2017/18 League Two Preview: Gary Johnson and Cheltenham

by Mike Holden / 13 July 2017, 13:09

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


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.


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.


"I never thought about retirement because I had such good support from everyone around me. At the lowest points, you do maybe wonder if you’ll actually be forced to give it up but I knew I wanted to carry on. It was good to stay in League Two after going up and I’m confident we will compete this season with the group we are putting together. If we don’t I’ll be disappointed and I then have another year to do it again, but our aim is to get the club into League One."


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

Gary Johnson


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