Cheltenham Town are on the brink of sealing an immediate return to the Football League but manager Gary Johnson knows that they can’t take anything for granted.




The Robins sit four points clear at the top of the Vanarama National League, with four games remaining.

Three wins from the quartet of games would be enough to ensure they put last May’s painstaking relegation behind them in the best possible fashion.

As he prepares his players for one final promotion push, Johnson challenged not only his squad, but the club as a whole, to maintain the high standards they have shown over the season.

He said “There is always a danger that complacency can creep into any dressing room but I won’t allow it to do that in ours.

“We have had meetings over the past couple of days and I have got into the players in training. I think they would have been thinking they are bottom of the league, not sitting at the top.

“But I have told them that they have set standards, high standards and that goes for the whole club from the tea lady to the directors.cheltenham-town-vb141-34853

“We have to maintain those standards in the next three weeks and ensure that we see this season out in the way we want to”

With a four point gap to local rivals Forest Green Rovers the Robins sit with their fate in their own hands.

And on first viewing their remaining fixtures look relatively straight-forward.

They face a trip to relegation threatened Guiseley on Saturday, before hosting another side hoping to stave off the dreaded drop, FC Halifax Town.

They round off their season with two fixtures against sides in the middle of the National League table as they travel to Macclesfield Town for their final away game of the season and then welcome Lincoln City to Gloucestershire on the last day of the season.

However, Johnson knows that nothing can be taken for granted and paid tribute to his players for their ability to overcome the most determined of opponants throughout the campaign.

“We do face clubs desperate to stay in the league and clubs that haven’t go a lot to play for.

“They can be two of the most dangerous types of sides to play because on one hand they are battling away and if they have nothing to play for, they play with freedom and without pressure.

“The biggest thing we face is that we are a target because we are top of the league. Everyone wants to knock you off that perch and I would be no different.

“That is why we have done so well to stay where we are”

If they are to stay where they are then Johnson believes that seeing off their local rivals would mean beating their biggest challengers.

As stated earlier Forest Green Rovers sit four points behind the Robins and the two sides have played the same amount of games.

Johnson’s eagerness to see his side get over the line as soon as possible is partly down to the strength in depth that the National League possesses, with the former Yeovil Town boss believing that any of the top eight “could hold their own in League Two”

“Realistically I think Forest Green are our biggest challengers but we don’t show disrespect to anyone in this league.

“The top eight is very strong and I genuinely believe that any of that group could hold their own in League Two, probably more than that to be honest because there are some very good players in every team.

“That is why we want to get promoted so quickly because we don’t want to be facing any of those sides in a two-legged play-off.

“In those games, anything can happen so we must get it done as soon as possible”

asa hallIf the Robins do seal a famous title win, it will be in no small part down to the impressive recruitment drive Johnson oversaw last summer.

A spectacular turnover of players took place at the club, with only Asa Hall(pictured left) remaining from the squad that was relegated from SkyBet League Two last season.

And the rejuvenation of the a struggling squad is not a new experience for Johnson, with the Hammersmith born boss undertaking the same challenges at a number of former clubs..

As he explained his eagerness to bring in a group of players mentally strong enough to cope with the challenges that would lie in wait.

“I have always taken over struggling sides, you rarely get jobs at anything else to be honest. I did it at Bristol City, I did it at Yeovil Town and I did it at Peterborough United, now I have done it here too.

“That has meant I have always overseen a big turnover of players, maybe not always on the level of what we did last summer but we were meticulous in our research of the characters we were bringing in.

We didn’t want any shrinking violets, we wanted strong characters and players we could rely on. I think we have done that and they are a super group to work with. Now we must finish off the job by getting promotion”

Three wins from four and Gary Johnson’s Cheltenham Town will find off the job and bring Football League action back to the town.

Interview: Mark Carruthers
Images: www.actionimages.com


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