Cheltenham Town kitman and club legend John Atkinson has retired but has fond memories to take with him.Cheltenham Town kitman and club legend John Atkinson has stepped down from his position and has now set his sights on enjoying his retirement.
John has been kitman here at the Abbey Business Stadium since 2002 and has enjoyed three promotions and four major finals during that time. He was the physio here at Cheltenham Town before being named kitman in 2002. He has served under seven different managers but he has finally decided to call time on his Robins career.
He did of course retire before when Martin Allen was at the helm but stepped back into the role to aid Mark Yates and his backroom staff as Cheltenham turned their fortunes round. This retirement is final however and John admitted it was hard to make the decision.
"It wasn't an easy decision - it never is," he admitted.
"I came back from my original retirement three years ago to help out but it has been a long time helping out! It is always hard to pull away from the job and I will miss it but, having said that, I am looking forward to my retirement.
"The retirement is very important because my wife is giving up on nursing altogether now and it's important we have some time to ourselves. In four weeks time we will be on a cruise in the Mediterranean and we want to do the things we haven't had time to do. For ten months of the year you are pretty tied down so it will be important to have some time to myself."
John has of course become a club legend over the years with his dedication to work and his clear passion for the Robins.
His return to the role under Mark Yates says a lot about his popularity throughout the corridors of the Abbey Business Stadium and his retirement comes as a real blow for the players and backroom staff.
The news of John's retirement was upsetting news for the players but John believes the foundations are there for Cheltenham Town to taste success and he believes Mark Yates deserves success.
"We're a better side now under Mark and they are a fantastic group of lads to work with.
"It was sad to say cheerio to them and some of them were quite upset that we didn't get to Wembley because they wanted me to go out on a high. It wasn't to be our day though.
"People don't realise how much work kitmen do and you must have a good relationship with everyone from the board down.
"I hope Mark has the success he craves here. He deserves it. I'll keep my fingers crossed that they keep plugging away because the foundation is there and they just need to push on now and make it count."
There are plenty of memories and successes that John can look back upon when he is enjoying his retirement on the cruise ship in a month's time and it's a career that he is understandably proud of.
With so many memorable moments it is hard for John to decide upon his favourite but he has many and he wanted to pay tribute to one man in particular.
"I have to say that I hold the John Ward era close to my heart," he explained.
"We had a fantastic atmosphere at the club whilst he was here. Everybody was always pulling together and I have to say that he was a fantastic man to work for. After he left the club he came back for my surprise 60th birthday party here at the stadium and that says a lot about the man.
"All games are good, except when you lose of course, but I suppose Torquay away last season which got us through to Wembley was good. Beating Wycombe to go to the Millennium Stadium stands out, as do the two finals we had there. The FA Trophy final and the night in April in 1999 were so special too.
"These are games that will live with me forever."
On behalf of Cheltenham Town Football Club, we would like to thank John for his hard work and effort during his years of service. A true club legend. Thank you.