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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK
Spink on brink of cup glory
Forest Green manager Nigel Spink
Spink will not be donning the keeper's shirt on Sunday
BBC Sport Online's Andrew Warshaw talks to former England goalkeeper Nigel Spink about his impressive managerial debut at Forest Green Rovers.

When former England goalkeeper Nigel Spink leads out unheralded Forest Green Rovers in Sunday's FA Umbro Trophy final against Canvey Island, he will complete a remarkable debut season in football management.

Spink returns to Villa Park, where he played for a generation, hardly able to take in how he has managed to steer the tiny Gloucestershire team into the final of non-league football's main cup competition.

"If anyone had told me at the start of the season that I'd be in this position, I'd have said they were completely nuts," Spink told BBC Sport Online.

The former international keeper, whose only full England came against Australia in 1983, has just completed his first full season in management, sharing the job at Forest Green with his former Villa team-mate David Norton.

Steep learning curve

The pair were installed last November when Forest Green chairman Trevor Horsley put his faith in the fledgling managerial duo for a two-month trial period after Frank Gregan was sacked.

The fact they are still there speaks volumes about their achievements.

Forest Green, situated in the heart of the Gloucesterhire countryside and so remote that visiting teams have been known to lose their way, are likely to take 7,000 fans to Villa Park, more than 10 times the average home gate.

Nigel Spink
Spink hopes to enjoy cup success at Villa Park

Spink says the club has given him a crucial grounding in management.

"As a footballer, you serve an apprenticeship and it's even more necessary in management," said Spink. "You need to know how a club is run, from the top to the tea lady. You need a learning curve.

"When you're a professional, you are drilled from day to day on what will be required of you on a Saturday. In non-league football, even if you have two games a week, we as managers only have the players for one night.

"All I've really done is try to make the players as professional as possible. Both Dave and myself are from the old school of discipline. It's old ideals blended in with new coaching concepts, if you like."

Perrin merit

Spink is learning what it's like to come out of the big time and bark instructions from the dug-out to players with only a fraction of the skill he was used to in a professional career spanning over 20 years.

Forest Green is giving him the kind of grounding he believes all ex-professionals with managerial ambitions need.

For Spink, that includes being prepared to put himself second when it comes to allowing others to do the work he used to carry out with such aplomb.

If anyone had told me at the start of the season that I'd be in this position, I'd have said they were completely nuts
  Nigel Spink

Although he kept goal for Forest Green earlier in the season and is still registered as a player, Spink has given way to Steve Perrin, a 28-year-old bricklayer who, according to the boss, has earned the jersey by right.

"He's in the team on merit," said Spink who has no thoughts about going back between the posts himself on Sunday.

"It's probably too late for him in terms of professional football but he's exceptional for this standard. I think it's important for his own self-belief that he holds on to the shirt."

Although Sunday's final features two of non-league football's lesser lights, Spink believes that can only be good for the game and that there is nothing to choose between the sides.

How will he feel stepping out at his old stamping ground?

"Good question. I'm not sure but I intend to savour every minute."

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See also:

07 Apr 01 |  Football
Forest Green and Canvey in final
15 Mar 01 |  Football
Rovers put faith in double act
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