Archive for the ‘The Football League’ Category

high five

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Here at strong on paper we like to cover a spectrum of topics regarding the footballing world but there are times when our partisanship gets the better of us – this post being the perfect example.

Wes Thomas, if you didn’t know, is Cheltenham Town’s newest striker and has got off to a flyer this season with 6 goals already. Now Wes is a breed of goalscorer we’ve missed at Whaddon Road over the last few years so his emergence got me thinking about other net-bulging heroes to grace the hallowed turf.

So, with this in mind, here are my top 5 Robins strikers, but before we begin the countdown I must warn you, this is my opinion – feel free to disagree and, I’ve only picked players I have seen, so those of you with longer memories please do tell me if I’ve missed someone off the list. Without further ado, here they are…


Wes Thomas

With 6 goals in 7 appearances Wes Thomas, who was acquired from League One-bound Dagenham, has certainly proven his ability when given the chance. Beginning his career in non-league football, Wes was soon snapped up by John Still at the Daggers but never got the chance to shine with the likes of Paul Benson keeping him out of the side. A player with a great burst of speed and positional awareness – attributes that back up his reputation as Cheltenham’s very own “fox in the box” – Wes appears to have a bright future ahead of him at Whaddon Road.


Jason Eaton

My number 4 is the man who cemented my love affair with the club when I was a bright-eyed 10-year-old. The day was May 17th, 1998, and the man, Jason Eaton, punctuated a relatively boring Wembley final with a goal to bring the FA Umbro Trophy home to Cheltenham. A real poacher, Eaton was an old fashioned forward with a knack for scoring important goals. A hat trick against unbeaten Halifax was his finest moment, where, interestingly enough, his opposite striker was none other than a young Geoff Horsefield.


Tony Naylor

One half of Cheltenham’s ‘little and large’ strike force, Tony Naylor struck up a formidable partnership with Julian Alsop in 2001-2002 and quickly became a fan favourite. Picked up from Port Vale by Steve Cotterill, Naylor wowed the Cotswold crowds with clever flicks and link up play showcasing probably the best footballing brain to wear the red and white stripes. The height difference between Naylor and Alsop was the largest in the Football League (a dubious record I’m sure you’ll agree), but what Naylor lacked in size he certainly made up for with footballing magic.


Julian Alsop

Coming in a close second, Julian Alsop, or ‘Jules’ as he’s affectionately known is a mountain of a man with a heart to match. During the 2001-2002 season, Jules scored 26 goals of which the majority were headers (it is said he scored more headers that season than anyone else in the the premier league, football league or SPL) and used his height and strength to forge a dangerous partnership with number 3 on our list – Tony Naylor. Returning in the 2009-2010 season, Jules managed to walk away with the Fan’s Player of the Season award after his committed performances confirmed his place in the hearts of Robins fans.


Neil Grayson

There was only one choice for the top spot and that man is Neil Grayson. Scorer of our first Football League goal, Grayson is a legend of the club in every sense. A dynamic striker who’s goals fired us into the Football League and onwards. He also scored what I consider the best Cheltenham goal of all time where, from a goal kick he let the ball bounce once, then, positioned on the halfway line, “Larry” swiveled and volleyed the ball over the stunned opposition’s keeper (please if anyone knows when and against whom this goal was, let me know, I can only remember it from the we are football league videotape!). Voted the best Cheltenham player of all time in a Sky Sports poll, Grayson has always been a player afforded heroic status amongst fans, and for good reason – in 162 appearances for the club he scored 48 times, a feat unmatched by any other Robin of the modern era.

So there you have it, my top 5 Cheltenham strikers, who knows, maybe Wes Thomas can force is way up the order in the coming seasons and as for you guys, thanks for indulging me and supporting the blog! If you have an opinion on your favourite Cheltenham Town strikers please do comment or take part in the poll below…

Stay tuned for more posts and some guest bloggers to give us a different perspective on the beautiful game.


Putting the ‘Cristal’ in Cristal Palace?

Friday, March 19th, 2010

The C, the R, the Y, the S, the T, the A, the L, it's me - it's Didddddddyyy

Every morning I wake up and peruse the latest rumours on the BBC’s football gossip column and almost inevitably, there’s something so ridiculous I spill my cup of tea.

Last month it was the whisper that Barcelona were interested in none other than Man United utility player, and winner of the most boring man in football: John O’Shea. The image of Pep Guardiola at training one day thinking: “Now I’ve got Messi, Puyol, Iniesta, Henry but there’s something missing… I’ve bloody got it! We need John O’Shea, that’s the missing piece in the Nou Camp puzzle!” actually made me laugh out loud.

I thought it couldn’t get funnier, but then this week what did I see but rapper P Diddy/Puff Daddy/Sean Combes wants to buy crisis club Crystal Palace. Now when we are talking about the weirdest celebrity/football club partnerships this is pretty impressive…

But not even an “exhausted and emotional” (not pissed or anything) Delia “Lets be avin you” Smith can top the potential marriage of bad boy for life Diddy and the swiftly plummeting eagles.

A spokesman of Diddy’s has confirmed interest and apparently it’s mainly down to the fact he likes the name (has he never heard of Accrington Stanley!?).

So, with all this in mind, here is my attempt at a ‘ghetto’ Crystal Palace XI that P Diddy would be proud of…

Manager: Flava Dave Bassett

Goalkeeper: Julian Sperhomie

Centre Back: Fan "Warren G" Zhiyi

Centre Back: Clint "Cypress" Hill

Right Back: Emmerson "Beastie" Boyce

Left Back: Danny Nellyville

Centre Midfield: S "Diddy" Derry

Centre Midfield: Allassane Get Rich N'Diaye Tryin'

Right Midfield: Lil Wayne Routledge

Left Midfield: Julian Gray Z

Striker: Dr AJ

Striker: LudaCris Armstrong

Let me know your thoughts on this potential partnership – match made in heaven? Or is Diddy one sugar daddy Palace don’t need?

Oh and if anyone knows Diddy make sure he reads my blog, it may well encourage him to part with his hard-earned cash.

don’t call it a comeback, call it the greatest comeback

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

This weekend saw the greatest game of football I have ever witnessed being played out right in front of my eyes at Burton’s Pirelli stadium. In a scene which would seem unbelievable even amongst the pages of a Roy of the Rovers comic strip, Cheltenham Town beat Burton Albion 6-5 after being 5-3 down as late as the 85th minute.

There’s nothing quite like the unthinkable happening in football, so, with that in mind, here we go…

Burton Albion 5 – 6 Cheltenham Town, 13th March, 2010

If at 5 o clock on saturday I had been struck down by a rogue bolt of lightning, passers by would gather round my charred remains and see a massive smile on my face – the game of football I had just seen, happened to be one of the best moments of my life.

It all began with a hasty walk to the Pirelli stadium after one too many pints in the watering holes of Burton. As I entered the stadium I just managed to get onto the terrace in time to see Shaun Harrad drill in the Brewer’s opener after 2 minutes, it seemed like it was going to be ‘one of those days’.

A disgusting dive from Harrad and a man who appeared to be the only man in Burton who owned a flag and therefore given the job of linesman conspired against us soon after and we were soon 2-0 down.

As the referee blew for half time I was starting to question why I bothered and convinced myself that this very blog post would be about diving and the steady increase of flag and whistle-bearing idiots – what a difference a half makes.

Whatever Cheltenham manager Mark Yates said at half time, it seemed to do the trick as Justin Richards and then Medy Elito scored within 2 minutes of each other to make it 2-2. Burton replied with two of their own as Townsend put the ball in his own net and on loan Steve Kabba scored making it 4-2. A glint of hope appeared as Michael Pook  scored a free kick in the 84th minute making it 4-3 but less that a minute later Kabba put the result beyond doubt making it 5-3 with 5 minutes of normal time to play.

Then something strange happened.

The football god’s smiled and Pook’s shot from 20 yards took a wicked deflection looping over the open-mouthed keeper – 5-4. But surely that’s it right?

That wasn’t it.

In the 90th minute a long ball was flicked on by Julian Alsop (a man that bares more resemblance to a grizzly bear than a footballer) and Justin Richards passed it into the net under the onrushing keeper. Cue ecstatic scenes in the away end as we snatched a point from the unlikeliest position.

Then something even stranger happened.

In the 95th minute a corner was cleared to the edge of the box where Michael Pook rose, puffing out his chest to control the ball, then, with a sweep of his rapier-like foot, volleyed the ball which span and dipped and unbelievably, hit the back of the net.

A man 3 times my size with a skinhead rushed towards me, we embraced, he held me aloft, and we shared a moment which was probably only acceptable in his eyes on that day, at that time, but why the hell not.

We’d won it, fans leapt the barriers trying to get to the players, grown men sang with a tear in their eye, and players and supporters knew they would never, ever, witness something like this again.

Now, I know this is a Football League blog and that this is by far the most biased post i’ve written but as I’ve said before, I won’t apologise for being passionate.

And anyway, if you don’t appreciate this, your heart must be made of stone, or you must be a Chelsea fan, or both.

Please let me know what your favourite footballing comeback is and keep checking the blog for something a little more impartial, I promise.

Friend or Foe?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The unthinkable has been suggested. Cheltenham Town may ground share with their fiercest rivals Gloucester City which will give the latter a home, and us, some much needed money, but the proposition has divided opinion between both sets of fans.

I am slightly too young to remember Cheltenham/Gloucester derbies but have grown up  with an inherent dislike for our neighbours – joining in with the “We hate Gloucester” songs at games with vigor. However, with Gloucester City lying in the bottom half of the Blue Square North the rivalry has lost some of it’s gravitas which leads me to the question – why not ground share?

Now don’t get me wrong, when I first heard the idea  I was totally against it and part of me still is, but, in a time when we need all the money we can get it’s hard to see how we can turn it down. Yes there might be some trouble but I think with the right organisation, the majority of it can be avoided. Also, this might be the helping hand Gloucester City need to begin their descent up the leagues and if that was the case wouldn’t it be great if we could reignite this rivalry in League Two and beat them (4 or 5 – 0 preferably).

Ground shares have been suggested in the past for great enemies like Arsenal and Spurs and even Liverpool and Everton but have never made it, mainly down to fans’ opinion and to be honest,  they were probably right. But right now, at League Two level and in our current financial position, maybe we should let the Tigers into our back yard…

just not for too long though eh?

Let me know what you think about rivals sharing grounds and whether you would be happy to do so if it was your team!

The Magic of the Football League

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The Football League is better than the Premiership. There, I said it. Now before all you Chelsea and Man United fans start foaming at the mouth I am not suggesting the quality of football is better, clearly Didier Drogba has a bit more talent than say Julian Alsop of Cheltenham Town fame. However, if I was to tell you how my love affair began with the Football League then maybe you’d understand.

It was a clear Thursday night in April 1999, Cheltenham Town were playing Yeovil in the Conference with the former needing three points to guarantee promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history. I was 10 years old at the time and as me and my dad walked towards the ground, the atmosphere was electric. The previous year I’d already seen Cheltenham win the FA Umbro Trophy at Wembley but even at such a tender age I realised the importance of winning the league. Then this happened…

As the final whistle went the Cheltenham fans rushed onto the pitch, some kissed the turf others lifted the players aloft, my dad, being the clever guy that he is, led me to the tunnel despite me protesting that I wanted to go and see the players. I soon realised each and everyone one of those heroic players would have to walk past us as they went down the tunnel, Neil Grayson, Chris Banks, Mickey Duff all got a pat on the back from a wide-eyed 10-year-old who would grow up from that point with a love for lower league football.

Now clearly this is a self-indulgent post, a Cheltenham Town fan reminiscing about a day which changed his life forever but was probably just another Thursday night sat in front of Corrie for premier league fans. Anyway, this is a blog about the Football League and not just Cheltenham Town so what does make the Football League better than the Premiership? For a start, ask any Carlisle fan…

Now this is all very emotive stuff, things that wouldn’t be out of place in Roy of the Rovers but I know what you’re saying – “You still haven’t told us why the Football Leagues is better!”. Well, firstly, the fans. When a Football League team concedes, the fans get behind them, they will them to get an equaliser whereas it doesn’t take much for Premier League fans to get on their players’ backs and start booing. Secondly, the atmosphere. Now I’m not the best person to talk about this as I am a Cheltenham Town fan so when I watch my team I am accompanied by about 3,000 other fans but when we get going, we really get going and it’s the same for lots of other clubs in the Football League. Football League grounds are real arenas where many a Goliath has been slayed and it’s all down to the atmosphere, every game’s a cup final for Football League clubs.

The terraces make a big difference too. As a 21-year-old I am in a rare position of standing to watch football from an early age. I realise the subject of standing at football matches is delicate after Hillsborough but the point is seats are no safer than terraces, it’s when you start letting too many people in one section of the stadium when it gets dangerous. Terraces make a football ground, there’s something about standing next to fellow comrades roaring your team on to victory.

What about the players? Admittedly many people would rather see world class footballers week in week out for over £50 a time and thats their choice but me, I’d rather not see an over paid prima donna prance around a pitch rolling over like he’s been shot every time the opposition comes within 3 feet of him (I know not all world class players are like this but bare with me). Give me a lion heart playing for the shirt on his back over a mercenary who will change teams depending on the highest bidder any day.

Maybe my opinion about the Football League is confirmed by the continual distance the Premier League seems to put between itself and the fans. I fear we are losing everything that makes football the greatest game in the world and the only place I can see a slither of hope is in the lower leagues at places like Burton, Accrington, Brentford, and of course Cheltenham.

Maybe this is a post full of bias, passion and blind loyalty but I won’t apologise for that, and anyway, isn’t that what football’s all about?

Keep checking this blog for more articles on the Football League where I will be discussing the big stories from the Championship, League One and League Two.