If there was any doubt about Regan Hendry’s willingness to embrace the ethos of his new employers, that was assuaged with a single tweet.
“#VeganHendry,” is how the former Raith Rovers hero signed off his first message to supporters of Forest Green Rovers, ‘the greenest football club in the world’ according to FIFA.
The New Lawn outfit operate with a strictly meat-free menu for their staff, boast solar panels and electric vehicle charging points at their stadium and are the first side to be certified as carbon neutral by the United Nations.
“I’ll give it a bash — why not? They’ve shown faith in me by bringing me here, so the least I can do is approach everything with an open mind,” laughed Hendry.
“When you are at the club, everything they supply will be vegan; the same for our away days and hotels. However, I doesn’t seem to be a case of someone saying: ‘You must be vegan!’
“I think they are okay with you supplying your own food if you aren’t keen.
“It’s a completely different culture to any other club you can think of and that’s exciting. They way they think; the way they go about things; the ambition for the future — it’s all really exciting.”
‘FGR want to become a Championship club’
But Hendry did not pen a two-year contract with the League Two outfit due to his environmental conscience or love for soybean burgers and almond milk. This was a football decision.
After two hugely successful campaigns at Stark’s Park, establishing himself as the heartbeat of a free-flowing Rovers side, his next move was pivotal.
The former Celtic kid wanted a crack at English football. However, it had to be the perfect club; one which suited his languid, passing style and with aspirations to challenge for silverware.
“I could have gone to a team who were likely to scrap around in mid-table,” Hendry told Courier Sport. “But Forest Green want to be right at the top of this league.
“They have made it clear that they have a plan to come up through the leagues and become a Championship club.
“Rich Hughes, the director of football, outlined the project here and it was different class. From the moment they got in touch, it was clear how keen they were — and that means a lot as a player.”
The 23-year-old, who took advice from former Hoops youth teammates Jack Aitchison and Theo Archibald, who both enjoyed loan spells at FGR, added: “Forest Green have made it clear that I’m not here to stay for 10 years.
— Regan Hendry (@reganhendry11) June 23, 2021
“It is a club that offers players a platform and hopefully I can embrace that. I have ambitions to go even further up the ladder.”
Despite the cogent logic behind Hendry’s switch south, it would be fair to say the move to FGR raised a few eyebrows in Scotland.
The likes of Aberdeen, Hibernian and Hearts were long-term admirers of the player and many expected his final destination to be further up the football pyramid.
Asked about reported interest from those three sides, in particular, Hendry continued candidly: “Those clubs mentioned were among those interested in me without really doing anything about it.
“When there is nothing put in front of you to sign, there is no decision to make.
“There were several clubs sniffing around without making a move, whereas I wanted to get something done. There were a lot of teams saying ‘we need to wait and see’.
“You compare that to the Zoom call I had with Forest Green and their determination to bring me to the club — the amount of detail they had about me, and how I would operate within the team — and it was night and day.”
‘It’s been an amazing two years’
As he looks forward to his next chapter with a frisson of excitement, he is especially keen to say a proper farewell to the Rovers faithful.
After 82 games, three spells (two on loan), eight goals, 15 assists, a League 1 title and a third place finish in the Championship, Hendry is assured the warmest of welcomes when he is next back in Kirkcaldy.
“The way the fans have reacted to me leaving — with the kind messages I’ve received — has been incredible,” added Hendry. “They’ve shown their appreciation to me and I want them to know how appreciative I am of them.
“There weren’t many clubs queuing up to take a chance on me [in 2019] after a serious knee injury but Raith made it clear they wanted me, and gave me a platform.
“It’s been an amazing two years and I can honestly say I’ll miss Raith Rovers — but this is for the good of my career.”