4 names in the frame to replace Gary Johnson at Cheltenham Town

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 24 August 2018, 11:24

The first managerial casualty of League Two sees Cheltenham Town part company with Gary Johnson, after just four games.

Firstly, the club owes Johnson a debt of gratitude: were it not for his decisive recruitment, strong tactic nous, likeable demeanour and expert man management skills, they might not have won the National League title in 2015-16.

Instead, they could easily still be on a downward spiral in non-league, given that so many clubs have suffered after relegation from League Two. For his work that season, alone, he is a Robins legend.

Nobody can deny however, that since promotion two years ago, Cheltenham have not performed quite as well as they might have hoped with 21st and 17th-placed finishes, followed by a return of one point from a possible 12 at the start of this campaign. For that reason, a lot of fans believe that change was necessary.

Assistant manager Russ Milton takes interim charge but, given that he has hardly set the world alight when placed at the helm previously, it seems unlikely that he will be given the permanent gig. But who will? We assess the four leading candidates.

Lee Carsley

Why he should get the job:

The former midfielder has not only managed before in the Championship, he came out of caretaker roles at Brentford and Birmingham with immense credit.

Carsley was renowned for his leadership qualities as a player for Everton and Birmingham plus has worked in the youth setup at Manchester City and England.

The 44-year-old, therefore, is clearly somebody young players like Jacob Maddox, a midfielder on loan from Chelsea, Aden Baldwin, a defender on loan from Bristol City and George Lloyd, a bright, young forward who fans are hoping to see more of, will respond to.

Why he shouldn’t:

Does he really want it? On one occasion while at Brentford, Lee Carsley was pushed on whether he was enjoying his management role, before he corrected the interviewer by saying he enjoys the “coaching”.

If the Brummie was very keen to become a permanent manager, one might argue that he already would have had a role by now, given that he retired in 2011 and has since always been involved in football. And, if he’s not entirely sure that he wants this type of role, one might question whether he will have the necessary inner-resolve to persevere should results go awry.

The Sack Race’s Verdict:

If Carsley makes it abundantly clear in the interview that he is now determined to become a manager, he has shown enough qualities as a coach to suggest that he should be seriously considered.

Jerry Gill

Why he should get the job:

The former right-back spent half a decade at Cheltenham as a player: of course, that alone won’t make him a success, but it’s hard not to take notice of the impact club legends have recently made at Gillingham, Walsall and Port Vale.

Plus, Gill has shown at National League South outfit Bath City that he can be a good manager in his own right, executing impressive recruitment whilst overseeing a crowd-pleasing style to oversee impressive results.

If Mohamed Eisa’s 2017-18 form taught Cheltenham anything, it’s that real value can be found in the non-league market and Gill might be the perfect man to not only unveil more hidden gems, but also understand what makes the likes of Manny Duku and Alex Addai tick.

Why he shouldn’t:

Appointing a manager who is yet to prove himself above the sixth-tier of English football would be a risk. There’s a possibility, too, that Gill’s non-league nous might not be especially useful given that Cheltenham won’t have to recruit quite as imaginatively as they have in previous years.

New chairman Andy Wilcox, who replaced the long-serving Paul Baker in the summer, appears to be willing to push the boat out a bit more in terms of transfers: we saw promotion-winners Johnny Mullins and Chris Hussey join the club this summer. Will Gill have the experience to man manage established professionals?

The Sack Race’s Verdict:

Gill might well have a bright future in management but, if the budget Wilcox can pledge to prospective managers is competitive, there might be more attractive options to be found elsewhere

Gary Bowyer

Why he should get the job:

He’s the dream choice. Bowyer turned Blackburn Rovers from Championship relegation candidates to play-off outsiders then, after an arguably unfair dismissal, won promotion with a beleaguered Blackpool side before stabilizing them in League One.

The former youth coach has done a good job at the two clubs he has been at, both under testing circumstances; he certainly provides a cool head and is capable of organizing teams, which would be valuable for a side that shipped 73 goals last season. If Cheltenham could lure the 47-year-old to Whaddon Road, it would be a massive statement of intent.

Why he shouldn’t:

Would he want to go? Bowyer deserves a job at a top half League One club, if not one in the Championship. While Cheltenham’s poor start leaves them in a bit of bother at the bottom of the league, albeit at this early stage, they should not waste too much time chasing a managerial target if he proves ultimately unattainable.

The Sack Race’s Verdict

This would unquestionably be a great appointment if it happened, but the idea that Bowyer would apply seems slightly far-fetched.

Steve Cotterill

Why he should get the job:

He’s a club legend – and not only for his short time as a player. Cheltenham-born, Cotterill enjoyed a happy five years as a manager, leading The Robins to three promotions – from the sixth-tier to the third – via a historic run to the FA Cup Fifth Round, which saw him twice named Manager of the Year.

As recently as 2014-15, Cotterill built one of the best possession-based sides the third tier has ever seen, leading Bristol City to a League One title and JPT double. His achievements there mean Cheltenham can preserve links to that club.

Why he shouldn’t:

Firstly, Cotterill’s legacy at Cheltenham is so grand, it would be a shame if it were to be tarnished slightly by a disappointing second spell in charge. Plus, the 54-year-old has flattered to deceive in management over the last three years; his three-at-the-back system at Bristol City didn’t work so well in the Championship and his time at Birmingham must, unfortunately, be regarded as a failure.

The Sack Race’s Verdict:

Cotterill might have a better relationship with fans here than he did at Blues, but perhaps the club should look forward, rather than try to re-invent the past.


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