We need you!
This month from Cheltenham Town Football Club
The Robins have given the town of Cheltenham so many moments to savour in the past 15 years. Two trips to Wembley, a pair of wins at the Millennium Stadium and four promotions have been toasted in that period and Cheltenham Town are now a fully-established Football League club.
Their progress on the pitch, however, has been hampered by a decline in support, which is jeopardising the ambition of chairman Paul Baker and manager Mark Yates.
When Steve Cotterill grabbed the club by the scruff of the neck and dragged it through the divisions in the late 1990s, there was a remarkable rise in numbers pouring through the turnstiles at Whaddon Road. The days of around 500 people turning out to watch Southern League matches against Baldock Town were a distant memory.
Gates peaked during the 2002/03 campaign, when 4,655 fans on average witnessed the club’s first season in tier three. Since then, the club has lost supporters and it is now struggling to hit the break-even figure of around 3,200 this term. The floating fans are still there, as illustrated by the 10,000 who travelled to cheer Cheltenham on in last season’s play-off final defeat by Crewe Alexandra. There was also a sell-out FA Cup tie against Premier League Everton earlier this season of course, but less than half of the 6,000 fans who were there that night returned for the League game against York City five days later.
Those who are there week-in week-out to get behind their team do so magnificently and there is a wonderfully committed group of die-hards. But they need help if they club is to realise its ambition of climbing into League One and stabilising there, something they have not yet been able to do.
Cheltenham Town’s first spell in League One lasted one season and while John Ward and Keith Downing kept them up twice in 2007 and 2008, it quickly went wrong as they plummeted down to the basement division, nearly falling out of the Football League altogether.
Yates’ appointment in December 2009 has heralded a dramatic turnaround on the pitch and a newlook board of directors has things in order behind the scenes.
Cheltenham underlined their intentions with some eye-catching signings in January, including striker Paul Benson on loan and Jason Taylor and Byron Harrison on permanent deals. Make no mistake about it, Chairman Baker now expects Yates to deliver, but should the club succeed it will become even more vital for the town’s football lovers to respond.
Times are hard for many and League Two action does not come cheap, but Cheltenham have done all they can to attract families and prices compare favourably to other clubs at their level.
Recent investment has brought Cheltenham some breathing space, but the board can only sustain the current wage bill for a limited time unless more people show their backing, so if you are at a loose end on a Saturday, there is a team and a stadium a short walk from town of which we can be proud.
If 5,000 fans can travel to Tottenham, surely more than 2,500 can make the effort to show up to roar the team to promotion? With your help, the Robins can reach new heights and really put Cheltenham on the footballing map.
Cheltenham Town are Gloucestershire’s only professional Football League club, one of 92 in the country and you can be a part of the action. For news, fixtures, tickets and more, visit www.ctfc.com