D3D4 Cheltenham Town Correspondent Luke Saunders is looking forward to a much improved season from the Robins…
Cheltenham Town will compete in Sky Bet League Two for the 14th time in their history this coming season as the Robins look to improve on their 21st place finish last year.
The division is set to be more competitive than ever as some big names in English Football will contest in the fourth tier and Gary Johnson’s side have had to compete with teams who have much larger budgets in the transfer market.
After winning the National League title in 2015/16, Cheltenham were expected to push for a play-off place in 2016/17. But despite a positive start, they ended up in a relegation battle instead and finished four points above the drop zone.
The new season will bring much excitement for supporters as local rivalries with Forest Green Rovers and Swindon Town are to be rekindled. A new playing surface and scoreboard has also spruced up the LCI Rail Stadium, leaving fans with much to look forward too off the pitch also.
So what can be expected from the Robins next season?
Many of the National League Champions departed earlier on this summer and now only Aaron Downes, Jordan Cranston, Harry Pell, Kyle Storer, Danny Wright and Dan Holman are left from that cohort. Former goalkeeper Jon Flatt, who spent a short spell at the club during the title winning campaign, has also resigned on loan. Those eight are joined by another 11 in the squad, including six new permanent signings.
Johnson’s first delve into the transfer market was made in June as former Yeovil Town stalwart Kevin Dawson arrived to link up with the 61-year-old again. Dawson was soon followed by Jamie Grimes and Nigel Atangana who joined from Dover and Leyton Orient respectively.
After a pursuit of fan favourite and former goalkeeper Scott Brown failed, Jon Flatt signed from Wolves on loan as number one between the sticks. He has since been followed by Scottish defender Jordon Forster and attacking pair Jerell Sellars and Mohamed Eisa.
Cheltenham Town are not far away from completing their transfer business but the team have a big hole to fill up top as last season’s top scorer Billy Waters has stepped up a level with Northampton Town.
Players to watch
Recently signed pair Mohamed Eisa and Jerell Sellars have already looked sharp in pre-season. Both are quick, tricky forwards who will be looking to make a big impression in the EFL. They are also young with bags of potential and will no doubt feature more regularly if Cheltenham switch from a 3-5-2 to 4-4-2.
Other than those new additions, there are a few contracted players who are likely to catch the eye this term.
Harry Pell is the life and soul of the Cheltenham team. Now entering his third season in Gloucestershire, the energetic box to box midfielder netted nine goals last season and is one of Gary Johnson’s most valuable assets.
Dan Holman and Danny Wright are also worth watching, the previously named “Deadly Dans” contributed to over 50 goals in 2015/16 but struggled last term with under 15. Fully fit and firing, Holman’s goal scoring ability cannot be underestimated.
January signings Will Boyle and Carl Winchester helped steer the club clear of relegation last time out, both are capable of improving and impressing as regular starters over the next year.
The attitude coming out of the Cheltenham camp is one of positivity and confidence as the Robins look to mount a challenge for the top seven. But after the narrow escape from an instant return to non-league last season, realistically a mid-table finish would be satisfactory- thus showing a steady improvement from last year. Nevertheless, League Two can throw up some surprises and under the capable management of Gary Johnson, there is no reason why we can’t be optimistic.
Words Luke Saunders