On Saturday 2 May 2009, Gloucester City fans dared to dream. They journeyed to Farnborough in fine spirits, not knowing that the 90 minutes of football they were about to witness would be one of the greatest moments in the club’s history.
The Tigers were a real force in the Southern Premier League that year, as they finished third in a highly competitive league that was won by Corby Town, amassing 75 points from 42 games, enough to secure them a home play-off game against Cambridge City.
In their second season in exile, Gloucester were in dreamland as they defeated Cambridge 3-1 at Cirencester’s Corinium Stadium, to set up a place in the final, where they would face the side everyone thought would waltz to the title, before a drop in form saw Farnborough only good enough to finish second.
Gloucester fans all know what happened that day. Matt Rose scored his first goal of the season, with his weaker left foot no less, to send all 500+ travelling City fans into raptures behind the goal.
After a near 70 year association with the Southern League, the Tigers had finally done it. Step Two of the non-league pyramid awaited and after some waiting to find out what league they would be put into, Dave Mehew’s side were placed in the Blue Square North.
But where are those players that started the game at Farnborough now, nine years since their legendary triumph?
Kevin Sawyer was an absolute rock in the Tigers goal that season. ‘Big Kev’ as he is known by local supporters across the county left for Weston before coming back to City for a couple of years, before eventually finding his home at Evesham. After a stellar solo performance in the play-offs against Salisbury last season, Sawyer will be between the sticks in another play-off semi-final this evening, as Swindon Supermarine are the visitors. Tonight could be Sawyer’s last game, as he plans to retire at the end of the season.
Marc Richards was one of the unsung heroes of that promotion team. Very rarely was there any nonsense with Richards at the back, likewise with Neil Mustoe, who performed the sweeper role incredibly against Farnborough. Richards is now the manager of Gloucester City and has done a fine job at steering the team away from the relegation zone since taking over, whilst Mustoe has shown how good a coach he is with the Tigers Under 18s side, as we documented on Monday.
It was the throw-in from Lee Marshall that caused havoc in the Farnborough penalty area that allowed Matt Rose to poke home the winning goal. Marshall was last at Mangotsfield United, whereas Rose, scorer of the most significant goal in Gloucester City history, left the assistant manager position at the end of the 2016/17 season due to personal commitments.
Lee Smith is a name you immediately associate with local football. Having played for Gloucester, Forest Green, Cirencester and Cinderford, Smith has been there and done it within the local game. Having started the season at Fairford Town, Smith finished it on a dual registration with Slimbridge AFC.
One of the most versatile players to wear a Gloucester City shirt in recent memory is Jack Harris. Naturally a left sided player, Harris has actually played every outfield position for the Tigers. He started against Farnborough at left wing back before moving into central midfield. Harris was last at Mangotsfield United after leaving Gloucester in 2015.
Top goalscorer that season was Alex Sykes. He could score from anywhere on the pitch. Whether he played at left back, in midfield or just behind the front two, there was a pretty good chance that Sykes would find the back of the net that game. Although he didn’t add to his tally of 27 in the play-off final, Sykes was a commanding influence on the game. He was last assistant manager to Tim Harris at Redditch United, but has since left the club.
Will Morford and Mike Symons were Gloucester’s equivalent to Yorke and Cole. The two just understood each other’s games. Morford had the pace and the skill, whereas Symons had the hold-up ability to bring others into the game. Both prolific scorers in their career, Symons has just won promotion with Hereford FC whilst Morford is now assistant manager at Gloucester.
Finally, the man who played just a bit-part in the play-off final after being hauled off with injury after 25 minutes, Tom Webb. There isn’t a lot you can say about Webb that hasn’t been said before, but he has now notched up 700 appearances for the Tigers and the 33 year-old plans to stay on for another season. There truly will never be another one like him.