Saturday, 4 August 2012

Patience is a virtue

'All good things come to those who wait' is fast becoming the mantra of Cheltenham Town's close season.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the majority of Ruby fans were getting a bit jumpy as the days count down to the start of the proper stuff next Saturday.
I turned up for the Cardiff friendly and looked at the team sheet, thinking 'right, we can put out a decent starting 11, but after that... hmm'. Not any more.
Before that game, the Echo had published their story linking us with Chris Zebroski, a player who started out as a youngster at the Cirencester Academy and went off to Plymouth, Millwall, Wycombe, Torquay and Bristol Rovers.
He is a player we tried to sign back in January, with rumours of a £75,000 bid being turned down - but in true Mark Yates style, he answered the questions about Zebroski after the Cardiff game with a flat bat of which Alastair Cook would be proud.
But the way he responded was an indicator that there was something in Jon Palmer's story - and so it proved when the signing was announced.
I am told that the fee is less than that £75,000 figure, and he will give us options up front and also out wide.
He had the best spell of his career at Torquay, and the move to Bristol Rovers did not really work out, especially after Paul Buckle, who took him to the Mem, was sacked.
Mark clearly wanted his man, having been knocked back and then saw him come back on to the radar - and it seems that he had to use his persuasive powers to get him here with the gaffer being quoted as saying that Zebroski 'finally saw sense and realised his future was with Cheltenham'. Nice one Mark.
Zebroski only got three goals in 28 starts - one at Whaddon Road - but was more prolific at Torquay so we have to hope he can find that Plaunmoor form.
Back to that Cardiff game, and we were beaten 4-0 - a thumping on paper but we were up against a side who will be chasing a Premier League place, and we competed well for half an hour before they got their three goals before half-time, and added another with that superb free-kick just after the break.
Possibly our brightest player during the Cardiff game was Tristan Plummer, who had scored on his first appearance at Evesham, then headed for the Welsh bonding camp, played at Port Talbot and also faced Birmingham.
This was his last chance to chance to impress, and he was our main goal threat, forcing a save from David Marshall from a free-kick and putting another chance over the bar.
Post-match, Mark said he needed to make a decision, and yesterday a tweet from Tris told us that he would not be getting a contract.
I must admit I was surprised, as were many others judging by the response to Tris's tweet from other fans - but thinking about it I suggest that the Zebroski signing put paid to his chances.
In my view, they would be a similar type of player, and I feel that had the Zebroski move not materialised, then Plummer would have got a deal.
Yatesy also had to weigh up his budget, given the fact that he wants to bring in a central midfielder (young, box-to-box, six-month loan hopefully tied up next week said the gaffer) and also a goalkeeper to back up Scott Brown.
On that front, we have seen three candidates this pre-season - Phil Smith, the former Swindon keeper who played well at Evesham, saving a penalty, but is felt to be too expensive; then former Everton youngster Adam Davies played at Port Talbot but has signed for Southampton, and finally Connor Roberts, another Goodison Park product who played for 20 minutes against Cardiff.
So that is a work in progress - and I am told there was an another goalkeeper training at Seasons with Browny and Steve Book yesterday, so someone might play a part against Burnley today.
The Zebroski signing had whetted the appetite for that Burnley game with fans looking forward to their first sight of him.
After that signing, some fans were bemoaning the fact that he is not a 'goalscorer' - not that 20-goal striker every team seems to crave.
I am not sure many of them exist - as the top scorer in League Two his 18 in the league - but then, as he has done so often, the gaffer went and pulled another rabbit out of the hat.
Yesterday morning, one of those infuriating Twitter rumours said that Bury striker Shaun Harrad was signing for us on a season-long loan.
Given the stream of nonsense these sites have come out with this summer, it is no surprise that people were sceptical, and I was top of that list until I had a Twitter message telling me this one was true.
Wow. That one certainly came out of the blue.
At Burton, Harrad was a goal machine. He hit that famed 20-goal mark for Burton before heading off to Northampton and then Bury, and he scored a few goals there without really hitting that prolific form again.
We saw him score the winner for Burton at Whaddon Road, and he got the Brewers' first two goals in 'that' 6-5 game at the Pirelli, and I remember in that first half that he ripped our defence apart and could have had more goals.
Potentially, he is the goalscorer we have been looking for, and to get him on a season-long loan is a coup, and the reaction to it from fans of other clubs has been mainly 'good signing, how did they manage that?'
I cannot understand why things seem to have gone wrong at Bury and why they seem happy to let us have him for the season, but to paraphrase Barry Davies from the 1988 Olympic hockey final, 'frankly, who cares'.
If they don't want him, we will welcome him with open arms, and he definitely gives us options in that final third of the field now, and it was another triumph for patience as the gaffer got his man again.
Yatesy will be able to play whatever system he wants now. Against Cardiff, we played 4-2-3-1, but with Zebroski, Harrad, Darryl Duffy and Jeff Goulding - backed up by Kaid Mohamed, Jermaine McGlashan, Sam Deering and Marlon Pack we have creators and finishers in abundance, and we really should not be short of goals.
We also have pace to burn and as we have seen in League Two in recent seasons, that can be a potent weapon.
And with that the jigsaw is nearly complete, with a couple of pieces still lying on the floor waiting to be picked up and put into place, and after this week, is anyone betting against Yatesy finishing the job?