THERE remains just one more dress rehearsal for Ady Pennock’s Forest Green Rovers squad ahead of their Vanarama Conference Premier opener against Southport at the weekend.
The Rovers’ boss sees his side host Premier League giants Arsenal at The New Lawn on Tuesday evening in their final pre-season run out ahead of Saturday’s trip to Merseyside (7pm).
The Gunners will be sending their Under-21’s squad to Nailsworth, just three days after a strong Crystal Palace side confidently despatched Rovers’ 3-0 on the weekend, thanks to a treble from Fraizer Campbell.
Pennock, who is preparing for his first full season in charge of the club, is relishing the prospect of hosting one of world football’s stellar names this evening.
“We’ve got some of the best under 21 players in Europe coming here,” he said.
“But it just the name Arsenal coming here that is absolutely fantastic.
“With this season being our 125th anniversary I think it is very fitting to have a club like Arsenal come here.
“It is a massive thank you to them. We’ll look after them like we do with every single club that come here, be it a Southport or Arsenal we look after them exactly the same way.
“It will be a good occasion for the fans as it was with Palace coming here.”
Arsenal’s visit comes two years after a Manchester United XI held Rovers’ to a 2-2 draw at The New Lawn in front of a crowd of 3207.
Despite the glamour involved in hosting the three-time Premier League champions, Pennock still has some huge decisions to make ahead of the weekend.
“I’m fingers crossed, touching wood and everything else that I don’t want any injury in the games,” he added.
“There are some players who have worked themselves into the starting eleven for next week and there is an opportunity for the lads who are going to start on Tuesday to do the same.
“I’ve got a picture in my mind of the team I want to play. But it is not just all about one game.
“There will be disappointed players next Saturday which is what I want.
“The season is such a hard season and if we can have a cup run that would be fantastic.
“The biggest thing is the league but there is competition so no one is guaranteed their place.
“I promise you now I am not afraid to put anyone in from that squad.”
Pennock has managed to avoid any major injury problems in his side’s seven pre-season outings so far.
The only significant worry he has is the fitness of summer signing Steve Arnold who is yet to feature because of a knee injury but he is edging closer to a return.
Rob Sinclair has a sore Achilles while Sam Wedgbury picked up a knock on Saturday against Palace but both should be fit for the start of the season.
It has meanwhile been confirmed that Michelle McDonald is stepping down from her role as Club Secretary and Head of Match operations at The New Lawn.
McDonald joined the club after a 14 year spell at Bristol City in March 2013.