‘We can’t feel sorry for ourselves’ – Duff
MICHAEL Duff told Cheltenham Town supporters he knew what he walking into when he was appointed as Gary Johnson’s successor in the Whaddon Road hot-seat.
Duff told a fans’ forum the early weeks in the job have been tough, but he is determined to turn the club’s fortunes around.
He inherited a squad of 29 professionals, but has pruned that down with some players leaving on loan and one, Kalvin Kalala, being released.
“I feel better now than on day one and it’s a more manageable group now,” he said.
“We had too many players, it was not ideal, but we have had to get on with it and work hard.”
The Robins boss admitted that the turnover of players at the club has been too high, something that he is keen to rectify.
“You’ll never hear me criticise Gary Johnson as there is no comparison with his CV and mine,” said Duff.
“There is no point crying over spilt milk, we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”
Duff will be having conversations with the board about what scope he has to put his own stamp on the squad in the January transfer window, but is adamant he will not be signing players for the sake of it.
“People aren’t coming to Cheltenham for a pay day, that’s for sure,” he said. “They have to want to come here and I will never signed a player without having seen them play.
“Luke Varney is the only one I’ve signed but he didn’t come here for money. He was offered nearly double at Blackpool, but geography came into it.
“Luke had an opportunity to play and he stayed with his family and that’s why he came here.
“It’s something we have to discuss, myself and the board, and I will be making decision on players.
“There are already things being put in place about what we need and how much money there is to spend, but even if there isn’t any, we’ll get on with it.
“I am good at what I do on the training ground, but we will be identifying people we hope can help the team.”
Vice-chairman David Bloxham added: “The fans need to be realistic about January. We have gone over budget and we have to look to the long term.
“We won’t see huge amounts being spent on big names in January.
Financially, in terms of stewardship, we are in good hands, but we have to live within our resources, using funds wisely and not spending money willy nilly on bid names who may not necessarily solve problems.
“We’ll work with Michael and try to build a team who can bring more fans back in.”
Bloxham was asked why former boss Johnson was allowed to bring in a large number of players in the summer, many on two-year contracts.
“The board doesn’t interfere with footballing matters,” he said. “Personally I felt the manager did a very good job for us over the course of his tenure and he felt the players he signed would do a job, but he has got some wrong.
“There were some mistakes in judgement over players and mistake on the part of the board in agreeing lengths of contract with those players, but the thinking was to try and get a team together for a couple of seasons to build on.
“The problem was some of them weren’t the right players. It happened as judgements were made and it hasn’t work out in some cases.”
Duff and the board are also keen to see young players come through the club’s academy and the manager has high hopes for George Lloyd and Matt Bower, currently out on loan at Hereford and Weston-super-mare respectively.
“It’s been hard for me to watch the youngsters so far,” Duff admitted. “Lloydy has gone out on loan, but he has a future at the football club.
“He’s gone out for the benefit of him and us. He is still training with us every day, learning to play men’s football and playing at that level at that age can only make you better.
“Matt Bower was recommended to me 15 months ago when I was at Burnley. 6ft 7in, left footed, is not a bad start. That doesn’t mean he’s going to make it, but hopefully he can.
“At the minute the youth team isn’t a massive priority, but that’s only because I’ve had lot on in the first month here, but bringing through players is the way to save money.”
Duff admitted his feelings on the loan system are mixed - but didn’t rule out using his former club Burnley as a source for players.
“It needs to be used right,” he said. “If you get the right ones, yes, but it can be hit and miss. I am not a fan of having five of the starting 11 as loans and that’s too many.
“I’d like seven or eight core players who you know will play every week and you can then add a bit of stardust which could be a loan player.
“I have had two players identified to me who won’t get new contracts at their parent club and if they come here and enjoy it, hopefully they have a relationship with the fans and the staff and you can sign them permanently.
“Burnley is the obvious port of call, but I’ve already asked about one lad and they said no.
“They have said they’d help me, but it’s not a charity and it has to be right for both clubs and the player.
“Sean Dyche is the person who has texted me the most since I’ve been in the job.
“They train on bowling greens and every training pitch is better than our main pitch at Whaddon Road.
“The football is completely different in Under-23s and if you lose it doesn’t matter.
“If you drop them into Cheltenham, they can start questioning things and you need to know what you’re getting.”
Luke Varney takes a penalty against Forest Green. Above, Michael Duff