“We could, and this is not being disrespectful, sit in League Two, bob along and be all right, or we can play Bolton Wanderers and Reading and accept we might be on the end of a day like today, which isn’t a nice feeling, but I think we know where we’d rather be.”
This is one comment from the post-match interview of Cheltenham Town manager Wade Elliott following their 3-0 defeat to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, as reported by Jon Palmer on X.
It is a comment that has seen an angry reaction on social media, with some Cheltenham fans already calling for the manager’s head, whilst there is also discontent with the timing, with The Robins heading to the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday evening to take on Reading.
But despite the controversy of the comment that the Cheltenham boss has come out with, I ask the question – is he right with what he’s saying?
Cheltenham were well beaten on Saturday by Bolton, who I fully expect to be challenging at the top end of the League One table at the end of the season.
There is no question that Bolton were the better side – they completed the game within the first 35 minutes – with The Robins not being able to lay a glove on their opposition at all, with Ricardo Santos, in particular, being rock-solid at the back once again.
Yes, it was a performance that most Cheltenham fans can be angry and frustrated with. To be 3-0 down inside the opening half an hour with defensive mistakes gifting Bolton two goals, is unacceptable at any level of football, whether it is in the Premier League or the National League North or South.
But for a manager to come out after the game and basically say that fans would much rather see Cheltenham performances like they showed on Saturday against the better teams in League One, compared to travelling to the likes of Harrogate and Sutton in League Two and being “comfortable” in the division below, is very strange to come out with. A comment like that after the performance that Cheltenham fans saw is bound to wind most supporters up online.
It’s a comment that also suggests that fans should be expecting us to be rolled over by the bigger and more financially better-off teams in this division. On Saturday, Bolton brought on the likes of Cameron Jerome, Carlos Mendes Gomes, George Thomason, Dan N’Lundulu and Paris Maghoma. All five of those players would very easily walk into the Cheltenham starting eleven and most likely walk into other teams in this division. Cheltenham fans by now should know that we cannot financially compete with the likes of Bolton, Portsmouth, and Derby because it is just not possible.
On the other hand, Cheltenham have shown at this level over the past couple of seasons that despite being financially worse off than other clubs, The Robins can compete at this level. They ended Ipswich Town’s winning streak towards the end of last season in a 1-1 draw, which also ended Ipswich’s clean-sheet record.
The Robins have also enjoyed famous wins against Charlton, Bolton, Sunderland and Peterborough over the past two seasons. Yes, we are “little old Cheltenham” which some opposition fans think we are one of those teams that just rolls over for three points.
That is not the case, as we have shown we can compete. Elliott’s comment after the game hinders that slightly, which is why there has been such a strong negative reaction online.
After hearing this comment firstly in the post-match interview by Elliott and reading social media comments from other Cheltenham fans following this quote being circulated, it has caused plenty of debate and discussion.
I do get where Elliott is coming from – as a Cheltenham fan myself, the away days at the likes of Bolton, Portsmouth, Derby and Charlton are days we should all be looking forward to, not just because of the fact all of those clubs used to be in the Premier League, because it is what dreams are made of, being able to watch Cheltenham play at some of the most iconic stadiums in English football. And yes, I would much rather be visiting Pride Park, Fratton Park and The Valley compared to going to The New Lawn or Gander Green Lane as a prime example.
However, Elliott’s comment has seen fans begin to turn on him again, very much so like it did last year after certain defeats (Alvechurch and Bristol Rovers at home), and it has not installed anyone with confidence who is planning to make the trip to Reading tomorrow night.
Cheltenham’s start was never going to be easy. Comments like that from your manager doesn’t exactly boost your players’ confidence either.