Russ Penn has signalled his intent by aiming for the top six this season
Russ Penn was arguably the heartbeat of a Cheltenham Town midfield that dominated many a team last season and it’s clear he is set to take on that role once again in 2012-13.
The combatant central midfielder is known for his tough tackling, possession winning and leading by example style of football – something that Cheltenham Town have perhaps missed since John Finnigan.
His arrival from Burton Albion signalled a change in direction for the Robins and his performances last season drew acclaim from supporters all around the Abbey Business Stadium but the 26 year-old is aiming for more this season, especially goals.
"To be fair last season was probably my poorest regarding goals but probably my most consistent with performances,” he said.
“I definitely had my chances to score goals last season but we work together as a team and of course the result is more important to me than my personal goal tally. I want to improve on my goals this season as I always aim for at least six.”
Reports on the fitness and weight of the players since their return from the close season has been very good with Ian Weston happy with the personal work put in by the players over the summer.
Russ Penn is no different and has come back in top condition ready for the new season. He explained that an eleven month season was tough on the body but he was eager to get involved with matches sooner rather than later.
"Training is good and it is great to be back with the lads with some new faces as well as some old ones,” he explained.
"The season was long more than anything. We came in at June and finished at the end of May so it was like an eleven month season but we've had a good rest and we feel fully recovered.
"Everyone looks after themselves during the close season these days and no-one comes back overweight like they did ten years ago so everyone is fit. As you get old it does get tough in pre-season!”
A new season always brings about new faces and two of those are Billy Jones and Sam Deering who joined the club from Exeter and Barnet respectively.
Both Billy and Sam are joining a settled side that has proven quality and Russ is aiming high this season when it comes to npower League Two.
"I've played against Sam a few times and he's a tricky player who likes to pick up the ball, move forward with it and make things happen,” Russ commented.
“I've played against Billy while he was with Exeter and he's a very good left back. He's scored a few penalties against my teams in the past and both players are very good additions to the squad.
"We were firm favourites to be bottom five at least last season but we overcame that and I think teams will be a little more respectful this season because they know they might get punished. We should be up there this season and we can't have anything less than what we did last season.
“We all know what we want this year. It has to be top six and if it's anything other than that then we haven't achieved what we would want.
“It will be another tough year but that's what football is all about.”
You can see Russ and the Robins in action this Saturday away at Evesham United in our first pre-season friendly. Adult tickets cost £9 and concessions/juniors can gain access for just £5.