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Gloucestershire Football: 
A Beginner's Guide

Few people from outside God's own County realise how competitive Gloucestershire football actually is. While the County is generally better known for rugby this is neither as traditional or as dominant as many believe. While no football side is at the pinnacle of the sport in the same way Gloucester's rugby club is in terms of popular involvement football is without doubt the more popular game. However whilst many rugby fans follow a local side the local football teams struggle with the Premiership scourge as children follow the sides they see on television rather than their local team. This leaves a huge potential support, but in reality a lot of local teams are fighting amongst themselves for the same pool of players and supporters. A look at a map of Gloucester City's catchment area shows the potential competition:

Gloucestershire Football Map

As can be seen once the nearby clubs from outside the County borders are added there are loads of teams trying to stuff their hands into the same money pot. The local professional clubs are obviously ahead of the non-league sides, their existence actually benefits City who get players rejected by them who are still top quality performers at our level, as exemplified by Gary Thorne and Jon Holloway. City benefit from having a well connected and high profile manager in Leroy Rosenior who is kept informed of possible availability at Bristol Rovers and Swindon as well as former club Bristol City.

Of more concern to City should be the local Conference sides, especially since Forest Green have added themselves to Hereford and Ch@#ltenham above us in the pecking order. These sides can obviously offer a higher standard of football, and normally larger crowds too. While some players may filter back down to City it is more likely the transfer traffic will be in the other direction with the Conference sides well positioned to cream off our better players. Of equal danger is the loss of some spectators, while a loyal hard core will stick at Meadow Park no matter what there are plenty of neutral fans who may be lured to travel that bit further for a slightly higher standard of play. All this underlines why City cannot afford to be third in the Gloucestershire pecking order for long. While City are used to being seen as the underdog against Ch@#tenham, the Forest Green situation makes things very awkward. The Nailsworth side are traditionally the third side, and there new status is an obvious threat to Gloucester. Promotion next season could be vital- we certainly stand to lose out without it.

Underneath the Conference a host of clubs in the area compete for quality players to lift their Southern League sides. Gloucester City find themselves competing against other local DML Premier sides for a small crop of talent, but Merthyr, Bath and Worcester are probably just about far enough away to keep recruitment down to a civilised level, although Rosenior's poaching of Molloy and Wyatt suggests Gloucester are well placed to compete in this market for the time being. The clubs are far enough away to mean they are not likely to be fighting over players at youth level or over fans.

The other local sides should on the face of things be small enough to not be a threat to City. However it shouldn't be forgotten that until a few seasons ago that was how we thought of Forest Green. Most of the sides in the lower echelons of the Southern League act as useful conduits of local talent for City. However the worrying form of Evesham, Cinderford, Cirencester, Yate and Witney suggest there is indeed a dearth of real talent in the local area, while the imminent folding of Trowbridge show the perils competing at this level can present for the less successful sides. Complacency could cost City dear, Cinderford now have John Murphy as manager with his wealth of local contacts, while the arrival of former City youth coach Geoff Medcroft alongside him at The Causeway could well be a threat to City's access to local young players. Further south the resurgence of Clevedon Town could pose a threat to City's steady supply of the better players from the Bristol area.

So all in all City face a difficult task to survive, never mind progress, in such a crowded market area. However looking ahead there is no need to be defeatist. If City can be successful they pull in crowds that dwarf those of Ch@#tenham, the potential at Gloucester City is frightening. The city could easily support League football, but we need to be the first to get there and the race is very much on with us a lap behind. Forest Green will not be able to continue their momentum for long, the money will go and the crowds will collapse back down to the 300s once they stop winning. Ch@#tenham are obviously a good side but are unlikely to reach the League unless the big sides unexpectedly struggle next season. City must strike quickly, but with the quality of our squad we should be pushing for promotion this season. The prospect of a Conference Division 2 also offers a lifeline, and more incentive to put ourselves in contention for the proposed league by grabbing a top 6 finishing spot.

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