‘We can’t feel sorry for our­selves’ – Duff

Gloucestershire Echo - - CHELTENHAM TOWN - By JON PALMER

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.”

Pic­tures: Antony Thomp­son - Thou­sand Word Me­dia

Luke Var­ney takes a penalty against For­est Green. Above, Michael Duff

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