Mark Halliwell has been a fan of Cheltenham Town for over 30 years and maintains the Cheltenham Town Chatter blog. He is a former sports editor of the Citizen and Echo newspapers, and now summarizes for BBC Radio Gloucestershire as well as commentating for the Cheltenham Town website. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us ahead of the FA Cup Third Round game between Everton and Cheltenham Town.
RBM - Cheltenham Town have a proud history, dating back to 1887. How big is the fanbase and where is it mostly located? Tell us about Whaddon Road.
CTC - Crowds this season have been around the 2,500-3,500 mark. This has been slightly disappointing as we are riding high in League Two and I believe the town and the area should get behind the club a bit more. When we were in League Two, crowds did get up to around 4,000 but every week this was swelled by higher away contingents. When we go away, we only take around 2-300 especially to the long-distance games. Whaddon Road holds around 7000, and three sides of it have been developed since we got promoted to the League in 1999. Everton fans on Monday will be in the Hazlewoods Stand, behind one goal, which was the last stand to be developed. Along one side in the In2Print Stand, which was built around 12 years ago, and behind the other goal is the terraced Liberty Mutual Insurance Stand. The main stand is the oldest part of the ground, and has terracing in front of it.
RBM - The Robins currently sit in fourth place in League Two. What were the expectations of the team at the beginning of the season?
CTC - We lost in the play off final last season, and that success meant that expectations were high for this campaign. Most fans thought we could make another challenge for the play offs at least.
RBM - Coach Mark Yates is an ex-Robin and has been at the helm for the last three years. What kind of playing style has he established with Cheltenham?
CTC - We like to keep the ball on the floor and play nice, one-touch stuff at a decent tempo. We don’t have a big man up front, so we don’t just lump it, and we have some decent players who will not just go out and kick lumps out of Everton, we will play the right way.
RBM - The heartbreak of a playoff loss last season must have been devastating, but Cheltenham have persisted with Yates. Is he the right man for the job?
CTC - Definitely. He has been in charge for three years and has transformed the club. The previous manager, Martin Allen, left the club in an utter mess and Mark has had to rebuild it completely. When he came, one player was under contract and there were financial restrictions. He kept us up that season, then did the same the following season before taking us to the play-offs. He has done a great job.
RBM - Who are some of the players that have caught your eye this season? What kind of form have they been in lately?
CTC - Our goalkeeper Scott Brown has been in superb form this season, and Alan Bennett and Steve Elliott are a very good pairing at centre-half. Billy Jones is our answer to Leighton Baines
from set-pieces and Jermaine McGlashan’s pace will be a threat.
RBM - With two losses in their last three games, the Robins are in a bit of a slump right now. Will a home game on the telly against Everton see them lift their game?
CTC - Yes it will. We will be giving it a good go on Monday, and hopefully the lads will rise to the occasion. The ground will be full for the first time in several years and the atmosphere will lift the players and hopefully we can put on a good show.