Steve Cotterill says it will be a special moment to return ‘home’ as he brings his Bristol City team to Whaddon Road for Wednesday night’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy second round tie.
The man who transformed Cheltenham Town between 1997 and 2002 will be making his first competitive appearance in the away dugout, having previously brought City and Burnley sides for pre-season friendlies.
When he was appointed caretaker manager, Cheltenham were in the Premier Division of the Southern League, but the by the time he left they were a League One club.
“I am looking forward to it because it’s my home town and I have so many fond memories there,” Cotterill said.
“From how many fans we had when I started, to leave the club in League One was remarkable and a lot of people deserve credit for what we achieved because it was a team effort.”
As well as leading Cheltenham to three promotions, Cotterill also took the club to Wembley for an FA Trophy final victory and the fifth round of the FA Cup in 2001/02, breaking records left, right and centre.
“Nobody dreamed we’d go as far as we did and my remit at the start was to get the club into the Conference,” Cotterill said.
“I’ve become good friends with a lot of the people involved, many of whom are still working at the club now.
“It was a special time for me because my mum was alive and when I look back on that period, it was nice for others to be able to enjoy it so it meant a lot to me and it was just a fantastic time.”
Cotterill has many highlights to pick from, but he said the defining image of his reign is Keith Knight’s cross being headed into the net by Michael Duff against Yeovil Town on April 22, 1999: the day Cheltenham secured promotion into the Football League.
“That photo sticks in my mind and I think it defines where the club was going at the time,” Cotterill said.
“The longer the club stays in the Football League the better and I’ve said it before, but if the club remains in League Two for the next 100 years I’d probably take that.
“A young boy in Cheltenham now can be a professional footballer in the town, which was not possible when I was growing up, so that’s the legacy, but I share it with a lot of people who did it all together.
“I love Cheltenham, but everyone who knows me will know I want to win the game and at 7.45pm it’s down to business as usual.”