It may come as a surprise to fans of a certain age to learn that former Robins forward Christer Warren celebrated his 40th birthday last week.He joined Cheltenham Town as a trainee, making his debut in the Conference against Farnborough Town in March 1992, but he was unable to help the club stave off relegation to the Southern League.
He and Simon Cooper had impressed Lindsay Parsons playing in a schools game for Dorset against Gloucestershire and both were quickly brought to Whaddon Road.
Warren went on to make 83 starts and 31 substitute appearances for the club, scoring 15 goals.
He scored a memorable FA Cup second round goal against his hometown club Bournemouth in December 1992, earning a replay at Dean Court.
After initially struggling with the physical nature of the division, Warren’s ability began to shine through and he was signed by Premier League Southampton for a then outgoing record fee of £40,000, which eventually rose to £63,000 with various add-ons.
Warren made his Saints debut as a substitute against Arsenal and one moment stands out from his introduction to top flight football.
“I remember my first touch very clearly: Tony Adams basically booted me into the stand!” Warren said.
“I don’t think it had sunk in at the time, but I was training and playing with people like Matt Le Tissier and back then I just thought it would last forever.
“I had gone from playing in front of a few hundred people for Cheltenham to playing in the Premier League and suddenly I had to prove myself again and show I deserved to be there.”
Warren spent three seasons at The Dell, making three starts and seven substitute appearances.
He was loaned out to Brighton and Fulham during that time before signing for Bournemouth, where he played in the final of the Football League Trophy.
“That was a dream realised, playing at Wembley for my hometown club,” Warren said.
“I was injured in the build-up, but I managed to be fit to play against Grimsby Town and we were unlucky to lose the match after extra-time, but it was a fantastic experience overall.”
Warren’s next move was to QPR, where he played under boss Gerry Francis and became an attack-minded left-back.
He fell out of favour at Loftus Road when Ian Holloway took over and switched to Bristol Rovers for a brief spell before dropping into part-time football with Eastleigh.
After turning out for Winchester and Lymington & New Milton, he took on his first managerial role at Wimborne Town.
“I really enjoyed coaching players and trying to help them improve,” he said. “We won a cup and finished runners-up in the league in my season there, but I then moved to France to be closer to my wife’s family.
“I am still playing football, at sweeper, for a team called US Melloise and I’d say it’s similar in standard to Bishop’s Cleeve’s level in England.”
Warren now works as a builder and lives two hours from La Rochelle with his wife Nicola and three children Amy (15), Millie (10) and Lucas (20 months).
“I still look out for Cheltenham’s results and I watched their match against Bristol City on Sky TV,” he said.
“I had a great time there and I’ll never forget the derby games against Gloucester City and that FA Cup tie against Bournemouth.
“It was nice to make the club a bit of money after all they did for me and we had a really good team under Lindsay, who I can’t speak highly enough of.
“It was a shame we couldn’t get promotion and we kept coming second, but what the club has gone on to achieve since I left has been great to see.”