Returning Tigers Are Desperate To Make Up For A Lot Of Lost Time

It was the enduring image that dragged sympathy from even the most stone-hearted of football fans.

The flood water so high it kissed the crossbar, Gloucester City’s Meadow Park came under siege when Severn Trent Water’s treatment works was breached by a 12-hour downpour.

Their historic home damaged beyond repair, a club left in tatters by an unforgiving summer deluge.

The city’s submerged football ground resembled a swimming pool. But there was no orange life-ring on hand, nearly destroying the club as well as gutting the stadium.

Getting on for 5,000 days later, and with thousands of miles travelled by fans to home games in the 13 years since, their homecoming parade is nearing its start.

You only get one go at a comeback, so you may as well do it properly.

Gloucester fans are not only counting down the days until they return, but they are building a squad which looks certain to draw the crowds as they work their way towards full-time football.

Chester’s 18-goal striker Akwasi Asante is now theirs, while Solihull Moors’ talented midfielder George Carline is also on board.

Classy Fabien Robert, electric winger Bernard Mensah and experienced Liam Daly already provide a spine to a squad which have many in the National League North talking.

James Rowe will be the man leading them home and thinks the new stadium and its location will help build a big future for a club on its knees since 2007.

“There’s a buzz, a genuine excitement that the club is at last coming home,” the former Aldershot assistant told us.

“The new stadium has a 3G pitch and it’s our belief that will engage everyone. We not only have a boys’ academy, but a womens’ academy as well. It will be a club again.

“Just take a look at others who have turned their stadium into a community home. Sutton United and Bromley now play in front of big crowds, and Maidstone United - similar to us - were transformed when they returned to the town.

“We’ve lost a generation of fans, but we’re determined to win them back.

“They are there. Yes, Gloucester is a huge rugby city but there are football people in it who have lost out on watching the team for a decade.

“I’m proud to be the one to be managing the club in their first years back and we’re up for the challenge of making up for that lost time.”

The nomadic Tigers have played home games at Cheltenham Town's Whaddon Road, after three seasons sharing at Cirencester Town. Forest Green Rovers' New Lawn also came to their rescue before another pit-stop at Evesham United.

Rowe, in his first number one role, says Eamonn McGurk, Steve Harvey and Alex Petheram are providing the club with a platform to flourish.

“13 years is a long time,” the manager said. “Everyone remembers the photos from the flood, but I don’t know if everyone knows the story that followed it - the club left homeless and without a future.

“More than a decade has been lost and now we need to produce a good team and hopefully we can challenge for promotion. That’s our ultimate ambition.

“It’s been a very long road to get Gloucester City back in Gloucester and nobody deserves it more than the club’s loyal fans.

“Even last year at Evesham crowds were over 400. Our core support has always been there and the new ground is right in the city centre by the docks - it’s the perfect location and we can’t wait.”

But with good vibes often follows a suspicious eye.

The signing of talented Asante from Chester on Friday made some wonder if Gloucester will be the summer’s big spenders.

Rowe responded: “It’s a great signing for us but it’s not about the financial side.

“I’ve known Akwasi for more than ten years, he’s a player I have always admired and one I’m delighted to get.

“He lives in Birmingham so the commute is better for him. He has two young children and that comes into play - it’s not about huge money.

“We’re transitioning to full-time but we want to do it the right way. We’ll be a hybrid version of that next season but we don’t want to change too much too soon, especially with what’s going on in the world right now.

“We saw Forest Green do it locally this way and it’s an excellent example to follow.”

Where next?

High Five For The Swift Saints As Allinson Moves Fast St Albans fans already have a new-look strike force to get to know as manager Ian Allinson wastes little time re-shaping his side.
Specialist Stanley Knows How To Paint Promotion Pictures! Craig Stanley has always been your Ronseal type of midfielder, he does exactly what he says on the tin.