»Varney ready for birthday reunion against former club
CHELTENHAM Town striker Luke Varney has played in all four divisions during a 16-year professional career and he will reach another couple of milestones on Saturday.
The visit of his first Football League club Crewe Alexandra coincides with his 37th birthday and it will also be a year to the day since he signed for the club.
It is fitting that he is in his richest vein of goalscoring form since leaving Gresty Road for Charlton Athletic in May 2007 in a deal worth £2million.
Having started last season without a club and joined the Robins at the end of September 2018, Varney has since fired 17 goals in 38 League Two starts.
He was one of the main reasons Duff’s team pulled clear of relegation trouble during the second half of last season and ended up in the relative comfort of 16th place, thoroughly deserving his player of the year awards.
Varney added to his total for this term with the opener in Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Plymouth Argyle, arguably the club’s most impressive result since Duff was appointed.
His third goal of the campaign was a well-placed header inside the left post after a cross from Sean Long on the right five minutes before half-time.
By the time Ryan Broom’s deflected effort made it 2-0 in time added on, Varney was already drinking a protein shake and thinking about Crewe.
“I hope Broomy isn’t claiming that one, as he’s pulling away from me in our top scorers’ list!” Varney said.
“It was great to see it go in though as Plymouth had been putting us under a bit of pressure and it rounded off a good week for us after the win at Salford and beating Bradford at home.
“It was a happy dressing room, as you’d expect.”
Reflecting on 12 months at Cheltenham, which has seen him appearing in the fourth tier for the first time, Varney says he has relished the extra responsibility given to him by Duff, whose first signing as manager was a vastly experienced free agent who nobody else wanted after he had left Burton Albion.
“I have enjoyed my year here and I am still wheeling myself out most weeks!” Varney said.
“The gaffer gives me freedom and a lot of responsibility in the squad and I have enjoyed that side too.
“I keep saying that as long as I keep getting as many minutes as possible and I feel I can help the team with goals and also bits on and off the pitch, I will carry on, so long may it continue.
“As a team we are meeting our targets, but we know we are still a work in progress after finishing 16th last year, so we are always trying to improve.”
Varney will have plenty of friends and family in attendance for the visit of Crewe, one of only two teams above Cheltenham in the table after 10 games.
“It’ll be nice to see a few old faces and I am looking forward to it,” he said.
“I have a lot of people coming so, if I can get myself named in the team, hopefully we can put in a good performance and get three more points.”
There is no chance of Varney being
excluded from Duff’s XI as long as he is fit, but the competition in attack is hotting up.
“Reuben (Reid) is coming back and we had Jonte (Smith) coming on and doing well on Saturday,” he said.
“Alex (Addai) is making an impact every time he comes on and Lloydy (George Lloyd) is champing at the bit too. So it’s definitely not just me and Gav (Reilly), we are a unit and we all feel happy for each other when we are doing well.
“You can feel that the team unity is brilliant and that we are all pulling in the right direction. Roll on Crewe now.
“It’s a big test against a really good team, who have had a brilliant start.
“It’s one we are looking forward to and to be honest we started talking about it as soon as the Plymouth game ended.”
Luke Varney heads home his third goal of tjhe season at Plymouth on Saturday