Can Robins Build On Their Successes From The Previous Season?
Last season was a considerable success for Cheltenham Town in Wade Elliott’s first season in management.
The Robins recorded their second-highest-ever EFL finish whilst Alfie May certified himself as possibly the greatest-ever player to wear the shirt with 20 goals last season in the league alone as he became the club’s all-time leading goalscorer.
However, this season will be majorly different for the Robins.
Firstly, there is no May with the 30-year-old leaving the club for fellow League One side Charlton Athletic, a move he fully deserves with his family living close to the ground and all Cheltenham fans wishing him the best of luck at his new club.
Another big factor is the fact the Robins have only ever stayed in League One for a period of three seasons.
The last time this happened, you have to go all the way back to when the club first won promotion to the third tier during the 2005/06 season and were relegated back to the fourth tier in the 2008-09 season, a season many would like to forget.
If the club maintains their League One status this season, the Robins will create history, however, the third tier is going to be the most competitive it has been for quite some time.
Nevertheless, pre-season has been very good for the Robins. A memorable 1-0 victory against Championship side West Bromwich Albion gives confidence whilst Cheltenham pushed Birmingham City all the way despite losing 3-2.
The transfer window has also seen the Robins strengthen excellently so far. Luke Southwood rejoined the club on a permanent basis and it is one of the best League One transfers this summer.
Curtis Davies, even at the age of 39, brings his wealth of experience to improve the backline whilst Rob Street joined on a three-year deal following a decent loan spell at Shrewsbury Town last season.
The club have also signed right wing-back Liam Smith to replace Sutton United-bound Ryan Jackson whilst they have offered terms to former Wycombe Wanderers midfielder Curtis Thompson who would bring League One experience to the midfield.
It remains to be seen whether former Peterborough United and Hearts defender Michael Smith is offered a deal, but again, if it does happen, it would be another astute addition to Wade Elliott’s squad.
With five loanee spots still to be taken up, the Robins are in a healthy position when it comes to transfers, but another centre-back is a priority, going off the back of last season’s success with Caleb Taylor, another defensive midfielder to cover Elliot Bonds, another forward to bring competition for Aidan Keena, Rob Street and the returning George Lloyd, who has a big point to prove given his success at Grimsby Town last season.
However, the key area to improve is the attacking midfielder role. Last season, the Robins lacked a creative midfielder who could link the midfield between the attack, create chances and score goals. Yes, there was Ryan Broom and Taylor Perry last season for that role, but neither really impressed, with Broom, in particular, playing far better when he was moved to right-wing back.
With Broom having left the club for Fleetwood Town and Taylor Perry ending up at Shrewsbury, it is an area that desperately needs to improve as the only options for that area are Dan Adshead and Ellis Chapman.
Most Cheltenham fans would agree that Chapman is not good enough for League One level whilst Adshead struggled last season and it was ended early through injury whilst he was out on loan at former club Rochdale last season.
James Olayinka has returned from injury and had bright spells in that area last season. It is expected Adshead to be the breakthrough star this season, going on a similar journey to what Lewis Freestone and Tom Bradbury have done during their time at Cheltenham, be out-of-favour and criticised for their performances early on, got chances through injuries to become key players and have been excellent ever since.
First up this season for the Robins is Shrewsbury at Croud Meadow and they have been very busy doing business with Cheltenham this summer.
Firstly, they hired Robins Director of Football Micky Moore then poached first-team coach Marcus Bignot to be newly-appointed manager Matt Taylor’s assistant.
Video Analyst Tom Ware was the next to depart for Shropshire, becoming Salop’s new Head of Recruitment. They then also signed Taylor Perry, who was with the Robins last season on a two-year contract. The social media interaction between Shrewsbury and Cheltenham fans has been quite fun, to say the least.
Wade Elliott will know how important getting off to a good start is for Cheltenham.
The competitiveness of the league this year is one of the strongest it has been for quite some time. Despite Wigan Athletic and Reading going through financial difficulties, you think that they will be hoping to challenge for promotion, despite Wigan starting on minus eight.
Blackpool won promotion through the Play-Offs with Neil Critchley who is back in charge of the club, Portsmouth, under John Mousinho, have made some astute additions and Charlton, with Alfie May spearheading their attack, are sure to be up there.
You also have to consider the likes of Peterborough United, Bolton Wanderers, Barnsley and Derby County who will also be fighting it out at the top.
The Robins face Bolton, Reading and Portsmouth in three of their first five fixtures with the game at Shrewsbury kicking off the season and a home game against League One new boys Northampton Town. There is also the matter of a Carabao Cup first-round tie against Birmingham City to deal with too.
It will be a tougher season for the Robins and Wade Elliott, however, the club will just about stay up and create history.