Cheltenham Town manager Michael Duff on risky West Bromwich Albion and Bristol City loanees

Cheltenham Town Manager Michael Duff: Image by Alan Franklin

Cheltenham Town manager Michael Duff is pleased with the club’s summer recruitment after adding “freshness and knowhow” to the core of the squad.

Duff admitted that the young loan recruits of forward Finn Azaz and goalkeeper Joshua Griffiths are an “Educated punt.” Wary of the pressures that can affect the young players who are embarking on their first loan spell away from parent club West Bromwich Albion. 

“I think they’ve all contributed already and they have settled in well,”:Duff said.

All five of ‘The Robins’ summer signings to date made appearances in Tuesday nights 3-1 League Cup defeat away against Millwall, four of which- Liam Sercombe, Matty Blair, Elliot Bonds and Griffiths appearing in the starting 11. 

Loan signing Azaz also made a good impact from the bench, scoring The Robins consolation with 20 minutes of the game left to play. 

Duff also said “There’s a difference with the players we’ve signed: with the perminant’s we’ve gone for experience, experience of promotions, experience at this level… ‘Sercs (Liam Sercombe) has spent the last three/four years in the league above”

To compliment football’s fresh faces, Cheltenham have also called upon the services of Liam Sercombe, 30, from Bristol Rovers and Matty Blair, 31, from Doncaster Rovers.

Both were playing in League One last season, and have made over 350 league appearances between them since 2015, playing more football league matches combined than Cheltenham Town have since promotion in 2016. 

“First time loans are notoriously hard… a lot of first time loans are sink or swim, they are more of an educated punt.”

“Most of them are good players but that doesn’t always mean they always work out, if you look at some of the players who have come through the doors here, who have gone on to bigger and better things, haven’t worked out because of them being first time loans.” 

The Robins, in the past have had a good relationship with multiple clubs, including Bristol City, West Bromwich Albion and Hull City bringing in several players a season from their unofficial affiliates. 

The 2017/18 season saw four of Bristol City’s young players join Cheltenham on loan, two of which, Jake Andrews and Freddie Hinds were first time loans who on the whole did not hit the ground running at the start of their professional career. 

Duff did not comment on any potential future incoming signings to the club.

However with a great chance of progression for youth players, there will be no doubt more clubs will be looking to send their next generation of talent to the Jonny-Rocks stadium for them to start their professional careers.  

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