February 27, 2018
Last week provided Ken and I with the chance of a short trip up the M5 to Cheltenham Town’s Training Centre for our Development Squad’s latest Central League fixture against the League leaders. Back at the start of the campaign Chris Hargreave’s brand new team had only played a couple of friendlies as the lads were still getting to know each other and were soundly beaten by the ‘Robins’. So it was a good measure of the team’s progress last Tuesday and Chris’s boys came up trumps with a narrow victory courtesy of a brace of goals from striker Dom Telford.
It’s true that Rovers fielded a starting line-up including six players with first-team experience but the ‘Robins’ had no less than nine such in their side. In the past any ‘first-teamers’ coming back from injury had no competitive football to test their readiness for a possible return to ‘mainstream’ action so it was good to see James Clarke, who has been out of action since the opening day game at Charlton where he suffered a really bad hamstring tear that required surgery, being able to test himself in a meaningful game.
I have to say that these Central League matches certainly produce what is require, a proper test with every player out to show what he can do to get into his respective first team. This is perfect not only for ‘returnees’ like James but also to test the readiness of youngsters such as Cameron Hargreaves, Alfie Kilgour and last season’s ‘Youth Team Player of the Year’ Luke Russe as they come up against hardened and experienced ‘pros’ the like of which we hope they will all become themselves one day.