Cheltenham Town F.C.
|Full name||Cheltenham Town Football Club|
|2018–19||League Two, 16th of 24|
Cheltenham Town Football Club is a professional association football club based in the town of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. The team compete in League Two, the fourth tier of English football. Nicknamed the "Robins", they have played at Whaddon Road since 1932. The club contests rivalries with Gloucester City and Forest Green Rovers.
Founded in 1887, the club spent much of its early history competing in local football circles, before moving to the Birmingham Combination in 1932 and then the Southern League in 1935. They spent the next 50 years in the Southern League, winning the Midland Division in 1982–83 and then claiming the Premier Division title in 1984–85. They were subsequently promoted into the Alliance Premier League in 1985, where they remained for seven seasons until they were relegated in 1992. They finished as runners-up of the Southern League Premier Division for four of the next five seasons, and were promoted into the Conference in 1997.
Under the stewardship of Steve Cotterill, Cheltenham won the 1998 FA Trophy final and then secured promotion into the Football League for the first time after winning the Conference title in 1998–99. He left the club after the 2001–02 season, having guided them to the FA Cup fifth round and promotion with victory in the 2002 Third Division play-off final. Immediately relegated after one season in the Second Division, they secured another promotion as manager John Ward coached them to victory in the 2006 League Two play-off final. Relegated after three seasons in the third tier, the club's 16-year stay in the Football League ended with relegation back to the Conference in 2015. However manager Gary Johnson led Cheltenham to the Conference title with a 101 point tally in 2015–16, making them the first club in 26 years to secure an immediate return to the Football League as champions of the Conference.
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Cheltenham has a history of football prior to The Robins. In 1849, the first use of three official referees in a match, two in field and one in tribune, was recorded in the town. However, the modern club was founded in 1887 by Albert Close White, a local teacher.
The club spent its first three decades in local football. Notable players from those days include cricketers Gilbert Jessop and brothers Charles Barnett and Edgar Barnett. In the early 1930s the club turned professional and joined the Birmingham Combination before joining the Southern League in 1935. They won promotion to the Alliance Premier League (now the Conference National) in 1985, but were relegated seven years later. They were promoted back to the Conference in 1997 and two years later gained promotion to the Football League. After two mid-table finishes in Division Three (now League Two) they won via the playoffs and were promoted to Division Two (now League One).
The appointment of Steve Cotterill as manager during the 1996–97 was the start of a period of success at the club which resulted in Cotterill being their most successful manager. Four months after taking charge he guided the club to runners-up spot in the Southern Football League Premier Division, but they won promotion to the Football Conference as champions Gresley Rovers were unable to meet the required ground capacity for Conference membership.
In 1997–98, Cheltenham finished runners-up in the Conference and were close to champions Halifax Town until the end of April 1998. They secured a place at Wembley in the FA Trophy final, beating Southport 1–0 in front of a crowd of 27,000. In 1998–99 Cheltenham secured the Conference title and entry to the Football League.
After two mid-table finishes in Division Three, Cheltenham finally won promotion to Division Two (via the Division Three playoffs) at the end of the 2001–02 season. Shortly after winning promotion, Cotterill left Cheltenham to join Stoke City as their manager.
Cheltenham replaced Cotterill with first-team coach Graham Allner who had won the Conference championship with Kidderminster Harriers in 1994. Allner and assistant manager Mike Davis, who was originally assistant to Cotterill, were sacked in January 2003, after six months in the job, with Cheltenham near the foot of Division Two. Cheltenham turned to Bobby Gould, one of the most experienced managers in English football whose exploits include an FA Cup victory with Wimbledon in 1988. Cheltenham continued to struggle, and defeat in their final game of the season condemned the club to relegation back to Division Three after just one season.
Gould resigned as Cheltenham Town manager in November 2003 and was replaced by John Ward, who has been an assistant manager with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa and Watford, and a manager with Bristol City, Bristol Rovers and York City.
During the 2005–06 season, a new stand for visiting fans was added (The Carlsberg Stand) and a small electronic scoreboard was installed. They finished the season in 5th, earning a place in the play-offs. In the semi-final Cheltenham beat Wycombe Wanderers 2–1 away and drew 0–0 in the second leg at Whaddon Road. In the play-off final, Cheltenham beat Grimsby Town 1–0, securing a place in League One for 2006–07. The match at the Millennium Stadium on 28 May 2006 was attended by 29,196 people, making it the club's largest ever stadium audience. However, despite promotion, the average attendance did not increase as the club had hoped, though it increased to 4,359. The club were knocked out of the various cup competitions in early stages and were finding it difficult to collect funds to invest in additional players.
Cheltenham opened up the 2007–08 season with a 1–0 win against Gillingham, but suffered an early exit to Southend United 4–1 from the League Cup. By the beginning of October, Cheltenham had failed to win at home since the opening day of the season. The club went four games without a win. Following Cheltenham's 3–0 defeat to Port Vale, John Ward announced he had agreed a four-year contract with League One side Carlisle United and would begin his tenure the following day on 3 October 2007. Ward said he could not turn down the possibility of managing a team who could soon be playing in the English Championship. He left the club lying 23rd in the league, above only one team and were expected to struggle to avoid relegation.
Keith Downing was appointed caretaker manager until the position could be filled. Martin Allen was linked with the club. Cheltenham's results after Downing took charge were mixed.
On 25 November 2007, a sell-out Whaddon Road watched a match against Leeds United, which, after riding their luck, the Robins won 1–0 thanks to an 86th-minute winner by in-form striker Steven Gillespie. The result is now one of the most famous in the club's recent history. The reverse fixture was even more impressive as the Robins became the first team to complete a double over Leeds during their first visit to the third tier of English football.
In January 2008, Cheltenham won four games in a row, the first time the club had achieved this since joining the Football League in 1999. During these games they did not concede any goals. They however narrowly lost out on two awards for that month; Manager and Player of the Month—after losing to Millwall in the final game of January.
Early in the 2008–09 season Keith Downing left Cheltenham Town and was replaced—within two days—by Martin Allen, who had been a candidate after Ward's departure a year earlier. Allen's team started poorly with a club-record seven defeats in a row, part of a 15-game run without a victory. The club narrowly avoided administration, and the 10-point penalty that would go with it, before Allen revealed that all the players at the club were up for sale.
The season finished with Cheltenham's relegation back to League Two on the penultimate day of the season after three seasons in League One as they had conceded over 100 goals in all competitions, although they had used 51 players.
As the 2009–10 season started in July, Allen sold a few players and brought in new ones, including Robins legend Julian Alsop and former Tottenham Hotspur winger David Hutton. Although they would be thought of as one of the favourites to make an immediate return to League One after being relegated, most bloggers and league analysts said that a mid-table finish would be the most realistic scenario. Cheltenham won their first match of the season against Grimsby Town 2–1, but fell dramatically down the table soon after. On 20 October, Martin Allen was put on gardening leave amid allegations he racially abused a nightclub bouncer, and assistant manager John Schofield took temporary charge. Allen was formally cleared of misconduct but still left the club by mutual consent in early December. Cheltenham put out an advert for a new manager, which attracted "healthy interest".
Former Cheltenham captain and Kidderminster boss Mark Yates was appointed manager on 22 December 2009. Neil Howarth, Yates' assistant at Kidderminster who had also played for the Robins in the past, joined the League Two side as first-team coach. Cheltenham continued to struggle through the rest of the season, only managing to avoid relegation on the final day of the season, although they finished four points ahead of the relegated sides. John Schofield, who was in caretaker charge of the club while Allen was on gardening leave, returned to the post of assistant manager until the end of the season.
Yates, ahead of his first full season with Cheltenham, revamped the squad, releasing eight players, including defender Shane Duff, who had just completed his tenth year with the club. The season proved to be successful to begin with, with the Robins remaining close to the play-off positions, but they collapsed in the second half of the season and finished 17th, with only five wins in 26 games in 2011.
Despite some fans[who?] calling for Yates to resign, Cheltenham started the 2011/12 season with a side including new signings Darryl Duffy, Luke Summerfield, and highly rated England U-21 goalkeeper Jack Butland. Despite losing in the first round of the League Cup, they reached the Football League Trophy south quarter-finals and were handed a lucrative tie at Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup third round. Yates won the Manager of the Month award for November after three wins from three and then defeated the so-called "Manager of the Month curse" with a 3–0 win over then-leaders Southend United to secure a club record fifth consecutive league win. The Robins ended the season in 6th and defeated Torquay United 2–0 at home and then 1–2 away to secure a 4–1 aggregate victory in the League 2 Play-off Semi-finals. The Play-off Final was contested at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, 27 May 2012. Crewe Alexandra defeated Cheltenham Town 2–0 with goals from Nick Powell and Byron Moore in front of a crowd of 24,029.
During the off-season, Cheltenham only lost Luke Summerfield from their first choice team, whilst signing ex-Premier League midfielder Darren Carter until January following over a year out of the game with a knee injury. Striker Shaun Harrad was also signed on a season-long loan from Bury, and left back Billy Jones joined the club from Exeter City. Cheltenham made a stuttering start to the 2012/13 season, including back-to-back home defeats to Accrington Stanley and Southend United. Results improved and they climbed to third place by the start of November, as well as progressing to the third round of the FA Cup, where they were drawn at home to Premier League side Everton, losing 1–5, with goals from Fellaini, Baines, Coleman, Osman and Jelavic. On 6 November 2012, manager Mark Yates oversaw his 150th game in charge of the team in a 1–0 win against league leaders Gillingham (under the management of former Robin's boss Martin Allen) Beyond December Cheltenham were still in an automatic promotion spot.
Cheltenham finished fifth, once again qualifying for the end of season play-offs after being pipped to the third promotion spot on the last day of the season by Rotherham United. Cheltenham's final game of the season saw them draw 0–0 at home to Bradford City; a run of 20 home league games without defeat, since back-to-back home defeats by Accrington and Southend turned out to be their only two league home losses all season. The play-offs saw Cheltenham face Northampton Town with Cheltenham losing both home and away games by 1–0.
After finishing in the play-offs for two consecutive seasons, Cheltenham Town's 2013–14 proved to be difficult. Any hopes of a third consecutive play-off place were ended by March. A lack of form and consistency, along with only 5 home wins all season, made it difficult. The season started well, with the club bringing in some new players, hoping that the club would go a step further towards automatic promotion. The signings of Troy Brown, Matt Richards, Jamie Cureton and former Robins winger Ashley Vincent gave the club a boost. However the loss of Marlon Pack to Bristol City seemed to a big loss. The first home game against Burton Albion was a great game of football, with veteran striker Cureton scoring the opener, only to be stretchered off with a dislocated shoulder. His replacement Byron Harrison made it 2–0, only for the Brewers to make it 2–2.
Harrison continued to score goals, the highlight being a 4–3 victory over League One Crawley Town in the Capital One Cup after being 3–1 down, with Harrison netting the winning goal. The victory in the first round set the Robins up for a second round trip to Premier League side West Ham United, with the club eventually losing 2–1 at Upton Park. Losses to Chesterfield FC and Plymouth Argyle continued a poor start to the league, before getting a first win of the season at Accrington Stanley. The fantastic performance at West Ham was soon forgotten as Cheltenham suffered a 4–1 defeat at Bury FC and then penalty heartbreak at the hands of Plymouth Argyle in the Football League Trophy. Two hard fought 2–2 draws followed against Portsmouth FC and Oxford United before another disappointing 4–2 defeat at Torquay United. The end of September saw the return of Cureton who scored a 90th-minute winner against AFC Wimbledon.
October proved to be marginally better for Mark Yates' Robins with two wins, two defeats and one draw but Jamie Cureton won his 250th career goal in the 2–1 win at Dagenham & Redbridge. They won 3–0 at home against Morecambe FC. Two seasons of FA Cup competition for the Robins had been outstanding for the club's coffers but when the Robins rocked up at Tamworth FC on Saturday 9 November, there was certainly anxiety in the air. A poor first half and a Tamworth goal stunned Cheltenham and, despite an improved second half, the Robins could not find a way back into the game.
Despite cup disappointment, the Robins did win 2–1 away at Wycombe Wanderers in the following match but a barren run of three draws finished November in unspectacular fashion. November also saw the departure of first team coach Dave Kevan who only joined the club back in September but the role of assistant manager at Forest Green Rovers turned his head and Kevan promptly left Whaddon Road.
December was largely successful however with wins at Morecambe FC, Fleetwood Town and at home to Exeter City on Boxing Day showing promise once again but Cheltenham were beaten by Mansfield Town to end the year and an 11 league game unbeaten run with fans left unsure of what was to come from their faithful Robins in 2014.
In the January transfer window Keith Lowe and Russell Penn left the club for York City. David Noble, who was becoming an integral part of the club's midfield, saw his loan deal extended despite injury. Other inclusions came in the form of Michael Ihiekwe, Mitch Brundle and Lee Lucas but the impressive Connor Goldson was recalled and Kemar Roofe opted to return to West Bromwich Albion.
Ashley Vincent, who had been largely sidelined for various reasons throughout the season, had returned in dramatic fashion during the Newport win with the winger scoring the winning goal and his return to the team did coincide with an improvement in the team's form. A 'self destruct' style 4–1 loss at home to Chesterfield FC was followed by two hard working draws at Portsmouth FC and Oxford United sandwiched between solid wins at home to Bury FC and Torquay United in March.
A low point for the Robins was a 4–3 defeat to AFC Wimbledon. The Robins had been leading 2–0 comfortably away at the Kingsmeadow Stadium before a six-minute period saw Wimbledon take a 3–2 lead. Jason Taylor's deflected effort made it 3–3, but a late winner from Jack Midson condemned the Robins to an unsettling defeat.
It would not be the last time that Cheltenham threw away a lead before the end of the season but they did pick up an important win away at Hartlepool United to end March on a more positive note.
Defeats to Southend United and Fleetwood Town plus a draw away at Exeter City (which saw the Robins lose a 100% record over the Grecians) prompted some nervy looks amongst supporters as Mark Yates' side drifted ever closer to the relegation dogfight. The manager kept the faith and a confident 2–0 win away at Mansfield Town ended all fears that Cheltenham Town's 15-year stint in the Football League was about to come to an end.
In the end, Cheltenham had done enough but two defeats to end the league season was alarming and certainly signalled a squad makeover was to be expected in the summer with assistant manager Neil Howarth already departing following backroom staff re-modelling. In the end Cheltenham finished 17th with 55 points.
On 25 November 2014, Mark Yates was sacked by Cheltenham Town after almost five years in charge. Cheltenham subsequently appointed Paul Buckle as team manager, but he was dismissed after just 79 days. In March 2015 Gary Johnson was appointed manager.
In April 2015, after Bryan Jacob, a lifelong supporter, gave the club's supporters trust £222,000 in his will, members voted to use the money to accept a long-standing offer from the club for a permanent seat on its board of directors. Football fan Clive Gowing was subsequently elected. The club said it would also name a stand and supporters' player-of-the-season award in Jacob's memory. On 25 April 2015, Cheltenham Town lost at Whaddon Road to Shrewsbury Town, which meant that Cheltenham was relegated from the Football League after sixteen seasons.
After only one season outside of the Football League, Cheltenham secured an immediate return on 16 April 2016 with a 2–0 home win against F.C. Halifax Town. The team amassed 101 points, scored the most and conceded the fewest goals, and won the most and lost the fewest games, on their way to becoming Champions, finishing 12 points clear of second-placed local rivals Forest Green Rovers. January signing Dan Holman was joint winner of the National League's Golden Boot award, with 30 goals, having netted 16 times in just 18 games for the Robins. Danny Wright, a summer signing, finished the season with 22 league goals and 11 assists, winning the Supporters Player of the Year award.
For the club's return to the Football League, manager Gary Johnson largely kept faith with the players that had won the previous year's National League championship. The majority of that squad agreed new contracts to stay at the club with left-back George McLennan the only first-team regular to opt to leave. He was replaced by James Jennings, signed from local rivals Forest Green Rovers.
The season proved to be a struggle with a number of players finding the step up to League 2 more difficult than had been hoped. The Whaddon Road pitch also came in for criticism, from both supporters and visiting managers, as it struggled to cope with its high levels of use (Gloucester City were in the final season of a ground-share at Cheltenham during 2016–17).
Gary Johnson took steps to strengthen the squad during the January transfer window with Will Boyle and Carl Winchester both arriving on 18-month deals from Huddersfield Town and Oldham Athletic respectively. Experienced former Cheltenham goalkeeper Scott Brown also returned on a half-season loan from Wycombe Wanderers, and a number of players left on loan.
Results improved somewhat during the spring, although Johnson was absent on sick leave from March onwards while recovering from heart bypass surgery, leaving his assistant Russell Milton in day-to-day control during the run-in. The Robins secured their league status with a 1–0 win over Hartlepool United in the penultimate game of the season. They finished the season in 21st place in League 2, on 50 points.
During the close season a recovered Johnson returned to work and signed a new two-year contract. He oversaw a major clearout of the squad with eleven players released. Striker Billy Waters, who had thrived in an otherwise struggling side scoring 16 goals, also rejected a new contract offer and joined Northampton Town for an undisclosed fee.
In the 2017-18 season the club ultimately only gained one point more than in the previous year (51 compared to 50), and finished in 17th place in League 2.
By far the biggest success of an otherwise low-key year was Sudanese striker Mohamed Eisa. Signed as a low-key free transfer from non-league football, Eisa scored 23 league goals for Cheltenham during the season and ultimately moved to Bristol City, for a transfer fee reportedly in excess of £1m (a club record sale), in July 2018.
At the end of the season, long-serving club chairman Paul Baker stood down from the role after 20 years, handing over the chairmanship to Andy Wilcox.
Kit sponsors and manufacturers
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|Year||Kit Manufacturer||Shirt Sponsor||Back of Shirt Sponsor||Short Sponsor|
|2004–2008||Bence Building Merchants|
|2009–2011||PSU Technology Group|
|2011–2013||Barr Stadia||Gloucestershire Echo|
|2016-2018||RK Lewis Transport|
Gloucester City and Hereford are traditional rivals, although now two leagues apart. Due to Cheltenham's rise up the leagues the last competitive meeting between the former was 1997, but is still keenly discussed by both sets of fans. Between the years of 2010 and 2017, both teams shared the Whaddon Road stadium, however, Gloucester City have since relocated to Evesham United's Jubilee Stadium.
In more recent years, Cheltenham's main rivals have been Forest Green Rovers of Nailsworth. They played each other twice in the 2015–16 season, both games ending in draws. The rivalry is due to both the close proximity between the clubs and the fight for the 2015–16 National League (Cheltenham and Forest Green finishing 1st and 2nd respectively).
- As of 14 June 2019.
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
Out on loan
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
- Manager: Michael Duff
- Assistant Manager: Russell Milton
- Goalkeeping Coach: Steve Book
- Under-18s Manager: Pete Haynes
- Head of Recruitment: Micky Moore
- Head of Academy Coaching: Ross Thorpe
- Senior Sports Therapist: Gavin Crowe
- Sports Therapists: James Redman & Kai Hepworth
- Fitness Coach: Josh Harris
- Head of Performance Analysis: Tim Bell
Honours and achievements
The following honours are listed on the official Cheltenham Town FC website:
Conference National (5th tier)
- Champions: 1982–83
Southern League Division 1 North
- Runners-up: 1976–77
- Winners: 1998
- Leamington Hospital Cup – Winners (1934–35)
- Midland Floodlit Cup – Winners (1985–86, 1986–87, 1987–88)
- Gloucestershire Senior Cup – Winners (1998–99)
- Cheltenham League – Winners (1910–11, 1913–14)
- Gloucestershire Senior Amateur North Challenge Cup - Winners (1929–30, 1930–31, 1932–33, 1933–34, 1934–35)
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- Record transfer paid
- Record transfer received
- Record attendance at Whaddon Road
- 8,326 vs Reading, FA Cup 1st round, 17 November 1956
- Record win
- 12–0 vs Chippenham Rovers, FA Cup 3rd qualifying round, 2 November 1935
- Record defeat
- Record appearances
- Roger Thorndale – 702 (1958–1976)
- Record goalscorer
- Dave Lewis – 290 (in 3 spells between 1967 and 1983) although Reg Smith scored well over 300 in the club's amateur era
- Record goals in a season
- Dave Lewis, 53 in all competitions (1974–1975)
- Youngest player
- Simon Goodwin
- Youngest player in Football League
- Oldest player
- Derek Bragg (42 years old 2 months 23 days) Vs Farnborough Town 7 April 1999
- Oldest goalscorer
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- Cheltenham appoint Buckle
- Buckle sacked
- Johnson appointed manager
- "Cheltenham Town FC fan elected to club's board". BBC News. 19 April 2015.
- "Cheltenham 0–1 Shrewsbury". BBC Sport. 25 April 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
- "Cheltenham Town 2–0 FC Halifax Town". BBC Sport. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
- Gloucester City groundshare agreed with Evesham United for 2017–18
- "First Team". Cheltenham Town F.C. Archived from the original on 11 March 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2009.
- "Cheltenham Town Association Football Club – Honours". Retrieved 11 September 2015.
- "Cheltenham Town football club honours". Retrieved 11 September 2015.
- Palmer, Jon (17 August 2018). "Andy Wilcox on his first 3 months as chairman and the start to the season". gloucestershirelive. Retrieved 18 August 2018.