Robins fan Matt Pegg reviews some of Cheltenham's toughest opponents in League Two this season.
One month to go…
Now, I know it’s only early July but the activity and buzz that is the birth of the new football season, doesn’t seem a too distant prospect. With squads back in for arduous ‘yo-yo’ tests and interminable stamina drills, (their self-indulgent, all too short summer’s naturally affecting their fitness) the big kick off on August 3rd will arrive at a rate of knots, and what a season it could be.
With a former Premiership club entering the League Two fray in the shape of Portsmouth, along with three other great teams dropping down a division, as well as Newport and Mansfield hungry for success in the football league, England’s basement division of 2013/14 looks set to be the toughest, most competitive ever.
Glancing across the ever intriguing message boards concerning League Two, I came across many fans trying to predict candidates for promotion and relegation. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw that most had us down as favourites for the top 7, with some even putting us as Champions!
Even the bookies have had a change of heart this season, giving us odds that rival the very best in the division. For year after year, I have had to watch as we are unjustly bounded in with the relegation candidates from both opposing fans and bookies. It seems that now even the most dubious are starting to believe in something good at the ABS. However, the distinct honour of being considered one of the favourites for the title, gives me license to tell you who I believe will be our toughest competitors for those prized promotion places:
Portsmouth – The favourites. It seems a fleeting juncture since the famous bell of Fratton Park was ringing to the tune of ‘Wembley’ as Harry Redknapp lead the club to unprecedented FA Cup glory. Now, after a tumultuous financial meltdown, the club find themselves dropping to the lowest tier of the football league. However, this has not deterred the new Pompey, who have raided the transfer market a dozen times already. A large fan base and some astute signings mean that this club will perhaps be one of the toughest we have ever faced in League Two.
Chesterfield – These lot have had a similar experience to the Robins over the past couple of seasons. Having only just missed out on the play-offs, the Spireites only claim the silver medal in the “nearly men” category because we claim the gold. With a decent budget and a widely experienced team, the Derbyshire based club will not be far off the automatic places this season.
Fleetwood – Relative new boys to the division, Fleetwood were considered one of the favourites last season, only to see inconsistent form drag them down the table. However, some solid additions to the squad (especially in Steven Schumacher, who has impressed me numerous times) mean that the Cod Army could be a force to be reckoned with.
Northampton – After two gut wrenching defeats at the hands of this lot toward the end of last season, my decision to consider the Cobblers as a title challenger is tough to admit. However, the club really impressed me in that 180 minutes and Aidy Boothroyd is a very good manager, especially at this level. With experience and youth combined, along with some new faces at Sixfields, Northampton could be in for a successful season. I’m just glad to see the back of Akinfenwa.
While many other clubs are being suggested as contenders including Rochdale, Southend, Scunthorpe and (dramatic pause) Bristol Rovers, it is bound to be a tough run. However, third time lucky and all that, I genuinely believe for the first time in a long time, that this could be the year that we don’t have to face a Wembley heartbreak, or a two-leg tragedy. Or am I just being optimistic…?
I can’t take it anymore, bring on Burton at home.
Matt will now be on holiday for two weeks so the Official Blog will return on Wednesday 24 July.