FC Cologne show why German football is the GOAT for fan experience

Die Geißböcke (The Billy Goats) are unique for their history, success and mascot, but not least for the connection they have with their fans.

The teams are out, and over 40,000 supporters rise to their feet, all in unison, orchestrated by the entrance of their team. As every single fan twirls their scarf, they sing, creating a spine-tingling atmosphere that is unrivalled anywhere else but in Germany. This is a fan base firmly intertwined with their club, their religion, and what they sing is not an anthem or song, but a hymn that serenades their weekly worship. ‘Mer stonn zo dir FC Kölle’- We stand by you, FC Koln.

This is the scene at a match day in Cologne, where 48,000 people have turned out to support a side that sit rock bottom of the German Bundesliga, not that you’d know given the positive vibe around the RheinEnergieStadion.

Yet a near sell out crowd are packed in see FC Cologne play an in-form Hannover 96, despite the fact their local side have picked up a mere 13 points from 22 games. Before kick-off, Effzeh (otherwise known as FC) sit 10 points from safety, a target that looks very hard to meet with just 12 matches to play.

Colonge stadium entrance

But even though the club stare relegation in the face, dropping down a division wouldn’t be as tragic and as consequential as many teams would find. That’s because the passionate support that Cologne have will still be here next season, regardless of where they finish.

The reason for this is not just down to loyalty but because the fan experience is worth coming back for time and again, like a giant magnet pulling in support from elsewhere which is typically as efficient as Germany itself.

German football attracts thousands of English tourists every season. Most flock to the likes of Dortmund, where crowds of around 80,000 cheer on one of Germany and Europe’s biggest teams in one of the largest club stadiums in the world.

However, the reality is that any stadium in the German nation can provide this experience that is severely lacking across the UK.

The city of Cologne is plastered with propaganda for Effzeh. Stickers, banners, billboards, shops and even the food is branded with the football team in mind. How many cities in England go that far in establishing a connection with their local sports team?

Cologne city view

On entry to the stadium, which is surrounded by green fields and trees, there is a walkway that caters for anything a supporter needs. Endless food wagons, merchandise and of course beer is readily available not just outside the arena, but also during the match. What’s not to like!

Chuck in a few bags of free crisps and Mentos, and you have one truly satisfied fan, and that’s even before a ball has been kicked.

Then there’s the match day itself, the atmosphere is electric from start to finish, leaving you tapping the seat in the tram on the way home. Even though you may not understand the choruses of German chants, they stick in your head afterwards.

The supporters are generally well behaved, often mixing with each other and enjoying a beer, as many Hannover fans did with the Cologne faithful. Whilst around 5,000 segregated away supporters chant continuously, safely fenced away in a section where it is near enough impossible for invasion by the oppositions faithful.

Giant flags are remarkably waved left to right for 90 minutes, even through half-time, where if the food and alcohol isn’t enough to keep you busy, then stewards shooting free T-shirts through cannons into the crowd will sustain that level of entertainment.

Amongst the constant drum beats in the crowd, there’s often a bleat from the tannoy, courtesy of the club’s beloved mascot, Hennes the goat.

Embed from Getty Images

The stadium announcer constantly keeps everyone on their toes, encouraging vocal support at any given moment, whilst the ultras bounce and mosh, orchestrated by men with megaphones. Utilising safe standing in the best possible way, which is something that simply needs to be successfully instilled across English football grounds.

As for the action on the pitch, a poor game that ends 1-1 is overshadowed by VAR, which denies the hosts what would have been a vital last-minute winner just as Hannover are set to restart, prompting deafening whistles and jeers from the stands.

But that’s another matter altogether, as for the whole match day experience, it was 10 out of 10. Cologne fans caught the eye of the media worldwide when they took 20,000 fans to London, invading Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium back in September during the Billy Goats’ first European fixture in decades.

Four months later, I can see what the fuss was about. The team may be a shadow of the side that finished fifth in the Bundesliga last term, but the fans and connection they have with each other will forever be prominent.

‘Mer stonn zo dir FC Kölle’

Ehrenfeld, Raderthal, Nippes, Poll, Esch, Pesch, and Kalk
Everywhere, there are fans of FC Köln
In Rio, in Rome, (Bergisch, definitely not Mönchen) Gladbach, Prüm, and Habbelrath
Everywhere, there are fans of FC Köln
Joy or sorrow, future and past
a feeling that unites – FC Köln
Whether forward, whether back – a new match means a new chance
a feeling that unites – FC Köln
We pledge to you here our loyalty and honor
We stand by you, FC Köln
and we walk with you, through fire if it must be
remaining always by your side
(whether) Young or old – poor or rich
together, we are strong, FC Köln
through thick and through thin – no matter where
only together are we strong, FC Köln
We pledge to you here our loyalty and honor
We stand by you, FC Köln
and we walk with you, through fire if it must be
remaining always by your side.

And now in Gloucester, United Kingdom, even there, are fans of FC Koln.

Koln away two

Wycombe Wanderers 3-3 Cheltenham Town: Five things we learned

Fans certainly got their value for money at Adams Park

A second successive 3-3 draw between Wycombe and Cheltenham had both home and away supporters entertained right up until the last minute at Adams Park.

The match had a similar feeling to the encounter last year where the Robins surrendered a lead before coming back into the game late into the second half.

Both teams have been enjoyable to watch this season, scoring 54 between them, and that fashion continued as five goals were scored in a frantic second period.

Wycombe have one of the most potent front-lines in the division, even without the injured Scott Kashket, who netted 16 times last season.

Cheltenham are much better going forward too, sharing the goal haul across the pitch a lot better than the previous campaign where Billy Waters was often the only outlet.

Storm Brian strikes twice in one week

Brian Graham started up front with Danny Wright again as Gary Johnson named an unchanged side from the team that beat Lincoln last week and the Scotsman enjoyed his best display yet against Wycombe.

His brace helped earn the visitors a deserved point as he took his goal tally up to four since joining from Hibernian late in the summer transfer window.



The 29-year-old showed his poacher instinct to tap in a Jamie Grimes’ cut back for the opener, before steering a brilliant header in off the post in the last minute to rescue a point for the Robins.

The well travelled forward has started to win over his critics in recent weeks and on this display, Graham’s first spell in English football could be successful one.

It was far too Eze for Wycombe after half time

Cheltenham lacked midfield protection until Kyle Storer came off the bench three quarters of the way through the match to sit in front of the back four.

Joe Morrell and Carl Winchester are both a cut above in creativity at this level, but were clearly missing someone to mop up in behind and despite a positive first half, the midfield and defence crumbled between the 45th and 55th minute against Wycombe.

Gareth Ainsworth’s side hit back with two goals in two minutes and Eberechi Eze was the architect in the turnaround.

The QPR loanee shone in midfield for the Chairboys, and swept home the equaliser after 48 minutes before running a huge distance in the set up for Adebayo Akinfenwa’s goals.

The 19-year-old has tremendous physique and dribbling ability, he has also scored a couple of crackers this season too.

It was the fifth time this year that Cheltenham had conceded two goals in two minutes and when 3-1 down after 62 minutes, it required a massive effort to save the day and earn a draw.

The Robins deserve huge credit for not allowing the Chairboys to sit on their lead

The early second half capitulation did not deter Cheltenham from hitting back and the introduction of Harry Pell, Kyle Storer and former Wycombe loanee Jerell Sellars helped turn the game around.

Cheltenham did not give up, and when Carl Winchester made it 3-2 with 20 minutes to go, momentum aided the visitors in scoring the equaliser, despite a clear push from Mo Eisa in the build up.

The healthy band of travelling supporters rallied the team in earning a deserved point in a match that could have quite easily gone horribly wrong at one stage.


Such character and fighting spirit has been prevalent in recent matches such as against Port Vale and Grimsby Town, albeit without reward. But Cheltenham must learn not to put themselves in such a desperate position if they are to continue climbing the table.

Taming the beast remains a difficulty

Despite being 35 years of age, Adebayo Akinfenwa is still scoring goals in the Football League.

Finding the back of the net at this level is his bread and butter, and doing so against Cheltenham is also something he tends to enjoy.


‘The Beast’ has now scored 23 goals in 46 appearances for Wycombe and has bagged 11 against the Robins over the years for four different clubs.

Jamie Grimes and Will Boyle did superbly to win most aerial challenges with Akinfenwa and kept him quiet in the first half, but the man who is widely regarded as the strongest in football soon found his form with two after the interval.

It was another vital lesson for Cheltenham’s relatively young back four, who will now face the most prolific attack in League Two when they face Luton Town after FA Cup weekend.

Cheltenham Town 1-2 Forest Green: Five things we learned from Checkatrade Trophy tie as Wright sees red

Cheltenham Town lost their second successive Checkatrade Trophy game as Gloucestershire rivals Forest Green Rovers emerged victorious at Whaddon Road.

Freddie Hinds fired the hosts ahead shortly after the interval but two late goals from Reece Brown and Jordan Stevens sealed a morale boosting victory for Mark Cooper’s side.

Here are five things we learned from the first “El Glosico” meeting of the season.

Trevor Kettle wasn’t afraid to get his cards out when the match reached boiling point

Referee Trevor Kettle dished out five cards in a feisty encounter at the LCI Rail Stadium, including a straight red for Cheltenham striker Danny Wright.

FGR goal scorer Brown was the only recipient of a booking for the visitors while Matt Bower, Alex Davey and Jordan Cranston were all shown yellow cards for Cheltenham.

This fixture may only be a recently rekindled rivalry but tempers were running high and former Forest Green front man Wright was dismissed when he appeared to stamp on Reece Brown in the 83rd minute, leaving Gary Johnson’s team a man down and a goal down in the closing stages.

The 33-year-old was given a three match ban for a similar incident against Grimsby Town during their National League meeting live on BT Sport in April 2016.

If he is found guilty again, manager Gary Johnson confirmed that Wright could face a hefty club fine.

Old habits die hard for Cheltenham Town defensively

Despite the fact that Forest Green edged the game in terms of chances, Cheltenham Town were relatively comfortable up until the 79th minute.

Robins goalkeeper Jon Flatt made several fine saves in the first half to deny Christian Doidge, Charlie Cooper and Luke James as the score remained 0-0 at half time.

The Wolves loanee then turned another Doidge effort around the post when his side led 1-0, before Reece Brown found the bottom corner to equalise with 11 minutes remaining.

But just as they did against West Ham United and Exeter City earlier on in the season, Cheltenham conceded two goals in two minutes once more as Forest Green completely turned the game on its head.

Flatt was at fault as he tried to save a Jordan Stevens effort with his legs but completely made a hash of it, and unfortunately all of his hard work in the first half will be forgotten in the minds of many home supporters after that error.

Concern will also be expressed by how FGR scored two goals so quickly, even when there were six CTFC defenders on the pitch at the time.

The real “El Glosico” is set to kick off in November

There was an unusually large crowd for a Checkatrade Trophy game at Whaddon Road due to the fact that Forest Green were the visitors for the first time since their National League encounter in November 2015.

Around double the figure that attended the first competition fixture against Swansea City U23’s in August watched on in one of the highest attendances the competition has seen in the group phase since its controversial rebranding from the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

1,576 fans were in the stadium and those that chose not to boycott were also able to witness a mini-preview to what can be expected when the two sides meet in League Two in November.

Constant banter and chanting between both home and away supporters is a rarity in this competition, but a boisterous atmosphere could be heard throughout as Cheltenham and Forest Green fans geared up for what is sure to be another noisy encounter at The New Lawn next month.

Freddie Hinds loves a goal from long range

On loan Bristol City striker Freddie Hinds was given his first start for Cheltenham Town after six substitute appearances in League Two.

The 18-year-old marked it with a well taken strike that swerved over Forest Green keeper Sam Russell, adding to the two stunners he scored for Bristol City against Watford and Plymouth Argyle in the Carabao Cup before moving up the M5.

Fellow City loan pair Joe Morrell and Taylor Moore have shone since joining Cheltenham, establishing themselves as first team regulars.

Now that Hinds is off the mark, he too will hope to make an impression on the starting 11 if the opportunity should present itself in the future.

Cheltenham will make wholesale changes ahead of another home derby this Saturday

Gary Johnson made a total of eight changes for the cup tie, in comparison to Forest Green’s two.

While the victory will give Mark Cooper and his team a huge confidence boost, they still remain bottom of the Football League with just five points and without a league triumph since beating Yeovil Town 4-3 in August.

The Green Devils also face the daunting task of a trip to leaders Notts County this weekend, while Cheltenham will look to get back on track and build on their good league form versus Swindon Town.

In the battle between ‘The Robins’ Johnson is likely to bring back a number of first team regulars from the start such as Scott Flinders, Harry Pell, Mohamed Eisa, Brian Graham, Carl Winchester, Jamie Grimes and Joe Morrell (providing he returns from international duty unscathed).

Cheltenham are unbeaten in four League Two matches, a run that has carried them up to 13th in the table.

If they continue their fine home form against Swindon by getting three points, then this defeat will soon be forgotten come 5pm on Saturday afternoon.

Cheltenham Town 3-0 Mansfield Town: Five things we learned as the Robins secured a third League Two win of the season

Cheltenham Town moved up to 16th place in League Two after an impressive second half display helped dispatch Mansfield Town.

Here are five things we learned at the LCI Rail Stadium.

Joe Morrell was the smallest player on the pitch but had the biggest influence

Cheltenham Town may have unearthed a gem in the loan market judging by the contribution of Joe Morrell in his first month at the club.

Of the three Bristol City youngsters that Gary Johnson borrowed from his son Lee, Morrell was the least well known and expected to act as a squad player during his time in Gloucestershire.

But since making his debut against Stevenage after Nigel Atangana’s late withdrawal, the 20-year-old has been a standout performer in the centre of the pitch.

His stature allows for nimble footwork and the Welshman has also taken over on set piece duty, providing real quality deliveries, as proved by the assist for Brian Graham’s opener against Mansfield. He does not shy away from defensive duties either.

A well taken curled shot from the edge of the penalty area capped off a man of the match display for Morrell, who also bagged his first Football League goal versus the Stags.

Cheltenham have finally found their goal scoring touch

Gary Johnson’s side netted a quarter of their overall goal tally this season in the 3-0 rout, adding to the nine scored in their entire season so far.  

Converting chances created has been an issue in most of the ten league games, especially when dominating in the 0-0 draw at Yeovil and 1-0 defeat at Newport.

But the last three results have seen a real change in fortunes as Cheltenham made their pressure tell. They have already scored three goals in three home fixtures this season when netting more than two was a struggle throughout the majority of 2016/17.

Goals are coming from everywhere, and six different players have already opened their League Two accounts with Mohamed Eisa and Kevin Dawson leading the way in numbers.

You will struggle to find a more one sided second half this season

A scrappy disallowed goal was as good as the first half got in terms of action, that’s if you don’t count Mansfield manager Steve Evans’ antics in the away dugout.

But all the action during the second period was aimed towards the Speedy Skips end as the hosts put their big spending visitors to the sword.

Harry Pell crashed the post with a long range effort and Kevin Dawson had a header blocked on the line but three well taken strikes by Graham, Morrell and Wright was enough to seal victory for Cheltenham.

Before this game Cheltenham had scored all but two of their League Two goals in the first half but persistence paid off this time with three after the interval.

Momentum is building and Chesterfield away this coming Saturday provides a real opportunity to grab a maiden away victory, which would be the first since February.

The Robins have more chance of keeping clean sheets with Taylor at the back

Along with Joe Morrell and Freddie Hinds, Taylor Moore has thrived since arriving from Bristol City.

The young but experienced centre back has enjoyed a playing spell in France and has also proved himself at League One level on loan with Bury.

Moore has hardly put a foot wrong since pulling on a red and white shirt and has dealt with wily strikers such as Frank Nouble and Billy Kee with relatively little hassle as well as demonstrating a calm and composed partnership with either Jamie Grimes or Will Boyle.

The versatile 20-year-old shone again in a back four with the equally impressive Grimes, Carl Winchester and Daniel O’Shaughnessy against the Stags.

Brian Graham is heading in the right direction

Brian Graham finally stooped to head home his first Cheltenham goal after eight appearances.

The well travelled Scottish striker broke his Football League duck after a challenging start to life in English football.

After missing a penalty against Colchester a couple of weeks ago and blazing a one on one over the crossbar at Accrington Stanley, the 29-year-old was understandably delighted to hit the back of the net against Mansfield.

He will have to do that a lot more if he is to continue endearing himself to the Robins faithful but now that the monkey is off of his back, Graham will hope to add to his tally as one of the two target men at the club.

Yeovil Town 0-0 Cheltenham Town: Five things we learned (on and off the pitch) at Huish Park

Cheltenham Town picked up their first away point of the season despite dominating Yeovil Town at Huish Park.

Danny Wright and Mo Eisa in particular had chances to win the game but were unable to break the deadlock.

Here are five things we learned from the stalemate in Sky Bet League Two.

Cheltenham Town should have won in hindsight

When Freddie Hinds broke away from the Yeovil defence to go one on one with Artur Krysiak in the 90th minute, the travelling Robins fans thought that they would see their team win on the road for the first time since February.

But as the Bristol City loanee hit the side netting, the resulting sigh of disbelief summed up what could have been for a Cheltenham side who deserved nothing less than all three points.

Gary Johnson’s team carried on from their encouraging display in the 1-0 defeat against Stevenage the previous week and comfortably enjoyed more possession than their hosts.

Five of the 10 shots Cheltenham had on goal were on target but a lack of clinical edge meant that they failed to score for a second week in a row, prompting Johnson to reflect on what he believed was “two points dropped” in Somerset.

The draw moves the Robins up to 21st place but ahead of another away trip on Tuesday, they really should have emerged victorious.

A change in shape hints at a change in fortune for the Robins

There was just one change to the starting 11 as Jamie Grimes replaced Will Boyle in defence but a small tactical alteration saw Cheltenham line up 4-3-3 instead of 4-4-2 at Huish Park.

It immediately became apparent that the tweak in system suited the visitors. Harry Pell impressed in a more central role that he is renowned for thriving in, dictating play alongside Kyle Storer and the lively Joe Morrell, who shone on his second appearance for the club.

Pell’s driving runs reminded supporters of what the 25-year-old is capable of having struggled to make an impact out wide in recent matches.

The extra man in the middle also aided Cheltenham in having more of the ball. The interchangeable front line made a few positive runs as the pace of Eisa, Hinds, Jaanai Gordon and former Yeovil winger Kevin Dawson had the Glovers’ backline retreating but after Danny Wright was replaced early on all that was missing was a target man for the wide men to pick out.

Nonetheless there were plenty of positives to take into what is sure to be a tougher test at Newport on Tuesday, and the return of Jerell Sellars will give the squad another lift.

Both sides earned an unexpected clean sheet

For two teams who have shipped nearly 30 goals between them during their first five League Two matches, a 0-0 draw was the last result anyone would have expected.

But a second clean sheet of the campaign for both of the south western clubs provides optimism that their defensive woes are steadily improving, especially for Cheltenham.

Goalkeeper Scott Flinders did not have a serious save to make and was not troubled until midway through the second half when Otis Khan had Yeovil’s one and only attempt on target.

Fullbacks Jordan Cranston and Carl Winchester were superb, Cranston especially continued to prove his doubters wrong with another fine display on the left flank.

Cranko OX

Jamie Grimes and Taylor Moore dealt with 99% of what they were faced with and stifled all five of the attacking players that Darren Way used in an attempt to try and break through the stubborn Cheltenham back four.

Even though Gary Johnson’s side could not score, the gaffer will surely be pleased with how well his side shut his former club out.

The Glovers have a safe pair of hands between the sticks

Yeovil goalkeeper Artur Krysiak was deservedly awarded with the man of the match accolade after making a string of fine saves on a sunny afternoon in Somerset.

At times the Polish stopper almost single handily kept his team in the match.

The 28-year-old denied Cranston who surged forward and unleashed a rasping shot that was pushed over, before parrying a long range effort from Jaanai Gordon in what was an even busier second half for the former Exeter City number one.

Krysiak then pulled off a superb double save to block Eisa when the Sudan-born striker raced into the six yard box unchallenged, then tipping Gordon’s rebound over the bar with the ball destined for the top corner.

Clearly the arrival of a new goalkeeping coach has benefitted his display.

There was plenty of action off the pitch too

It was an afternoon of frustration for Cheltenham striker Danny Wright.

The much travelled forward missed two great opportunities to give his side the lead, heading wide early on before squandering a great chance when Mohamed Eisa hit the post.

The 32-year-old was substituted half way through the first half and appeared to smash a hole into the dugout in anger. Despite the damage this shows the passion of a someone who is eager to make an impact in what could be his final Football League season.

Rest assured Wright’s professionalism will shine through and he will come back stronger for the Robins.

There was an altercation in the stands too as a noise complaint from Yeovil supporters prompted stewards to remove the visiting Cheltenham fans’ drum, despite the fact permission had been given to use it.

All credit must be given to the 220 away fans who continued to make most of the noise despite having their instrument removed.

Improving poor away form is key to a better season for Cheltenham Town this year

With just one victory from their opening five games, Cheltenham Town sit bottom of League Two with just three points and they now face the daunting task of back to back away trips at Yeovil Town and Newport County.

Away form is a real problem for Gary Johnson’s side, who have struggled to get positive results at other grounds since their promotion back to the Football League two years ago.

Despite entertaining triumphs in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup over the last 12 months, picking up points in the league has proved to be a banana skin for a team who tend to struggle outside of Gloucestershire.

They have won just four out of their last 24 league matches on the road, with the last victory coming 10 matches ago at Leyton Orient in February.

That baron run stretches right back to the start of last season and it’s a statistic that simply has to improve if Cheltenham are to avoid another battle for survival come May.

Cheltenham would have been relegated back to the National League had it not been for the three key home victories against Morecambe, Grimsby Town and Hartlepool United in April.

Home form made all the difference on what was described by Johnson as their “cabbage patch” due to the worn state of the Whaddon Road turf last season.

But with a pristine playing surface for the 2017/18 campaign, it will take more than just relying on home comforts this time around.




The Carabao Cup win at Oxford was a rare treat for fans



It took until late October for the Robins to register their first away victory at Grimsby in 2016/17 but the need for maximum points at an earlier stage is required as six precious points are up for grabs in the next five days.  

First up is this Saturday’s relatively short trip to Somerset where Yeovil Town will provide stern opposition after winning both of their home fixtures so far this term.

Huish Park has not been a happy hunting ground for Cheltenham in recent years, where they last emerged with all three points courtesy of a 1-0 win in 2006.

darren way

Darren Way’s Yeovil Town stand in the way of Cheltenham Town this weekend


Last September the Glovers ran out 4-2 winners there and despite defensive fragilities, Darren Way’s outfit are very sharp going forward. Keeping a clean sheet may therefore be very difficult for a CTFC side who have shipped  a total of eight goals in their three competitive away games this season.

High flying Newport is another tough away trip for the players on Tuesday evening, but Cheltenham have never lost an EFL meeting there and Robins’ fans can look forward to two of their shortest journeys in the coming week.

Despite the disappointing start, the closeness of Huish Park and Rodney Parade in comparison to most other stadiums in the division is likely to attract a larger than usual away support at both fixtures.


Over 400 away supporters watched Cheltenham draw 2-2 with Newport last season


The supporters will travel and do their part, but the players must also now start to perform and put a winning run together.

Despite losing two home games out of three, it is inevitable that Cheltenham will start winning at home so improving away form has to be a priority if the Robins are to start pushing up the League Two table.

Cheltenham Town 3-4 Exeter City: Five things we learned at Whaddon Road

Cheltenham Town lost for the third time in League Two this season as Exeter City emerged victorious in a seven goal thriller at Whaddon Road.

Kevin Dawson put the hosts 2-0 up but Exeter fought back through goals from Jordan Moore-Taylor, Jake Taylor and a double from Ruben Reid.

Dan Holman pulled one back for Cheltenham but it wasn’t enough to stop the Grecians topping League Two after four games.

Here are five things learned as Cheltenham slipped into the bottom two.

If Oxford away was seven goal heaven then this was seven goal hell for Cheltenham

The Robins staged a stunning second half comeback to win 4-3 at Oxford United in the Carabao Cup first round earlier on this month, but it was a case of the complete opposite against Exeter City.

Cheltenham flew out of the blocks and stifled the visitors, using lessons learnt from West Ham in how to move the ball quickly and effectively switch the play.

Many would have expected the hammering that would ensue to happen against the Premier League outfit that Gary Johnson’s side faced midweek, rather than against League Two opposition the following weekend.



Exeter led 4-2 after going 2-0 down before Holman netted a late consolation for CTFC


But Exeter fought back well, living up to their billings as one of the fourth division’s top teams with some well taken goals.

The Grecians admirably stuck to their guns and rather than playing route one in an attempt to get back into the game, they kept the ball down and played some tidy football.

In Ruben Reid and Liam McAlinden, the 2016/17 League Two play-off finalists  have a pair of savvy strikers and a very well drilled team who will undoubtedly challenge for promotion once again this season.

The Exeter City curse continues

Cheltenham have not beaten Exeter City in any of their last six competitive meetings.

The Grecians’ comeback victory means that they have now won five in a row against Cheltenham and have subsequently been labelled as a bogey team for the Robins, despite having never beaten them before 2013.

Paul Tisdale’s side are no doubt the benchmark for a Cheltenham squad who face an uphill battle to avoid a campaign of struggle, much like last season.

That being said there were many positives including the attacking potential that was shown by scoring three goals, including a much needed confidence boost for Dan Holman.

But the individual errors have to be cut out first and foremost and that will go a long way in stopping the flurry of goals that have been conceded in a busy first month of the 2017/18 season for Gary Johnson’s men.

Double delight for Kevin Dawson despite being short lived

For half an hour, Cheltenham Town were in complete control against Paul Tisdale’s Exeter City.

Kevin Dawson showed exactly why Gary Johnson swooped to sign him all the way back in May with two goals in the opening 12 minutes.

It was a dream full debut for the 27-year-old, who along with Carl Winchester, gave Exeter no end of trouble down the right hand side.

Cheltenham capitulated before half time but the overall performance of Dawson will give supporters encouragement that the Irishman will surely be a key asset in future matches.

Dawson was part of Johnson’s Yeovil revolution, helping the Glovers reach the Championship at one stage, and that brace already leaves him one off of his whole goal tally for last season.

Back under the management of Johnson, Dawson could thrive as one of the few natural wide players at the club.

Everything went flat for the Robins after 39 minutes

The LCI Rail Stadium was bouncing after Kevin Dawson had put Cheltenham 2-0 up.

But that jubilation soon turned to nervous silence as Jordan Moore-Taylor curled a free-kick beyond the reach of Cheltenham keeper Jon Flatt and into the top corner.

Flatt could have perhaps done better with the first two Exeter goals, but Cheltenham’s defensive problems don’t just lie with the Wolves loanee, as the third and fourth goals proved.



The dejected Cheltenham players applaud the home fans after the full time whistle


The 22-year-old made some good saves during the second half but has been subject to criticism from home supporters over the last few weeks.

Perhaps we have been spoiled with top goalkeepers at Whaddon Road recently but what was more concerning was how easily Cheltenham fell apart after surrendering their early lead.

The defence was not an area that was anticipated to need tightening up after Jamie Grimes and Jordan Forster joined Will Boyle and Daniel O’Shaughnessy as first choice centre back options in the summer.

But with Forster now facing a long term absence through injury and Grimes banned after receiving a straight red card, Johnson faces a defensive crisis and could be forced to sign cover on loan before the transfer window slams shut on Thursday.

Next week is crucial for Cheltenham Town with the transfer deadline looming

The Cheltenham squad is small enough as it is but after the Exeter game reinforcements can’t come soon enough for Gary Johnson.

As mentioned before a defender is likely to come in due to the absence of at least two centre backs ahead of the clash with Stevenage next weekend, in what is certain to be busy few days for the management team.

The cash generated from the money spinning West Ham tie will help find what fans hope will be good quality players to add to the thin number of playing staff currently available.

Last January the recruitment had to be spot on in order to turn the season around and fortunately led the Robins to safety.

But with no emergency loans this season, there has to be enough cover to get the team through the hectic schedule of League Two and Checkatrade Trophy fixtures.

Whether they are loans or permanent additions, there is no doubt that an influx of at least two or three new signings are needed if Cheltenham are to start climbing the table.



Cheltenham Town v West Ham United: Five other times that the Robins have faced Premier League opponents in cup competitions

Cheltenham Town’s reward for their Carabao Cup victory at Oxford United is a lucrative home tie against Premier League West Ham.

Gary Johnson’s side will play the Hammers at Whaddon Road in just a couple of weeks after coming from behind to beat the U’s 4-3 in the first round.

It’s a dream fixture for supporters and everyone at the club due to the injection of extra-finances, a bumper crowd and potentially even the prospect of being on TV.

Cheltenham have come up against the East London outfit before and it won’t be the first time that they have faced top flight opposition.

Here are five other times where the Robins have rubbed shoulders with some of the best clubs in the country.

Fulham 2-1 Cheltenham Town- 2003/04

Back in January 2004, Cheltenham Town earned the right to face Premiership side Fulham in the FA Cup third round.

John Ward’s Cheltenham saw off both Hull City and Leyton Orient 3-1 at home to set up a trip to Loftus Road, and after a gutsy display, very nearly forced a replay.

The Robins, who were in League One at the time, took a shock lead courtesy of a fine strike from Grant McCann.

But Louis Saha scored a brace to turn the game on its head and seal the win for Fulham against a team 83 places below them.


Louis Saha eventually left Fulham for Manchester United

Nonetheless Cheltenham left West London with their heads held high after narrowly losing out to the eventual FA Cup quarter-finalists.

Cheltenham Town 0-2 Newcastle United- 2005/06

A fantastic FA Cup run led Cheltenham to the fourth round where they faced top flight giants Newcastle United at Whaddon Road.

7022 fans packed into the stadium to see the Magpies emerge victorious thanks to goals from Michael Chopra and Scott Parker.


The tie was broadcast live on BBC One and the stands were full of inflatables and balloons to see the Robins bow out respectfully after beating Carlisle, Chester and Oxford in the earlier rounds.

However it was to be a successful season overall for the Robins as they secured promotion via the League Two play-off final, defeating Grimsby Town 1-0 in Cardiff.

Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Cheltenham Town- 2011/12

A thrilling 4-2 second round win at Luton Town set Cheltenham Town up with a trip to Tottenham in round three.

5000 Robins fans made the long trip to White Hart Lane to witness an exciting fixture where England international Jermain Defoe netted alongside Roman Pavlyuchenko and Giovani dos Santos.

Spurs CTFC

The squad of 2011/12 were very highly regarded and included players such as Marlon Pack, Jack Butland and Luke Garbutt.

Mark Yates’ men returned to North London at the end of the season and lost again, this time to Crewe in the League Two play-off final.

Cheltenham Town 1-5 Everton- 2012/13

Just one year after their meeting with Spurs, Cheltenham struck gold again, this time drawing Everton in the FA Cup third round after a dramatic replay win over Hereford.

Live on BT Sport, the Robins were put to the sword by a very strong Toffees line-up selected by manager David Moyes.

Five different scorers helped record a comfortable victory for Everton, as stars such as Nikica Jelavic, Marouane Fellaini, Leighton Baines, Leon Osman and Seamus Coleman all found the net at Whaddon Road.

Russell Penn did manage a deserved consolation for Cheltenham, but they were well beaten on the night.

CTFC Everton

West Ham United 2-1 Cheltenham Town- 2013/14

Perhaps ironically, Cheltenham’s last meeting with a Premier League side was against West Ham.

In what was sure to be their one and only visit to Upton Park, Cheltenham performed admirably in front of 23,440 fans, 1,500 of which travelled from Gloucestershire.

Ricardo Vaz Te and Ravel Morrison scored either side of half time to put the Irons ahead but Matt Richards’ penalty gave the Cheltenham fans something to cheer.

Despite a few late chances, Cheltenham fell to a defeat in the League Cup second round and that is the stage where Gary Johnson’s side will once again showdown with West Ham in a fortnight.

Oxford United 3-4 Cheltenham Town: Five things we learned as the Robins staged a stunning comeback at the Kassam Stadium

Cheltenham Town caused an upset by beating Oxford United 4-3 away from home in the Carabao Cup.

Gary Johnson’s side battled back from 3-1 down to level the tie at three goals each before exciting new signing Mohamed Eisa curled in a beauty to settle the match.

Here are five things we learned as Cheltenham booked their place in round two and secured a first win of the season.

The new look Robins finally give the supporters something to cheer about

Despite what was perceived to be a poor pre-season, Cheltenham Town have shown steady signs of improvement in each of their two competitive fixtures.

After the late defeat at Morecambe in their League Two opener on Saturday, few would have expected a positive result at the home of a team who have hopes of reaching the Championship this season.

3-1 down at the interval, the Robins must have been listening to the Madness record which was booming out of the PA system at half time because they certainly went one step beyond in the second half.

After fighting back to deservedly draw level in 90 minutes, Mohamed Eisa produced a moment of brilliance in extra time to win the game and send his side through to the Carabao Cup second round.

It was a fantastic night for the travelling supporters, who sang their hearts out all game.

With a potential tie against Premier League opposition possible in the next round, the fans may yet have more to shout about after the draw.

Oxford were outfought and outplayed

Cheltenham’s trio of central midfielders had a superb night in Oxford.

Kyle Storer and Nigel Atangana broke up play and tackled hard to retain possession on more than one occasion and Harry Pell helped change the game when he came on for the second 45.

But one man particularly stood out in the middle and that was Jerell Sellars.

The former Aston Villa product was a constant menace to the U’s and drew a number of fouls due to his fancy footwork and ability to squeeze out of tight situations.

Sellars really excelled when playing just behind the front two and was also not afraid to help out with the dirty work when tracking back and making challenges deep inside his own half.

In truth Cheltenham dominated the midfield which was a great achievement against higher placed opposition and surely provides optimism that one area is well stocked for Gary Johnson when he looks to add to his squad before the end of August.

Cheltenham prove that they can go the distance

At Morecambe and in nearly every single friendly this summer Gary Johnson’s side have performed in the first half but not the second.

But a spirited second half performance saved them from defeat against an Oxford team who didn’t really get out of second gear.


The freekick that led to Mohamed Eisa’s opener

Mohamed Eisa, Harry Pell and Jordan Forster all had chances to net when attacking the ‘fence end’ but Danny Wright’s double was enough to force another half an hour of action.

Cheltenham have looked tired in the later stages of recent matches but managed to maintain a steady and consistent level of energy as a unit right the way through until the 120th minute against Pep Clotet’s men.

Gary Johnson looks to have found his double act

The gaffer has made it no secret that he is after another striker this summer.

Dan Holman started instead of Danny Wright but was unable to influence the game and was eventually replaced by the 32-year-old at the Kassam.

With Mo Eisa looking sharp after heading in the opener and already netting prolifically in pre-season as well as on his EFL debut, Wright showed exactly why he is currently the best partner for the former non-league hot shot.

The experienced number nine demonstrated good hold up play and like Eisa, scored a brace, surely cementing his place alongside the 22-year-old for the time being.

The pace and flair of Eisa compliments Wright’s target man stature and it is likely both will start against Crawley at the weekend.

As for Holman, everyone at the club is desperate for the National League title winning hero to rediscover his fine form but with another front man on the way his position could be under threat in the coming weeks.

Cut out the individual errors and this team will thrive

A catalogue of defensive errors saw Cheltenham ship 14 goals in pre-season and poor defending allowed Garry Thompson to steal in and grab the winner for Morecambe last Saturday.

Despite going ahead, a poorly timed challenge from the otherwise excellent Kyle Storer lead to the Oxford equaliser from the spot.


Marvin Johnson prepares to take his penalty which he scores at the second attempt

A weak header back to goalkeeper Jon Flatt was then punished by Jonathan Obika to give the hosts a 2-1 lead within minutes, even without many clear cut chances created by themselves.

The Robins have to cut out these avoidable errors if they are to climb League Two and stop conceding so many goals but the second half display from the back five was encouraging enough.

Jordan Cranston had another good game after an improved cameo versus the Shrimps and delivered an excellent cross to set up Danny Wright’s first goal.


The left back is so far answering his critics and succeeding in his mission to win over some supporters and long may that continue.

Morecambe v Cheltenham Town: A focus on the Shrimps

This coming weekend will see Cheltenham Town travel to Morecambe for their long awaited opening Sky Bet League Two fixture.

The Robins will make the long trip up to Lancashire on Friday ahead of Saturday’s meeting at the Globe Arena.


But what can we expect from their opponents on the opening day of the 2017/18 campaign?

Player to watch

There are a few long serving players still at Morecambe and one of those is 38-year-old forward Kevin Ellison.

Contrary to his age, Ellison has been one the Shrimps’ top performers since joining the club in 2011.

The well travelled winger has played for 12 clubs in his career but is fast becoming a Morecambe legend and netted nine times last season.

He is certainly one to keep an eye on and is also partial to scoring a few special goals with controversial celebrations.


Jim Bentley has brought in eight new players so far this summer, the most recent being defensive pair Steven Old and Scott Lavelle.

Amongst the other signings is vastly experienced striker Garry Thompson who returns to the club from Wycombe. The 36-year-old was on target for the Chairboys against Cheltenham during a thrilling 3-3 draw at Adams Park in April.

Thompson is joined by two other forwards including promising former Newcastle and Notts County youngster Adam Campbell as well as Vadaine Oliver from York City.


Full backs Mitchell Lund and Patrick Brough have also signed from Doncaster and Carlisle respectively.

In terms of high profile departures, highly regarded centre back Ryan Edwards has moved south with Plymouth Argyle and Paul Mullin has left to link up with David Flitcroft at Swindon Town.


The two sides first met in the FA Cup back in 2008 when Cheltenham ran out 3-2 winners in a rearranged second round tie at Christie Park.

Ashley Vincent scored twice and John Finnigan netted from the spot whilst former Robin Barry Hayles was on target for the hosts.

Cheltenham and Morecambe have met a further 15 times since and this will be the Robins’ seventh visit to the Globe Arena since it opened in August 2010.

The most recent encounter in Lancashire was last season when Gary Johnson’s side came from a goal behind to beat a 10-man Morecambe 2-1 in mid-December.

Cheltenham also emerged victorious at Whaddon Road in April, as a 3-1 victory helped stretch their unbeaten run against the Shrimps to eight games.

Harry Pell scored three of the five goals netted against Jim Bentley’s team in 2016/17 and the 27-year-old is likely to start against them once more this weekend.


Morecambe won four out of their opening five League Two fixtures last season and usually start well.

But Cheltenham’s recent form against the Lancashire outfit will give travelling Robins fans some optimism ahead of their Sky Bet League Two curtain raiser, despite a difficult pre-season.

Head to Head:

Morecambe wins- 3

Cheltenham wins- 8

Draws- 5