This write up is the first of many I will be writing for The Cheltenham Post whilst following the fortunes of Cheltenham Town FC at close quarters. I will be giving readers an honest insight into my thoughts and views of the club’s performance, on and off the grass at The Jonny Rocks Stadium.
Thanks go to Mark Cuzner and Nick Clarke at the newspaper for the opportunity and a special thank you to Darren Byrne and his team at Mars Maintenance Ltd for agreeing to partner with me along the way.
Mars Maintenance is a successful, local rapid response maintenance company that can deal with any plumbing, electrical and clearance jobs. They work with many of the biggest high street chains and brands nationally. The owner Darren, along with his family, are long-term supporters of CTFC. Any local business owners with premises and maintenance needs should look at the website shown in the banner here for more information.
It has been a while since I have had a column of this type, so I am going to try and sum up how the club has fared since appointing Michael Duff as Manager back in September 2018. I think it is fair to say that no one could have possibly predicted how it would go for the young inexperienced manager.
I think it was a brave move all around, firstly for the club to entrust a young manager with the top job and task him with steering a team, low on confidence, away from the League 2 relegation places. Secondly, it was a brave move for Duffo himself; he had a comfortable role with Premier League Burnley’s Youth and under 23’s, set up at a club where he was highly regarded after many years of exemplary service as a senior player. Thankfully both club and Duff took the plunge!
Fast forward to the present day and the gamble for both the club and for the manager has paid off in spades. The club is sitting 3rd in the table and is in with a fantastic opportunity to claim automatic promotion or a Play-off spot. If they are to claim a top-three spot it could be argued that this has been the most successful season in the club’s history.
Although just a memory now, I must mention the 4th round FA Cup tie aired live on BBC1 against the Premier league’s Champions-elect Manchester City. The team did the club, the fans and the town proud. I was literally screaming at the TV in disbelief when Alfie May slotted home the opener, and I am sure most Cheltonians around the world were bursting with pride. To be only 10 minutes away from toppling Pep Guardiola’s men was astonishing and I am sure it will give the team confidence to finish their League 2 campaign in style.
The Premier League team, as so often is the case, found a way to win 1-3 and break our hearts with a score line, remarkably, that flattered them. Phil Foden, a player I have admired for some time, was on a different level for City in the closing stages of the game and that is no embarrassment for our lads as he has been performing just the same way at the highest level for a while now, up against the best the Premier League has to offer.
I will finish by stating that it cannot have been easy for Duffo to get the team to where it is today, he certainly had a tough baptism and could not buy a win in his first couple of months at the helm. He and his backroom staff have shown great character, leadership and belief in what they do to turn the corner and the team have followed him on that journey.
Whatever happens between now and May, the managerial appointment has been a resounding success and some of the football has been a joy to watch. Long may it continue.