This weekend’s fixtures – the first full set since the transfer deadline – with provoke increased interest with players moving in and out at teams up and down the country, especially in the Football League.
While some media outlets sent reporters to Premier League clubs, only to find they were filling hours of air time talking about nothing going on, anyone watching activities at Cheltenham Town couldn’t fail to have been surprised by the ferocity of change.
It was all a far cry from the public face of manager Paul Buckle after last weekend’s defeat at Dagenham and Redbridge. “There were some good things in the game” he said. Clearly his private thoughts were more akin to those of the 200 or so traveling supporters, who made it patently clear at the end they were not satisfied with what they saw.
I would defend the team’s effort but as a collective the side looked flimsy and by the end it was shorn of the one real threat of a goal as Jack Dunn hobbled off.
I remember having a conversation at the start of the transfer window and pointing out that with no midweek games in January, if deals were not done until the end, only a handful of matches would have passed.
As it turned out, bouncing three Liverpool youngsters in was enough to win at Oxford and, with the addition of a teenager from Crystal Palace, hold Morecambe and Luton at home. Losing by two goals at two teams in the bottom three however told manager Paul Buckle some significant surgery was needed to steer clear of possible trips to Braintree and Eastleigh next season.
Deadline day was, therefore, frenetic. At one level, you have to credit Buckle for generating the business he did. True, settlements were reached with Elliott and Gornell over the remaining months of their contracts until the summer, but selling Harrison to Chesterfield probably nearly covered that outlay.
Black has left permanently, Haworth is out on loan until the end of the season, and Northampton took Jason Taylor. To free up the wages of six players at least gave him room to manoeuvre.
So what of the signings ? With the exception of Durrell Berry – whose 30 yellow cards in 120 career games would be a concern to me – they are forwards or at least forward thinking players, which tells you all you need to know about the manager’s view of the team’s biggest problem. Denny Johnstone is the one player I’ve not seen before. The others are an interesting mix.
Frenchman Mathieu Manset, playing against Cheltenham, was an awkward nuisance in the draw at Hereford in November 2010. If Wes Burns is to partner him up front, he’s highly thought of by Bristol City manager Steve Cotterill, and that’s a good enough recommendation for most Cheltenham supporters.
Eliot Richards, although left footed, was played mainly on the right in his time at Bristol Rovers but Buckle may use him differently and while Jordan Wynter was on loan at Cheltenham earlier this season, I only watched the Southend game where he played in a 10 man team for the whole of the second half so to judge him on that would be unfair. What they all ought to bring is an enthusiasm to play and impress.
Cheltenham have won only three matches in League 2 since the end of August, so with a squad more akin to what he would like – and he now has 24 players to choose from – Buckle has to quickly knit a team together with only 18 matches remaining.
The next three are all against clubs hopeful of either a play off place or automatic promotion. Burton come to Whaddon Road on Saturday unbeaten in nine games. They also nearly employed Paul Buckle before appointing Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as the successor to Gary Rowett last November. On many levels, Buckle has a point to prove. If he cannot halt Cheltenham’s slide, his managerial career would surely go too.
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