2017/18 League Two Preview: Gary Johnson and Cheltenham

Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) previews Gary Johnson and Cheltenham ahead of the upcoming 2017/18 League Two season.

Background

Only the cabbage patch Whaddon Road pitch spared Cheltenham from relegation last term, as they picked up 16 points from the final seven home games to end a botched first season back in the EFL just four points clear of safety. Mind you, all that seemed rather trivial when it was revealed that Gary Johnson needed heart surgery. His return to the dugout was then delayed by a rare disorder that attacked his nervous system but he has now declared himself fit and raring to go again.

Personality

Johnson is a gambler and a chemist, the sort of manager unafraid to take risks on unheralded players even when he isn’t totally convinced himself they can cut the mustard. He’s not a planner and sometimes whole seasons can pass him by as an ongoing series of experiments, searching for an elusive magic formula. When he strikes gold, though, the results can be astonishing. Yeovil (2002-2005), Bristol City (2006-08), Yeovil (2012/13) and Cheltenham (2015/16) all wildly overachieved and enjoyed unexpected success with Johnson at the helm.

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Verdict

Big question marks loom over Whaddon Road, not only regarding Johnson’s health and his ability to carry out such a demanding job with the same energy and gusto, but also in terms of whether chairman Paul Baker has the necessary enthusiasm when he was ready to walk away in the summer until Johnson persuaded him to stick around for one more year. What occurred on the pitch last season isn’t much of a platform. Many of the players they were promoted with aren’t up to scratch.

Prediction: survival battle

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