Cheltenham Town welcomed back three former players on Saturday as Kayode Odejayi, Damian Spencer and Craig Armstrong were our guests at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium. The three registered over 470 appearances for the club between them and during their visit they reflected on their time in Gloucestershire as the Robins took on Forest Green Rovers.
Q: What’s it like to be back?
Spencer: I’ve been back a few times, it’s always good to come back, good to see that there’s still staff here from when I started back in 2002 so it’s always nice to see people and the fans and see how the clubs getting on.
Odejayi: It’s really good to come back here we had some good times here, this is the first time I’ve been able to come back to see the team play, it’s good to see familiar faces and be around the ground.
Armstrong: For me it’s great to see these two I haven’t seen them for years, Odejayi left and went to the magical wonders of Barnsley, its good when you drive through the gates and the stewards are the same people, they welcome you in and know your name. It’s quite scary really but it’s an honour.
Q: What were your best memories of being at Cheltenham?
Armstrong: I think for me it was the season we got promoted, my first season here. To get promoted straight away and then the season after to stay up was unbelievable.
Odejayi: When you look back at the squad we had on paper, we didn’t realise at the time how good we really were. I don’t think people really gave us a chance at the beginning for the season but credit to the club and John Ward as manager and the group of boys we brought together. It’s a family club and we were like a family, to get promoted in a league with teams like Swansea, to go to their new stadium and beat them it was always us against the world. We had some unbelievable memories.
Spencer: Yeah it’s the same for me, getting promoted and staying up, the season we stayed up I got my injury but it was great, following on after that we stayed up again and especially in that season when we beat Leeds I think that’s a memorable season, we beat them twice it was great. I’ve always had fond memories of the club as I spent a big part of my career here, I was here for seven years. So it’s always great to come back.
Q: What are your personal favourite moments during your time at Cheltenham?
Spencer: Everyone always talks about Swindon away, the 35 yarder I swung in with my left foot, but yeah for me the promotion and staying up. I was here for a long time and went through about four different managers, which was great for me, and it was sad when I left. It was probably the right time to go but I’ll always have fond memories of this place.
Odejayi: It’s hard to look further than promotion and staying up and as I mentioned playing at Swansea, I scored in that game and to score against a club like that obviously springs to mind. We obviously had the Newcastle game as well which was big for the club. I spent four years at the club so obviously this was a big chunk of my career. Like I said I made some great friends and met some great people. This is where I really got to grips with league football. I was at Forest Green before and this was my first proper league club after that. It holds a big place in my heart and I always look out for the fixtures and results.
Armstrong: I think coming to the club was a good opportunity for me. I was grateful to John Ward for the opportunity really because I was left in limbo by Sheffield Wednesday. I think again we talk about the Newcastle game; we talk about the promotion quite a lot. It’s the whole ride the whole journey for the two years, I jumped ship for six months and hated it, I made the biggest mistake going to Gillingham and when Keith Downing came and got us back in I was grateful to him and the fans accept you back. It’s just a good club, I think I’ve realised that the clubs I played for Cheltenham and Bristol Rovers, the smaller clubs are more family orientated and friendly Huddersfield are the same. I think that of all the clubs I played for it’s this one and Huddersfield because you made us feel welcome. Honest fans who want you to do well.
Q: Who was the best player you played with at Cheltenham?
Spencer: It’s a hard one, a lot of good players came through this club, Me and Kayode played together at Bristol City so its always great playing with him because of our strike force, crash bang wallop, and you’ve also got players like Grant McCann, Michael Duff who’s manager now, the whole team was on the same page and we wanted to do well for each other.
Armstrong: There were no ego’s, there was some good banter and some out of order banter but there were no egos and that was what was good about this club. For me it’s difficult at any club to pick an individual player, for me what was good was that I grew up with John Finnigan and Steve Guinan, we played in the same youth team together, so to finish my career with two lads I grew up with was big for me. But again Grant (McCann) went on and was unbelievable, Kayode went on with his career. How can you say it, no one was better than anyone we all had our niche that we could do.
Odejayi: Yeah that was what was great, individually we all brought something different and that all blended together. If you got through the squad and look at what the team went on to do, you’ve got Duff and Grant in management but then Martin Devaney, Brian Wilson, Ashley Vincent, Stephen Gillespie, Guinan and Finners (John Finnigan) like it was just the perfect blend. We could’ve played any way direct or we could play football, there we no egos and we were all on the same page and that was testament to how we got on together and it shows. To say who’s the best its very difficult.
Armstrong: But I think if we don’t say Jerry Gill is the best he won’t be very happy will he.
Q: What are you up to now?
Spencer: I work at Mars chocolate factory, I’ve just moved into a new role of project manager so at the minute I’m developing an new line in the factory, obviously I never thought I’d be doing that when I left football, but I went through different avenues trying to find my way but I’ve found a job I’m happy with and that suits me.
Armstrong: I’ve been lucky, I’m still involved in football I work in scouting and recruitment at Arsenal football club, so when I finished playing I found it difficult I went into the coaching route working at academies then I tried a physio degree and after two years realised it wasn’t for me. I got sent an email for a job at England, so I applied for it, got Steve Guinan to write a CV for me, and lucky enough I got it and I kicked on from there.
Odejayi: I just finished playing last year, but I’ve got two kids now keeping me busy and I have my own personal training business if the pitch and I think that’s the route I’m going to go down, just finishing off a strength and conditioning qualification. Once I’m done with that, I may go back into football but you never know. I’m enjoying what I’m doing at the moment helping people achieve their goals and spending time with the kids and being a dad.