Thursday, 22 September 2011

Derby day? Oh no it's not...

Call me a curmudgeon if you want, but I refuse to label Saturday's game with Hereford as a local derby.
Hereford are not rivals - they are not even the closest geographical League Two side to us.
Edgar Street is 43.8 miles from Whaddon Road.  Swindon's County Ground is closest at 32.4 miles away.
Bristol Rovers' Memorial Ground is second at 40.1 miles, so Hereford is actually our third longest trip, then comes Oxford's Kassam Stadium, 47.3 miles from our ground.
So this 'derby' stuff is nonsense.
Cheltenham already have local rivals, and will always have one local derby, and that is against Gloucester City.
No game with Hereford, or any of these other manufactured rivalries which fans have tried to concoct down the years with teams like Kidderminster, Oxford, Swindon, the Bristol clubs and most ludicrously of all, Rushden and Diamonds, will ever match that intensity.
Those Boxing Day and Easter Monday games were memorable occasions, with real edge and are much missed. By me at least...
I am aware of the argument that many of the fans who watch us now have never seen us play Gloucester in a 'proper' league game, so they cannot be rivals any more. Utter nonsense.
You cannot just manufacture a rivalry - it has to be a long-standing thing, and be grown over many years. It also has to be a two-way thing, and that is the case with Gloucester.
Other clubs don't care about us.
Hereford fans dislike Shrewsbury much more than us, Kidderminster care more about Worcester, or (before they went bust) Bromsgrove. Oxford and Swindon are more pre-occupied with each other, as are the Bristol clubs.
I'm not even going to consider the Rushden thing, as a) they don't exist any more and b) it was just ludicrous for them to be considered rivals. They are almost 100 miles away for pity's sake!
I also find it strange that fans are so desperate for a 'new' rivalry with someone. Why does it matter so much? I just don't get it and can't get excited about 'another' set of rivals.
It didn't happen when we were in the Conference with Forest Green, and as far as I am concerned, if we were in Northern Senior League Division Two and Gloucester were in the Premier League, they would still be our rivals. And the fact that their supporters feel the same way about us makes it a lasting rivalry.
Don't get complacent that we will never meet them again in a League game. It only takes one bad season for us and a good one for them, and we would both be in the Blue Square Premier. It could happen.
Anyway, back to Hereford, our nearest Football League neighbours. We played them a lot in the 1960s in the Southern League, then they went into the Football League in 1972 and it was about 25 years until our paths crossed again.
Since then, it has been a bit of nightmare as they have avoided defeat against us just about every time we have met bar the 2-0 win at Edgar Street in our Conference promotion season, notable for the abuse they handed out to David Norton.
We started to use them as a nursery club around that time, as John Brough, Norts, Neil Grayson and Richard Walker all made their way to us, but still they kept beating us.
There was the 3-0 shambles at Edgar Street, when we were so terrible that the former manager made three half-time changes and stopped the bus for an inquest on the way home, and a couple of 1-1 draws over there when we were all over them, but could not win.
At home, we had the 3-2 defeat when we led 2-1, and Ian Westlake hit the post, they broke up the other end, equalised and them smashed in a winner. Last season, they won 3-0 at our place. Enough said about that one.
So, as Indian signs go, the one they hold over us is pretty comprehensive.
But surely we are going to beat them this time, aren't we? They have won one game this season, a 1-0 win over Dagenham and Redbridge, been hammered by four by Macclesfield, and last weekend shipped six against Gillingham.
Their confidence is at rock bottom, and many of their fans wanted Jamie Pitman sacked after that game, and I must admit to a bit of surprise that he has survived the week.
After that Gills game, Pitman told the BBC:

"One thing I am not is a quitter - I won't quit but if that is what they (the directors) decide then that is up to them.
"If they think that is the best for the football club than that is fine, I will accept that decision.
"But I am not going to give in - you should know that as I wasn't a quitter as a player and I am not as a person, so it is up to them to decide that as it is out of my hands."
We lost our last game 4-1 against a team just promoted to the League, and with only one home win before that game. So we are not exactly brimming with confidence either.


We are a bit wounded as well, and have seen some bad habits from last season rearing their ugly heads.
Just as we were starting to believe the rhetoric that we were a different team from last season, our back four put in a passable impersonation of the Keystone Cops for an hour, and it seemed we had been transported  back to the horror of last February or March.
Everyone says we have made a great start. The table says different. 
From nine games, we are on a 4-1-4 record, with a level goal difference, having scored 13 and conceded 13.
That is an average start, which tells what sort of side we are. Inconsistent.
Can we bounce back from last weekend? That's the big question of a side which is very quickly returning to its Jekyll and Hyde existence. Which Cheltenham Town will turn up on Saturday?
Some players will be looking over their shoulders after poor displays on Saturday, while others will not keep their places after the reserves were impressive in Tuesday's 4-2 win over Crawley.
In some ways, Saturday is a no-win situation for Mark Yates. Win, and fans will say we should have won the game anyway as Hereford are 23rd and have just lost their last game 6-1. A draw will not be palatable for most.
Lose, and ... well ... I would avoid the forums for a few days Yatesy.
It's a bit early to call this a must-win game, but I would say it is a must-not-lose...

Fighting talk - but also the words of a manager asking his board to back him, or sack him. He is still in the job, so they are backing him. For now.
Also, they have sold Stuart Fleetwood to Luton for £40,000 which seemed a very strange move.
Whether Fleetwood really wanted to go or 'had' to leave as they need the money I don't know.
What it does is leaves them relying on Delroy Facey and loanee Sam Winnall for their goals. But they have only scored four in nine games.
Beware the wounded animal, but all the pointers indicate a Cheltenham win, and the end of that abysmal record.
But things are never that simple in the world of Cheltenham Town, are they?