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Wembley 98: Where are they now?

17 May 2018

Where are they now? James Young looks back at the 1997/98 squad that won the FA Trophy at Wembley Stadium...

BACK ROW (L-R): MIKE DAVIS

Steve Cotterill’s trusted assistant manager throughout his time in charge, Davis remained as number two to Graham Allner. He left the club in 2004 but his wife Debbie is still at the club as manager of the club shop. Mike was named Managing Director of Gloucester-based aluminium specialists CDW Systems Limited in November last year. And recently he was named as Chairman of the East Manor Group, that has a turnover in excess of £10 million a year.

STEVE MURPHY

One of five youth trainees that were with the club at the start of the season, the left-footed defender from Middlesbrough gained cult status with the fans when he lost his shoe on the night the Robins won the Conference title in 1999.

CHRIS BANKS

The club captain and class act in defence joined the Robins from Bath City in 1994, having played briefly for Port Vale and Exeter City. Injury saw him call time on his playing career in 2003 and he is now a physio and conditioning coach at Stoke City.

ROSS CASEY

The son of 1970s star winger Pat, Ross was one of two brothers who played youth and reserve football for the club. He later became a fixture at Shortwood United, under Gloucestershire football legend John Evans.

MARK FREEMAN

Signed from Gloucester City in 1996, Boka was a hard-as-nails centre back who became a fixture of the side throughout the dramatic rise. Released by Hednesford Town because their manager said he “was not good enough for the Conference,” he went on to become more than good enough for the Football League. Now works near his home in the West Midlands - and loves his rugby!

STEVE BOOK

The goalkeeper was a summer signing from Forest Green Rovers for the princely sum of £8.000. After a rocky start to the season he formed an outstanding defensive unit with a back four that would be a fixture of the side that went on the meteoric rise up the Leagues. Still at  the club now as goalkeeper coach.

STEVE COTTERILL

The Cheltenham boy who transformed the Robins after being appointed manager in January 1997. He won three promotions and a Wembley final during his time in charge and later managed Stoke City, Burnley, Notts County, Portsmouth, Nottingham Forest, Bristol City and most recently Birmingham City.

RYAN GANNAWAY

The goalkeeper had been number one for a long stint of the previous season but was unable to usurp Steve Book from the side. Left the Robins at the end of the 1998/9 promotion season to sign for Gloucester City.

MICHAEL DUFF

Without doubt the finest player to have come through the ranks at Whaddon Road, after signing as a 17-year-old from Carterton Town. He left for Burnley in 2004 and helped them reach the Premier League, while playing 24 times for Northern Ireland. He retired in 2016 having played in the top nine levels of English football. Now works in the Academy for Burnley.

MARK CRISP

A striker of some renown in non- League circles, he signed in the summer of 1997 from Bromsgrove Rovers. He was unable to force his way past the formidable Jason Eaton-Dale Watkins partnership after starting the season instead of stalwart Eaton.

DARREN WRIGHT

The long-haired midfielder was the one decent signing (out of many) that Chris Robinson made from his former club Atherstone United. His spectacular goals were one of the main reasons the Robins won the race for promotion in 1997. He left for Stafford Rangers after the 1997/8 season. Now lives in Bugle in Cornwall and also works with the Punjab Football Association in CONifa - the international governing body for Non-FIFA affiliated associations.

JAMIE VICTORY

The club’s greatest ever left-back, he spent 12 years with the Robins playing in three or four different positions and in four different leagues. A pelvic injury prevented him from breaking the 500 game barrier. Returned to the club and worked with good mate Russell Milton in the youth system before leaving in 2015.

BOB BLOOMER

A mainstay of the side who battled to get out of the Southern League, he was player-coach throughout the Cotterill era. He then served in various backroom roles before leaving during Martin Allen’s ill-fated spell in charge. Now works for the Football League.

FRONT ROW (L-R): WALLY ATTWOOD

A Cheltenham Town legend in his own right, Wally was the longest serving of all of the team of backroom staff as kitman. A great character who lived just around the corner from the Whaddon Road ground, sadly he died during the 1997/8 campaign and never got to see his beloved Robins reach new heights.

MICHAEL JACKSON

Another of the youth products and a Cheltenham boy, he would later appear in the Football League for the Robins and Swansea City, before embarking on a lengthy career in Gloucestershire non-League football.

CHRISTY FENWICK

The young right back drifted away from football during the 1997/8 season after looking a decent prospect. A talented artist, a cartoon he drew of the squad from the previous season still hangs in the staircase up to the Whaddon Road sponsorship suites.

JIMMY SMITH

The second highest goalscorer in Cheltenham Town history, the Scotsman struggled to force his way into the side in his preferred striker’s position because of the form of Eaton and Watkins. He adapted and performed superbly on the wing, notably at Wembley where, as a substitute, he won the free-kick that led to the winning goal. Now a familiar face around Cheltenham where he works.

JASON EATON

The crowning glory of his superb Robins career would come at the end of the 1997/8 campaign with a Wembley winner. A natural goalscorer, he scored more than 100 other goals in red and white after making the move from Gloucester City. He chose to leave in 1999 after promotion as he didn’t want to go into full-time football. Now works successfully as director of theclubandspa at Cadbury House in Congresbury, near Bristol.

KEITH KNIGHT

The Cheltenham-born winger was Steve Cotterill’s first signing as manager in January 1997 and he had a huge impact on the run for promotion. The former Chosen Hill school pupil played a key role in both the run to Wembley and promotion the following year, before opting not to go pro in 1999. Now runs his own business working in finance from his home in Shurdington and spends his weekends following his son’s fortunes in sport.

LEE HOWELLS

“Archie” was heralded as the club’s best ever midfielder by boss Cotterill, and with good reason. He starred in the Southern League and Conference and was probably playing his best football in Division Three when he suffered an injury that effectively ended his career in 2002. Now runs his own barbers business in Bristol.

RUSSELL MILTON

Signed in the summer of 1997 after relocating to Gloucestershire for teaching work, he’s barely left the club since. A classy player who overcame nagging injuries to star in the Football League, he later became Academy manager, assistant boss and manager. Now number two to Gary Johnson at the Robins.

DALE WATKINS

The star summer signing in 1997, he joined from Gloucester City for £15,000 and immediately became a terrace hero. He scored 29 goals in his first season at the club before injuries began to bite. He will also be remembered for driving to the wrong Farnborough for a game! Now works as an electrician in his home town of Peterborough.

STEVE BENTON

The left-back was the man to be most hit by the arrival of Jamie Victory in 1996. Prior to that he was a classy performer in the Southern League and always looked capable of making the leap up the leagues. Was eligible to play international football for Western Samoa through his maternal grandmother.

JOHN ATKINSON

The long-serving physio had to give up the magic sponge after promotion to the League in 1999, but remained at the club as kitman. He is still involved to this day as a host in the director’s box as well as being father-in-law to club secretary and director Paul Godfrey.


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