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Forest Green Rovers are one point away from winning the South West Division One title and will finish as Champions if they avoid defeat against Chichester City this Sunday.
We talked to Rovers midfielder Sophie Okey who was one of their goalscorers in their 7-0 win over St Nicholas on Sunday, and she spoke of the team's determination to complete the job this week:
After the win on Sunday you are so close to winning the league, does it feel a little frustrating that you are not quite over the line?
It is a little bit frustrating, but it gives me that extra determination and drive to go out on Sunday and win, which will then make us clear league champions and bring reward for our effort over the season.
Without giving too much away, how do you think the team will approach the game against Chichester on Sunday?
We will approach the game the same way as we approached the St Nicks game. We gave a committed performance thenas a team, so it's more of the same as far as I am concerned. I know that even with losing we can potentially win the league, but that's not how we want our season to end.
Did you feel that you had slipped too far behind at one stage, particularly after losing at Swindon?
When we lost at Swindon in November, we all knew that we had lost the initiative, in that it was now out of our hands even at that early stage of the season, but we kept the results coming though. We then played away to Larkhall in early March, and put in a terrible performance to lose 5-0, and we all thought that the league title was too far away for us again but with the slip up from Swindon that day, and the news of their three point deduction, it still kept a glimmer of hope going. We knew that our next game away to Exeter had to be a win and to me it was the best game I've ever seen us play.
Six wins in seven games have turned things around, is there any particular reason behind this?
I don't think there's a particular reason for the run, but after a few talks with our manager Josh and assistant Jenna, they made us realise that the title could still be within our grasp, but we really had to work for it. They could only do so much and what happens on the pitch is in our own hands. So with 100% effort and commitment in training and games, we have really played consistently well towards the end of the season, which is all the more impressive as we have had all away games since January!
Do you think that the experience of players like Kirsty Richardson and Charlotte King, who have been here before, has been a big help to the team?
I came to FGR when I was 16 and I've personally learned a lot, not just from Ricco and Kinger, but from other senior players like Jodie Shepherd, Abbie Sadler and Natalie Holbrook. They all bring something different to the squad and they've been a huge help to all the younger players, of which we have a good few, as they wouldn't have experienced anything like this before. To me, Kirsty is always the one encouraging me both on and off the pitch, making sure I stay positive and focused, even when I mess up! I've also learnt a lot from Charlotte this season because I've come from a defensive position to an attacking one, so it is new territory for me and just watching Kinger at training and taking it in, I feel that I've learned a lot from her. I think all the younger players in the squad respect the more experienced ones, and look up to them as mentors. With Josh integrating some of the U16s into training as well, they will find the step up next season less daunting, being more familiar with the ladies players.
Have you done better than expected this season or did you set out to challenge for promotion right from the start?
I think all teams start out thinking about winning the league, but with how the last few seasons have turned out, people had their doubts. We really wanted to push for it this season and prove to people that we could do it and with Josh, Jenna, and Ashton (G/K Coach), we had a good base to do it from. The good start gave us a boost if we needed it, and with hard work, commitment, and effort both on and off the pitch, after Sunday it will hopefully have paid off.
You have been at this level for a few years now and never quite been close enough to go up, what would it mean for the club and the area if you were to win the league?
Getting promoted would be a massive achievement for the club, as we are not based in an urban area, so it is a greater challenge in the likes of player recruitment, training facilities, sponsorship, etc, which all go into making clubs tick. We have also had a huge amount of support from our sponsors, Glevum Security, as well as Slimbridge Football Club where we play our home fixtures. This season has also seen our links with our parent club Forest Green Rovers FC grow, and they have assisted us in many areas off the pitch, and have future plans that will benefit the Ladies in the future. If promoted, we would hopefully also attract better players to strengthen the squad and enhance women's football in the area, as it grows each year.
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