Despite falling out of the FA Cup, Cheltenham are the pride of the Town as they went toe-to- toe with football giants in Manchester City.
Fans, staff and players can hold their heads high after a fantastic performance, where Cheltenham took the lead before finally going on to lose 3-1 to the then Premier League leaders.
The nation tuned in as Alfie May made it one-nil to the home side, before goals from England international Phil Foden, Brazilian international Gabriel Jesus and Spanish international Ferran Torres finally sunk Michael Duff’s men.
A display a Premier League team would be proud of, Cheltenham fought hard and were remarkably close to making the fifth round for the first time in their history. A great day for the club, and key financial support from fans and TV rights make it even better, going a long way to help make up for funds lost due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Cheltenham are set to lose around £1 million due to the pandemic according to chairman Andy Wilcox, a figure which could lead to real uncertainty in the club’s future, and they battled hard against a team whose squad value alone is in excess of £950 million.
City flew to the game via their private plane, then took three private coaches from the airport to the match, emphasising that they hadn’t taken this game lightly.
Cheltenham manager Michael Duff was proud of his sides’ performance: “It was an incredible performance, and I am really, really proud of the players. The last thing I said to them before the game was, ‘can you walk off the pitch with your shoulders back, proud of yourselves?’ because we couldn't guarantee the result and sometimes you can sort of jog around, not really get near anyone, you ask for someone's shirt at the end and the game passes you by. We said to them ‘Can you make a mark on the game in a positive way?' Pep and his team will know they've been in a half-decent football match today. They all came off very proud of themselves and I was as well.
“It was an amazing performance. We could have been 1-0 down after 17 seconds and you are thinking 'this could be a long, long day'. There would have been nervousness and a bit of anxiety as they can stick seven, eight or nine on teams and they've done that to better teams than us.”
The Robins boss also spoke about how this game can be used to encourage the side as they prepare to fight for promotion to League One.
He said: “After the game, there is a tinge of disappointment bizarrely, but I said to the lads, you are going to get unbelievable attention now, so enjoy it because it doesn't come around very often. All the social media platforms and press, enjoy the moments, rightly so, but turn up Monday morning ready to go to work because we have Oldham at home. They have shown what they can do as a group. That's the message. We had 37 points after 23 games last season, and we have the same record now. We have to kick on. It's been a nice, welcome break from the league, but we have to harness it and use it as a motivation to go on.
“There are lots of people here who aren't usually here and they'll all walk away and think it's been well handled...the pitch was good, the performance, my phone is going mental with messages from all sorts of people in and out of football. I would imagine people are saying nice things about the football club and maybe we've stepped out of the shadow of the racecourse for five minutes.”