It barely feels like a matter of days since the season 2011-2012 season ended for Cheltenham Town. Granted we had a three week extension to the majority in the Football League but with two sporting spectacles such as Euro 2012 and the London Olympics (both of which I managed to attend) the summer has flown by and MK Dons await this coming Saturday in the Capital One Cup, an unusual way to start the season admittedly.
After a pre season of mixed results the squad is almost in shape and ready for another challenge but this season poses far greater hurdles than last. Rewind 12 months to my pre season hopes and fears on the terraces with Cheltenham. Little was expected of the Rubies, written off as 11/4 favourites to go down on day 1 and everyone bar ourselves were expecting Cheltenham to feature at the wrong end – how we proved them wrong.
Mark Yates produced nothing short of a miracle to lead Cheltenham to the top of the League Two table as late as the start of February and although we couldn’t hold onto this lead we still managed a top 7 finish, which in retrospect was a remarkable achievement. Sadly the fairytale didn’t end happily with Manchester United new boy Nick Powell signing off in dream fashion for Crewe Alexandra scoring a ‘worldie’ on the way to a deserved 2-0 win against ourselves – we left Wembley deflated but with heads held high and renewed optimism coming into the new season.
However, the dangers of expectation are what face the players and management this season. Last season Mark Yates couldn’t lose in reality – struggle, and nobody really bats an eyelid, succeed and everyone sits up and takes note. This season however, fans are expecting success. Anything less than a top seven finish will be deemed a failure by most, this despite the strong nature of the league – a league in which probably two thirds of the teams can lay forth a sound promotion claim. Players such as Marlon Pack, Sido Jombati and Scott Brown are now expected to perform week in, week out. Can they handle that pressure that wasn’t present last season? Time will tell.
Summer recruitment has been sound in most fans eyes. Our policy of seemingly signing players who play well against us or in need of a resurrection in their career has continued. Sam Deering and Chris Zebroski join us having produced man of the match displays against us on numerous occasions last season ala Jermaine McGlashan of whom we signed in January. Shaun Harrad joins the fray up front in a move that has delighted fans and Billy Jones, a left back from Exeter, probably which fans know least about. A central midfielder and a young second choice goalkeeper are the final pieces of the puzzle according to Yates leaving us with a squad of 21 and strong competition in most areas of the pitch.
Ultimately the question on every Chelties lips is can we match or even better last seasons achievements? It’s one that has certainly split viewpoints in the camp and at this stage no answer is a right or wrong one. Personally I believe a season of similarity may well be on the cards, maybe without the magnificent cup exploits at White Hart Lane. A top seven finish for me would still represent a fantastic achievement considering the financial strength of Fleetwood and Rotherham, teams willing to prove a point such as Bradford, Northampton and Bristol Rovers and last seasons near misses including Torquay, Oxford, Gillingham coupled with ourselves and many other pretenders. Whatever happens, we go into Day 1 in fine shape with competition fierce, quality in abundance and ready to silence the doubters once more when Dagenham come to town on the opening day. Bring it on.
Written by Maxi Hobbs, We Are Going Up’s Cheltenham Town Blogger
Maxi tweets at @maxihobbs