Monday, 23 May 2011

Two new Robins

Now that the super injunction has been lifted, I can finally reveal... oops, sorry, wrong story.
It's been a good day for Cheltenham Town today, as Mark Yates has, in one afternoon, sorted our central midfield for next season with two arrivals.
I hesitate to call them new arrivals, as only one of them, Russell Penn from Burton Albion, is.
The other is Marlon Pack, a star on loan last season, and now our player for good on a two-year deal.
Personally, I am delighted that Yatesy has landed Marlon, and I think he could be one of the most important signings the club has made in a long time.
At 20 - he is not 21 until March - he is the right age to be able to make great progress with us and there is always the possibility that we could make some money out of him.
He had been with his home-town club, Portsmouth, since he was eight and I can imagine it has been a tough one to come to terms with when you are not wanted at a club you have such a history with.
But last season - after a slow start with us it has to be said - he was, at times, head and shoulders above anyone in our side and the opposition.
I remember the 4-2 win at Accrington when he absolutely ran the game, pinging 40-yard passes left and right for Robin Shroot and Junior Smikle and laid the foundation for one of our best wins of the season.
What I like most about him is how he just seems to have so much time on the ball - and the way he buys himself that time.
He is deceptively strong and very good at warding off and shrugging off tackles to buy himself a yard of space.
What he has also done is shown that he is adept in a number of systems.
At Accrington, we played 4-2-3-1 with Marlon as one of the two holding players; he has played at the base of a diamond and also in regular 4-4-2 as either the sitting player or the more advanced.
Mark Yates has said he wants to build his team around Marlon, and it was significant when he was made captain at Stockport on the last day of the season.
Whether he will wear the armband next season is doubtful, but it may be a role for him in the future.
One thing is for certain - he will need a new pair of boots, having given his to a fan at Edgeley Park after the game...
He told BBC Gloucestershire:  "I really enjoyed it here on loan and as soon as the season finished I wanted to get the deal tied up. I'm looking forward to next season now.
"It's great to feel wanted - the fans were great and their support helped me want to be here. There was interest [from other clubs], but Cheltenham was my first choice and I'm glad I've got it done.
"I didn't feel like I was on loan - I grew close to the lads here and close to the club. The main thing is getting my future sorted and I'm really happy that it's in a Cheltenham shirt."
So, having been used to seeing Pack and Pook in midfield, it now looks odds-on to be Pack and Penn, after Russell Penn signed a two-year deal to join from Burton Albion.
I mentioned his name in my merry-go-round piece recently, but to be honest it was a throwaway mention as he had been offered a deal by Burton and I thought he would stay there.

He began his career at Scunthorpe, joining as a youth player in 2003, but never made a first team appearance for the club and  joined Kidderminster Harriers on a free transfer in the summer of 2005, shortly after joined he had a short spell on loan at Alvechurch before breaking into the Kidderminster side.
Penn who is a good age, at 25, and he went on to make over 150 appearances for the club, and also played for the England C side during his time there. He then joined newly promoted Burton Albion in July 2009, for a club record fee thought to be £30,000.
In the two games against us for Burton last year, I was impressed by Penn.
He seemed to be the Brewers' driving force, spurring them on from midfield, and that augurs well for the sort of player we need.
I believe he is the Yates-style player the manager has been looking for, and I can see him and Marlon Pack re-creating the John Finnigan-Grant McCann dynamic in our engine room.
Last season, he played 47 games in all competitions for Burton, scoring three times, and also picking up 11 yellow cards and a red.
That last statistic is relevant as we were too 'nice' last season - not having a player suspended and our only red card - Andy Gallinagh, ironically at Burton - rescinded on appeal.
Penn will change that and will I am sure leave his mark on League Two midfields next season in more ways than one.
He made 73 League starts for Burton in two seasons there, a decent ratio which indicates a good injury record, scoring seven times, and netted 19 times in 142 starts for Kidderminster under Yatesy's management.
The fact that he has decided to swap Burton for us is good on two counts - one it means we are competing with clubs of a similar stature for players in regard to wages and length of contracts, and two, it means players want to come and play for the manager.
He told the BBC: "I enjoyed my time at Burton and I'm looking forward to the next chapter in my football career. Burton offered me a contract but I decided Cheltenham was the best move for me for my future.

"I know what Mark Yates and Neil Howarth do. I was at Kidderminster with them for four years so I know what they're about and they know what I'm about and I'm looking forward to working with them again - I'd like to prove to everyone at Cheltenham what I can do on the pitch."

All good positive stuff from the pair of them - and they are two great signings from Mark Yates to start the summer rebuilding.
Now, just the two strikers, two wingers, centre back, goalkeeper and left back to go then gaffer...