Many thanks to Cheltenham Town fan Ben Nichols for answering our, new for March questions and giving us some very thoughtful and interesting answers, and he looks to be a bit of a ground hopper as well. Safe travels Ben and enjoy the game…. just not too much though.
1 – Can you give us a surprising fact about your club that very few people would know?
No one knows what first shirts looked like or even what colour they were, all we know is that it was common, and many other teams wore it. We switched to ruby in 1896 and that is our first known colour. It wasn’t until 1957 that we started wearing the red and white stripes we have today. At least I find that interesting, hopefully at least one of you reading this does too.
2 – With about two months left in the fixtures calendar, where do you see your club ending up in the League 1 table, and in the same manner where do you think the Dons will finish up?
I think we will finish pretty much where we are, a poor run of form led to a bit of worry as we neared the drop zone but wins against Sunderland and Fleetwood reopened the gap and rejuvenated that sense of security. We may go up a couple places, we may drop down by one or two, but around 15th is most likely where we’ll end up. When we were first due to play each other, I think we were much closer than we are now. I didn’t foresee the rise that you’ve had which is in all honesty quite impressive and you are genuine promotion contenders now. You’ll get play offs for sure, and I don’t think I can rule out automatic promotion just yet.
3 – Rotherham look nailed on to go up, with possibly Wigan in second, the rest is a bit of a lottery. Who is your tip for the two teams having a day out at Wembley in the playoff final, and the ultimate winner?
I think Rotherham are the only team guaranteed to go up (as close to guaranteed as you can get in this league). Rotherham are the only team in the top seven that we haven’t got at least a point off so they must be something special! You can never tell with the playoffs, just look at Wycombe and their promotion to the Championship, it was quite funny to see as an outsider but very annoying for fellow contenders, I’m sure. I think the Chairboys may sneak in again this season, at the expense of Sunderland whose form doesn’t seem ideal, but I don’t back them to win it, so I think it will be MK Dons and Oxford meeting at Wembley purely because Sheffield Wednesday think they’re too big for this league so deserve to stay.
4 – At the other end of the table the race for survival is also on, who do you think will get relegated?
Crewe are one of the worst teams I’ve seen at any level of football (and that’s quite literally every tier from Premier League to the bottom of local leagues) so I think they’re nailed on. Gillingham are also very poor so I think they will join them. Cheltenham, I believe and hope, are out of the equation now and look set for mid table so it’s down to the either Morecambe, AFC Wimbledon and Fleetwood, and the worst of those three I’ve seen by far are Fleetwood, so I’d back them for the final spot.
5 – Much has been said about the price of football, especially with some of facilities on offer, what’s a fair price of entry at this level in your opinion?
For a start, I’ll take this opportunity to apologise for charging away fans £28 to come to Whaddon Road, as a fan it’s a tad embarrassing but with a club like us in a league like this we need to be making as much money as possible from it. I think “20 is plenty” should apply to all tickets in this league, it’s not extortionate and it’s not so little that clubs can’t make money. I think my season ticket was around £75 as a student which is actually very good for this level and works out at around £3.20 a game or something ridiculous like that which does seem a tad low.
6 – Recent weeks has seen several incidents of crowd trouble, with fans running on the pitch and striking players, offensive chanting, fighting outside of grounds, and it almost feels like a return to the problem days of the 70’s & 80’s. We think that social media is at the heart of this, what’s your take on it?
I’ve seen my fair share at Cheltenham, fans of ‘big clubs’ like Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday have run on the pitch after scoring against us and I almost got in an altercation after Ipswich away when a home fan ran across a road to try and fight me (I made the mistake of standing near someone mouthy) but he was dragged off before he could do much. Football is obviously a very passionate game with tensions running high, often we do need to remind ourselves that it is just a game and that starting a fight or running on the pitch just isn’t worth it. Social media’s involvement may just be a case of us being able to see it more, but I’ve definitely seen it far more in League One than any other league so maybe big clubs’ fans get a bit too frustrated at being here.
7 – All fans love an away day; can you tell us the best and worst grounds you have visited and why?
I quite enjoy travelling to grounds even when Cheltenham aren’t playing, I hit the 100 mark this season, but I’ll stick to those I’ve been at to see my team play. The worst have come in League Two…Crawley, Forest Green and Fleetwood being the worst culprits. Hereford’s ground seems to be falling apart and places like Burton and Salford have new enough grounds but lack any sort of character. My favourites to visit have been Newcastle, whom we played in the EFL Cup, Charlton, and Preston (Sunderland was good but we lost 5-0 so…) and without meaning to offend anyone, places like Coventry and MK Dons have very good stadiums but lack the character that makes them memorable.
8 – Can you tell us the style of play we can expect to see from your team?
It depends how Michael Duff sees you, if you’re ‘out of our league’ and a point is enough then we’ll sit back and let you attack, hoping to catch you on the break but settling with getting the ball away. Ipswich was a prime example, not because they were good but because we only had 14 players and were exhausted from a 5-5 at Wycombe just a few days before. Other teams we will take the game to, getting forward with our wing backs or hitting it long for Etete to bring down. Give Alfie May too much space and he’ll sneak through and score so there really is no way for anyone to know for certain as with games like Crewe when we didn’t really do either and barely showed up.
9 – Can you give us a player from each team that you feel will have the greatest influence on the result of the game?
This will be my Cheltenham bias but I’m going with Mo Eisa for you. Former players always score against us, no matter what, so we’ll have to look out for him. I’m sure you have better players, but Eisa was superb for us and will undoubtedly make us pay for selling him. For us I’ll go with Alfie May, he can make goals out of nothing so even if you are in control he could pop up and find the net.
10 – Thanks for taking part, all we need now is your prediction for the game?
I’m going to go for what I said when we were last due to meet, a 2-2 with Eisa and May getting a brace each.