It’s a good place to be We are moving in the right direction - Wilcox
Cheltenham Town chairman Andy Wilcox on the club’s best start to a Football League campaign since 2000/01, the job being done by manager Michael Duff just over a year on from his appointment, and moving closer to an improved home end at the Jonny-rocks St
» How pleased have you been with the start to the season?
Very pleased, but I have to be honest, I am not surprised.
Over the summer and before that, we were all going in the right direction as a club off the pitch and as a team on it.
If you put everything together, it’s not surprising that we are where we are, but it is still early days.
We have to keep our feet on the ground and think we are going to win the league or get promoted because there is a long way to do and we don’t have a big squad.
But what we do have is a great unity and the guys are working hard for each other.
The players who have come in for lads who are injured have done well and if you have that recipe, along with the fact everyone around the club is smiling, it’s not a surprise to me to have had this sort of start.
» What is your working relationship like with Michael Duff, just over a year since he was appointed?
He is very professional, dedicated to his job and focused.
I don’t need to interfere, or get involved other than to help when required.
He’s come in with his own system and way of working. We’ve given him the opportunity to go and put that into practice and I can’t fault him.
He is a top guy and a pleasure to have at the club.
» It was a big step from managing the Under-23s at Burnley, although he’d been involved in the first team set-up there. Have you seen him adjusting to the challenge over the past 12 months? He must have learned a lot while he was at Burnley.
They are not a big hitter in that league, but their work ethic is fantastic and they churn out good players.
Michael has been a part of that and he’s brought that Premier League style to Cheltenham, which is brilliant for us.
» The players seem to enjoying his methods
There has been a huge change. Everyone is smiling, everybody is happy in their work and it pays off.
It’s a different kind of pressure when you are in the top three, rather than worrying about being at the other end.
That’s a big reason to smile, but the football has been fantastic too.
I am sure everyone would agree we are watching some good quality football
and the guys are enjoying that. It’s nothing more than they deserve.
» You said you had some sleepless nights when you first took over as chairman. How are the stress levels now? It’s a huge difference to last season. The last thing you want to do when taking over as chairman is to be relegated.
Now, we are not worrying about relegation, we are looking at the top half of the table.
There isn’t a worry over going down and there aren’t worries about the club’s finances so the club is going very well.
The staff and the board too, it’s all in a good place at the moment, through hard work and a little bit of luck here and there.
» Michael is contracted until the end of next season, are you worried about clubs coming in for him?
There must be clubs noticing what he’s doing, but it is early days.
He’s been with Cheltenham for just over a year and it’s a work in progress. I don’t think for one minute, a move to a big club at the moment would suit Michael.
He has a project to finish here and it’s started very well.
Everyone loves him here and he loves the town.
This is his old club and while the club owe him nothing and he owes the club nothing, I don’t think he’d just jump ship like that.
I think he wants to finish the job he came here to do.
I know he’s very ambitious and I’d be disappointed if he turned around to me and said he wanted to stay here forever.
The guy is going to manage higher up at some point, I am sure of that.
At the moment, everyone realises he’s worth holding on to so at some point soon, we’ll sit around a table and talk about it.
» The amount of home fans for the Crewe game exceeded 3,000. How pleased have you been with that growth since the start of the season? I am sure some of the fans were getting disgruntled that we couldn’t buy a win at home.
We weren’t playing well and we were getting rolled over.
Now it’s become a fortress and supporters that had found other things to do on a Saturday afternoon have realised there is a reason to come back and watch.
If you come back and watch one game at home, you’ll get the bug because the team is playing well and there is a really good atmosphere.
The crowd are fully behind the team and anyone who comes to a game after being away for a few years will soon realise that and that’s why crowd are growing.
The singing section have created loads of noise and the players are appreciating that.
» You have said before you want to improve the stand at the home end. What’s the latest on that?
Raising the roof will create more noise, we know that.
To bring the singing section into a bigger home stand is the plan and we’ve met with architects now.
There is work going on, we are waiting for a survey and we’ll move on from there.
The wheels are in motion. It’s not going to be an easy job because of the way it doesn’t run parallel behind the stand.
By hook or by crook we’ll get the stand lifted.
» Any idea on timescales yet?
We’d love to start it in the summer. Realistically, next Christmas would be a target and if that happens we’d have done well.
The idea is to get it done short term in the close season, but you often see areas closed off during the season while parts of grounds are improved and that may be the case at our ground. We are on the case.
» The singing section have been moved for the forthcoming Newport and Forest Green home games. Will an improved home end help to avoid situations like this?
I can’t fault the singing section, they’ve been fantastic and you can see the group growing too.
I feel for them because they’ve done a great job and I am sure the banter with Forest Green fans would have been something to look forward to.
But it’s a safety issue and we as a board can’t get involved. It’s a police and security decision.
Certainly, when the roof is lifted, they can all get in there and throw some noise behind the lads.
» Will the roof be raised only, or will the area underneath be extended too?
We are looking at different options. We are looking to lift the roof mainly, with also the potential for some more standing room, maybe some more concrete steps, the more the merrier and the more noise the better in what would be a proper home stand.
The away stand is far superior at the moment and we need to sort that.
» Some cash has come into the club after Luke Thomas’ move from Derby County to Barnsley and Marlon Pack’s to Cardiff. What do the club plan to do with it?
We have been fortunate, but I wouldn’t say it’s ‘club changing money.’
It’s not always about throwing it all at the playing budget.
It’s about improving the ground. We’ve improved a couple of areas, but now it’s important to give the fans something, which is why we are looking to improve the home end. We’ll spend it wisely.
Look at Mansfield, their budget is probably twice ours, but they are 19th in the league.
It’s not always about money and paying players £4,000 or £5,000 a week. It’s about having the right players and the right balance and you can do that with the budget we are on.
» If you are in a strong position in January you might be inclined to free up some more cash to help Michael try and get over the line? We will cross that bridge when we come to it.
We can’t go running away with things at the moment after 11 games.
If we are on 40 or 42 points at Christmas, that’d be fantastic.
It’d be fantastic to go up in Michael’s first full season, but let’s not get carried away and let’s see where we are.
» Steve Cotterill has been back watching the last two home games. How much have you enjoyed chatting to him in the board room? I hadn’t met Steve until I took on this role. He is a really nice guy, who has a lot of time for Cheltenham Town.
He is a genuine legend for what he did for the club and he’s welcome any time.
I love talking to him and he’s an extremely knowledgeable guy in the football world.
He has the key to the club as far as I’m concerned.
We had a good chat after the Crewe game, I enjoyed hearing about the old days with Steve, Michael, John Murphy and Michael Jackson reminiscing.
He’s a pillar of the community when it comes to this town and this club. He put the club on the map.
» Head of recruitment Micky Moore works closely with Michael Duff. How pleased have you been with the job he’s done so far? The two of them are very close and back when we changed the manager last year, one of my close friends, (exeverton, Derby and Republic of Ireland international) Lee Carsley, pointed us in the direction of Micky.
We met him and he’s been a workaholic for the club ever since.
He’s brought in some very important players and done a fantastic job.
Michael and Micky are good friends off the field and he’s a bit of an unsung hero.
He’s always on the phone, or out watching players, or our future opponents, often doing two or three games in a day.
It’s a better place with Micky around. It’s easier to persuade players to join a team maybe pushing at the right end of the table, rather than coming into a team struggling to survive.
» Are there any changes planned to the board?
I am planning on bringing in an associate director, Darren Haines, who is a lifelong fan and a good friend of mine.
He’ll help with match day stuff and he’ll strengthen us and be an asset to the club.
As a club on the whole we are in a very strong position at the moment.