Fergsuon 'devastated' after losing first game as FGR boss

‘It’s a really hard one to take’: Duncan Ferguson ‘devastated’ after losing his first game as Forest Green Rovers boss thanks to two stoppage time goals from Shrewsbury, but adds he ‘absolutely loved being back on the touchline’

  • Forest Green Rovers were beaten 2-1 by Shrewsbury in their League One clash
  • Shrews snatched win after goals in fourth and eighth minute of stoppage time 
  • The loss came in Duncan Ferguson’s first game in charge of the Green

Duncan Ferguson’s phone had been buzzing relentlessly for 48 hours and not even a night spent pacing the floor provided time to clear the digital backlog.

As soon as news broke that he had been named the manager of Forest Green Rovers, the ping-ping-ping of messages started. Carlo Ancelotti and his son Davide, with whom Ferguson had such a rapport at Everton, both sent their well wishes, as did countless others.

There is a huge amount of goodwill towards Ferguson, with many eager to see him succeed at the League One club, but those who typed out their good wishes to him were going to have to wait for a reply. For this, he felt he had to apologise but, really, there was no need.

Duncan Ferguson led Forest Green Rovers to a 2-1 defeat in his first game as manager

Ferguson is an open book with his emotions and just as his celebrations after he led Everton to a 3-1 win over Chelsea as caretaker boss in December 2019 will never be forgotten — when he picked up ball-boys and twirled them in delight — the same will be true for his reaction to this stomach-churning 2-1 loss at Shrewsbury.

‘The nerves I had before were exactly the same as that first Everton game,’ said Ferguson, in that broad Glaswegian burr. ‘I was just as bad, absolutely. It does nae matter what level of football you are at, does it? We wanted to win.

‘It’s exciting times, I’d hardly slept for three days. I won’t be able to sleep after this, I promise you. I’m not sure I can bring myself to look back on it, to be fair. I’ve had hundreds of messages and I want to thank everyone.’

It came after Ryan Bowman scored a winner in the eighth minute of stoppage time for Shrews

It will be fascinating to see how he progresses. Some would never regard Ferguson as a deep thinker but this is a man who chronicled every coaching session he was involved in at Everton from David Moyes and Roberto Martinez through to Sam Allardyce, Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez.

Shrewsbury, a proper football club, well managed by the wily Steve Cotterill, had too much at the end on Saturday and their persistence led to goals in the 94th and 98th minutes from Rekeil Pyke and Ryan Bowman, leaving Ferguson — whose side led through a brilliant Jordon Garrick strike — numb.

But this setback need not puncture the hope that Ferguson’s appointment has brought to Forest Green and their colourful chairman Dale Vince. Fewer than 200 tickets had been sold for the trip to Shrewsbury last Thursday morning; by kick-off 382 fans had travelled from Gloucestershire.

Rovers led for much of the game until Rekeil Pyke equalised in the fourth added minute

He has brought good people with him, such as his knowledgeable assistant Tony Grant and Danny Donachie, the respected former head of physiotherapy at Everton, and Ferguson has a raft of contacts he can reach out to when advice is required.

None of them, however, would have been able to find the words to provide comfort as he made his way home from Shropshire for another sleepless night. Football is all-consuming for Ferguson and, as such, the pain these days is just a little bit more intense.

‘We’re just devastated, aren’t we? I absolutely loved it, it was great to be back on the touchline. But what can I say? We’ve conceded two goals in the 94th minute and the 98th minute. It’s a hard one to take. A really hard one to take.

Ferguson said he was ‘devastated’ at the result but ‘loved’ being back on the touchline

‘I felt very comfortable. The boys have been great, the staff have been great and everyone gave me a good shift. I was really happy with their effort and we just came up short, didn’t we?’

He paused.

‘It was just unbelievable, wasn’t it?’ asking the question, as if he still couldn’t comprehend what had happened. 

‘But you know football, don’t you? It happens. This will be with me for ever. My first day and I’ve found a loss in the 94th and 98th minute.’

Ferguson paused again but no more words were necessary. Welcome to the brutal world of management.

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