CONGRATULATIONS to Forest Green Rovers – words that have not been uttered much outside of Gloucestershire in the past few days.

The self-styled Little Club On The Hill based in Nailsworth (population circa 6,000) are not the most popular in non-league football.

And that looks set to continue now that they have finally won promotion to the Football League for the first time in the club’s 128-year history.

It’s fair comment to say that their success, after 19 years in the Conference, does not fit the classic football fairy tale template.

But the level of vitriol heading their way over the past 48 hours and over the past six years is, in my opinion, more than a little unfair.

The main gripe with most fans of other clubs is that Forest Green are ‘village team’ with no fans and no right to a place amongst the elite 92 clubs in the English football system.

They have, so the argument goes, no history and have been ‘financially doped’ by a ‘hippy millionaire’ with ideas above his station.

Admittedly owner Dale Vince does not help himself.

The (vegan-friendly) champagne was still being downed at Wembley on Sunday when the eco tycoon told BBC Radio Gloucestershire: "Getting out of this league is so difficult, with just one automatic spot.

"Getting into League One, I do think will be easy. There are four slots.

"Some people say we're crazy to dream of the Championship but we've taken the first big step. That's fantastic."

There’s nothing wrong with ambition but that kind of talk does rub people up the wrong way, as does the lack of Bovril and beef burgers at the club’s all-vegan New Lawn home.

The fact that Forest Green have consistently been the biggest spenders in the fifth tier doesn’t help either.

And a recent survey that revealed they paid more to agents than the rest of the National League combined adds more fuel to the fire.

But manager Mark Cooper is rightly proud to have been the man to take them up and indifferent to the criticism coming their way.

“I thought we were brilliant this time, fantastic,” said Cooper after the 3-1 play-off final victory over Tranmere Rovers.

“It’s an unbelievable achievement to get a village team into the Football League.

“It’s not all about money, our budget is competitive but it doesn’t count for anything. It seems from the outside that we have players on £10,000 but that’s not the case.

“And people talk about our lack of fans but these supporters have been brilliant.

“It doesn’t matter what people think of us. It's always good to be different," Cooper added.

"The chairman is certainly different, his ethos and what he believes in.

"There's no right way or wrong way, but we've had success doing it, so he's been vindicated in what he's done.

"We've had a lot of animosity towards Forest Green. When I played for them, they were a friendly little club, part-time. Everyone loved them because they weren't a threat.

“Once they became a threat, nobody liked them, so I'm just chuffed for the chairman.”

The ‘nobody likes us, we don’t care’ attitude has served the likes of Millwall and the original Wimbledon well in the past.

And Cooper is right; Rovers’ success has created jealousy from clubs of a similar size and fear amongst traditionally bigger outfits of being overtaken by the Nailsworth non-entities.

Many Newport County AFC fans have been sniffy about their near neighbours’ promotion and joined in the mud-slinging and mickey-taking.

But, while his investment in the Exiles was nowhere near the levels pumped in by Vince, Les Scadding’s Euromillions money was nonetheless vital in getting County out of the Conference and keeping them in League Two under Justin Edinburgh.

Ahead of County’s own never-to-be-forgotten play-off final back in 2013 there were many football pundits who felt it was Wrexham’s turn to reclaim their place in the big time, insisting ‘nouveau riche’ Newport should wait.

But Edinburgh’s Exiles seized their chance thanks to some stupendous goalkeeping from Lenny Pidgeley and a cutting edge up front provided by then record signing Christian Jolley and super sub Aaron O’Connor.

Thankfully the Football League is not a closed shop, forever reserved for the traditionally powerful clubs and forever out of reach for everybody else.

Forest Green are not the first club to spend big to realise a dream – look at the likes of Fleetwood at this level and even Chelsea and Manchester City in the Premier League.

And they certainly won’t be the last little club with big ambitions to try to better themselves.

There are of course cautionary tales like the sad demise of Rushden & Diamonds and there will be many waiting and hoping for the same to happen to Forest Green.

I won’t be among them and I expect the Green Army to continue their upward trajectory over the coming years.

I may not feel the same way if, as seems entirely possible, Cooper’s men start taking points and players away from Michael Flynn and County but for now I say congratulations to Forest Green Rovers.