Monday, 16 February 2015

Going with what we have got

Cast your minds back about a decade. Every transfer window, John Ward would be asked about new arrivals.
"We'll go with what we've got," he would reply, and the fans' forums would go into overdrive.
Now, that mantra can be used to describe today's no-brainer decision to stick with Russell Milton and Steve Elliott for the rest of the season - and everyone is delighted.
If Paul Buckle did anything for Cheltenham Town FC, he can be credited with uniting the fanbase in a way I haven't seen for a long time.
Okay, they were united against him - but they were united, and that seems only to have been strengthened with Russ and Steve taking over.
Even Martin Allen had people among the supporters who would stick up for him. Paul Buckle didn't. I've not seen any tweets or had conversations with anyone who thinks he has been harshly treated.
For several weeks, I was getting direct messages on Twitter from people telling me that one way or another we had to get him out of our club, or he would take us down. Some of those came from people within the club.
Last Friday, one of those people sent me a message. It said: "Get in, we've done it." That tells you all you need to know.
Paul Baker has talked this season about a lack of passion among our fans. The passion with which they turned against Paul Buckle was there for all to see.
Fast forward to Saturday, and you would have thought we were going for promotion such was the mood about the place. Smiles on faces, springs in steps - on and off the field.
Everyone seemed in a good mood. Even that naughty Jim Haggin got in on the act - his decision to play 'Go West' by the Pet Shop Boys was surely no coincidence. I was waiting for it to be followed by New York, New York. A chance missed Jim.
It was swiftly followed by All Together Now, and that becomes the new mantra for the last 15 games.
Board, management, players and fans are all together. That is going to be crucial as the weeks go by.
Jim's reading of the teams was greeted by hearty cheers after each name. The team was cheered and clapped off the field after the pre-match warm-up. Everything seemed different.
Then the game started. Within 17 minutes, we knew that maybe not everything was different after all.
Same old problems. Midfielders caught the wrong side of the ball, taken out by one pass, lack of mobility to get back, player left to run at the back four who can't come out and make a challenge or Trevor Carson would be exposed, accurate finish from the edge of the box, 1-0 down.
Then a two-on-one down our left-hand side (for a change...) cross to the near post, player not tracked, bundles it in, 2-0 down, mountain to climb.
At that point, I was worried. Bury were playing it around, and had one move of about 25-30 passes where were were really chasing shadows.
But to be fair, the fans seemed determined to stay with it. I heard very few grumbles, and then heard a roar when Wes Burns won a 50-50 and Denny Johnstone fired in a well-taken goal - just the spark we needed.
From then on, we gave it a go. You could not fault the spirit, and the belief in the side.
We couldn't get an equaliser, and in truth never looked like getting it as we didn't trouble Nick Pope, but Trevor Carson had nothing to do either - there were four on-target shots in the match, three went in.
But it felt like a win. There were no boos at the end as people could see the players gave it all they could.
That was typified by Lee Vaughan. Gone was the forlorn figure I spoke to at half-time at Roots Hall on Tuesday when he felt he had been pushed out, and wouldn't be playing again in a hurry.
Here he was back in the team, and his link-up with Wes Burns down the right-hand side was one of the highspots of our performance. Another was Johnstone's display up front, his non-stop running and effort typified our work ethic.
There are problems, we know that, in central defence, at left-back and in central midfield especially, and if the management team can make changes, these have to be their priorities.
We have had a soft centre for too long now, with central defence not strong enough and our midfield not mobile enough - especially with Matt Richards and Kane Ferdinand in a two.
That pair were very poor, especially Ferdinand - and if we could end the loan and send him back early I'd do it to give us another option for change.
Jordan Wynter will be back soon, and Joe Hanks must be in contention. Oh for a fit Asa Hall. He's two weeks away. Or more. I think. Shame.
Richards' set-pieces were terrible - maybe Russ can spend some time passing on some of his left-footed wizardry from free-kicks and corners, or can we just bring him on to take them, NFL 'special teams' style.
Everyone knows we have a weakness at left-back. We have had for a season and three-quarters, and I am afraid that not even 10 or 20 training sessions with the best left-back I've seen in a CTFC shirt for 35 years, Jamie Victory, would improve the current incumbent. Get JV out of retirement!! (he said, only half joking).
Steve Elliott would be welcomed back at centre half, but he will only play if his knee or body can take it.
But his priority now is to be there to back Russ as he is the man now until the end of the season.
After Saturday, it was the only decision the board could make. The fans want it, the players want it and as he said after the game, Russ wants it as well.
And it was a masterstroke to bring Steve back. His exit was the last straw with Paul Buckle as far as the majority of fans were concerned. Most of his other changes were accepted - but saying Steve wasn't wanted was a step too far.
He'd go through brick walls for this club and that's the attitude we need in these last 15 games.
Russ and Steve, along with Jamie, Steve Book and Ian Weston are people we can and want to identify with, people who we know care about our football club and will do all they can to succeed.
They have all played for us. All proudly worn the shirt. Yes, even Wesso a couple of times.
It also makes sense to bring in an experienced head to guide them and act as a sounding board for them - but it must be made clear that is the role they are taking on.
They are not the manager. They are not picking the team or deciding the tactics. They are there to advise Russ and Steve, help with coaching and organisation and to offer their experience. They also must not rock the boat around the club.
Before the game on Saturday, I was in the Nest with two CTFC stalwarts and a former director of the club. We all talked about the need for a knowledgeable head to help our rookie gaffers and all came up with the same name. John Ward.
Again, it is a no-brainer. Wardy knows the club, the fans and the board. He knows the coaching staff, and he would come in and he would be doing the job for the good of the club - not their own ego.
I have heard names like Nigel Worthington and Gary Johnson banded about but I don't want them. They would want too much control and they don't know about the fabric of the club.
We brought in an 'outsider' and it didn't work. Why do that again when you have someone like Ward, who has the experience we need and would, I feel, fit in seamlessly.
Again, the fans want him. Most of them anyway. Some have mentioned the 'boring football' we played under him, but surely we will settle for boring football if we win games - and Wardy's team when he was here knew how to win ugly.
Others have worries over what happened at Bristol Rovers last year. I don't. I think they would have stayed up had they now panicked eight games from the end and moved Ward out, putting Darrell Clarke in charge.
And he won;t be the manager anyway. Just go and get Ward. It all fits.
But I can understand the board talking to other candidates. We criticised them for not doing that when Buckle came in, so we can't have a moan at them for checking out the field this time.
Just make sure you give the job to Wardy though - and I would go further by putting him on the board... get a real footballing man on there. We could do a lot worse.
We know this decision is the last throw of the dice, but the board had little option with this one.
Buckle had to go, and it was the only decision they could have made to put Russ in charge, as they had to try to unite the club, and it has worked.
Now the hard part. Turning a team of players who have won three games in the last 25 into a side which can win six or seven games in the last 15 to keep us up.
It's going to be tough. We all know that, and by the end of the next four games I think we will have a pretty good idea if we are capable of it or not.
Accrington, Tranmere, Carlisle, Mansfield. All teams in and around us, and we need to win, I feel, at least two of these games to give us some sort of springboard.
Two wins and two draws would be huge, with a clean sheet or two to boot.
Playing on Friday, three points at Accrington would be a massive result. It would lift us up a couple of places and put the pressure on the sides playing on Saturday, when one of the games is Oxford v Mansfield. A lot of the other sides near us are playing promotion-chasers.
On the way back from Southend, I had no hope. I was ready for our inevitable relegation as we were a disunited club heading one way without so much as a whimper.
Now I have hope, real hope. I enjoyed Saturday's game, and enjoyed the atmosphere around the ground.
That needs to stay around for the next 15 games, and with that environment off the field, the players will, hopefully, respond and get the points we need.
There is positivity everywhere. The chairman is positive, Russ and Steve are positive - talk of 'when we climb the table, when we stay up'. None of this 'third from bottom is a success' rubbish.
Lee Vaughan is positive. And as I write this, Trevor Carson has tweeted this: It might sound 'Irish' after recent results, but we are in a better position to beat the drop now than we were a month ago. Believe me!!
Going with what we have got might be the best decision this club has made in a long time. It will be a rollercoaster in the next few weeks, but I now have optimism that we will be having a party on May 3 - not a wake.

Friday, 13 February 2015


FOOTBALL is a results business, and one win in 12 league games in charge of Cheltenham Town was reason enough for Paul Buckle’s reign to be cut short.
But it goes deeper than that. This was a man who managed to make himself deeply unpopular both within and outside the club in a very short space of time.
On Tuesday night at Southend, the hardcore 50 who headed to Essex were chanting before the kick-off of their desire to see him leave the club.
And his body language during the game at Roots Hall and post-match comments were not those of a man supposedly determined to put up a fight to keep the Robins in the Football League.
Buckle and assistant Rob Edwards spent the whole game in the dugout, not once coming to the side of the pitch to offer encouragement to the players, as if resigned to another limp defeat.
Then on the final whistle, he vanished quickly, leaving goalkeeping coach Steve Book to guide the players over to acknowledge the travelling fans.
Post match, Southend were hailed as a good side, as if we should be accepting of a 2-0 defeat against a side in the top seven.
None of this helped his connectivity with the fans, many of whom saw him as a poor appointment from the start, and practically all of whom now celebrate his departure.
He was parachuted in from America after two years out of the game with ridiculous haste after the exit of Mark Yates in November.
As the results failed to pick up,  Buckle seemed reluctant to take on any responsibility, preferring to blame his predecessor for ‘leaving him with a poor squad’ and ‘spending all of the budget’.
It was the players who took all the blame. Especially the ones he was left with, and he shipped eight of them out in an effort to revamp his squad.
The team had won two games in the last 12 when he took over – they needed lifting, motiviating and instilling with belief.
Instead, they were told they were not good enough, a poor squad with a losing mentality – so it is little wonder that they went out for every game with no confidence, as their manager obviously had no confidence in them.
Had he stayed, there was a sad inevitability to Cheltenham Town’s relegation to the Conference.
The board must take responsibility for a poor, hasty appointment, and a failure to invite applications for the role.
But it’s time to draw a line in the sand. Recriminations and the blame game can wait.
Russell Milton, a Cheltenham Town man through and through, has been put in charge and now is the time for unity.
Board, management, players and fans need to pull together, We have to put this sorry episode behind us, as we have a football club to keep up.
So, if you aren’t doing anything on Saturday at 3pm, get down to Whaddon Road and shout your lungs off for Russell Milton and the Robins.

Your club needs you.

Monday, 9 February 2015

New team, same outcome

HAVING signed up five new players on deadline day, it felt like we were finally going to see Paul Buckle's team in earnest when Burton came to town on Saturday.
He has spent the past couple of months bemoaning what he was left with, but now it is his team, and he didn't waste any time throwing the majority of them into action, with all bar Eliot Richards of his new boys starting the game.
But it was the presence of two of his 'old heads' which put things on a downer almost from the off - the choice of Matt Richards on the left hand side, and Troy Brown keeping Lloyd Jones out as Matt Taylor's centre-half partner.
Neither have exactly distinguished themselves of late, and with viable alternatives available, it was strange to see them both getting the nod, especially Richards deployed in the role he was - Eliot Richards, Zack Kotwica, Jake Gray or Omari Sterling-James (not even in the 18 after some promising displays lately) seemed to be more 'round peg' alternatives.
It made even less sense given that we had our two big, physical men up front in Mathieu Manset and Denny Johnstone.
Playing two big men, you want orthodox wingers to be on the flanks, chalk on their boots, beating their men and looking to get crosses in.
But we had Richards on one side, whose delivery may sometimes be half-decent but will never use a turn of pace to beat a man to get half-a-yard and then cross, and on the other side Wes Burns, who - although he scored and was probably our best player - to my mind is better used centrally and only came into the game after the break.
Of the new boys, Manset was the biggest disappointment. He seemed to be blowing a bit at the end of the pre-match warm-up, which didn't bode well and although he did win a couple of flick-ons he also got caught offside rather lazily twice from goal-kicks and looked a fair bit off the pace.
A shame, and you have to hope he will get up to speed in time, or maybe he could have to be used as an impact man, to come on for 20-25 minutes and knock about a tiring back four. He certainly hasn't started many games for Walsall.
Johnstone was willing, he chased everything but due to the team having no natural supply line, forged largely in a sea of futility. He had one half-sniff of goal, and could have got on the end of the chance we created at 3-1 down - but I think there is something there and I have hopes he will contribute.
The midfield pair of Kane Ferdinand and Jordan Wynter, both six-foot-plus and quite mobile, are a potential partnership to work on. I thought they started the game well, but like everyone else, after the opening goal were a victim of Burton's increase in confidence and an unsurprising loss of belief in our ranks after we conceded.
The opening goal was down to a fine opportunist finish from Stuart Beavon - we didn't do much wrong in my view and he seized on a half-chance and that was that.
But the second was horrendous. Craig Braham-Barrett was slow to react to a throw-in, didn't stop the cross, then we watched Jacob Blyth flick it on and then Burns and Durrell Berry left Adam McGurk to each other. 2-0 and all my pre-match optimism and anticipation of a new slate wiped clean had gone.
A double half-time change was good to see. At least the manager was pro-active and wasn't going to let it drift as Gray and Eliot Richards replaces Matt Richards and Manset. We kept the 4-4-2 and looked a bit more balanced.
But then out came the service revolver once again and was aimed squarely at our feet with Phil Edwards left standing on the six-yard line scarcely able to believe his luck. Back to the drawing board when it comes to defending from set-pieces.
We did wake up. Burns took it upon himself to spark some life with a run between two defenders and a thumping finish, and - credit to them - the supporters got behind the team, who responded with a good 15-20 minute spell.
A Gray cross hit the bar, Burns returned it across goal, Johnstone couldn't turn it in and Matt Taylor put it over. That was the chance and had we got to 3-2 with the crowd raised up, you never know.
But with that chance, the belief we had got back ebbed away again. The 15-20 minute storm petered out as Burton, like the good side they are, held out comfortably for the win to take them back to the top.
Half-time subs Eliot Richards and Gray acquitted themselves pretty well and probably deserve starts at Southend tomorrow. Tellingly Jones appeared for Brown late on (no injury involved) - and I wouldn't be averse to seeing that finishing team coming out of the tunnel at Roots Hall.
However, the bottom line is that a 20-minute spell against a side already 3-0 up and coasting is not going to win us games. We need more than that to get us out of the situation we are in.
I got some grief on Twitter today for being negative. I am usually a very positive person, especially where CTFC is concerned - but I really am struggling for positive straws to clutch at.
The facts are stark. 24 games without a clean sheet. Three wins in 23 games - half a season - in which we have collected 16 points. Over a full season, that is 32 points, and that is only taking you to one place. Well, 24 including Braintree and Wrexham actually.
After 14 points from six games, we have only just doubled that tally by game 29. That is not me being negative, that is (at the risk of going all Rafa Benitez on you) the facts.
Yates' last 12 games as manager yielded eight points, Buckle's first 11 have also yielded eight points - so there has been no change in results, no upturn, no new manager bounce.
After Yates left us 10 points clear of the bottom two, now that gap is two points. By tomorrow night we could be down in there.
I am not saying Yates should not have gone. He should. Probably earlier than he did in hindsight, but when it came the decision was, I feel, taken at the right time after two pretty hapless defeats by Stevenage and Wycombe.
But I will say it again. The succession was rushed. There were people out there who were not given the chance to apply, to come in and talk to the board and for them to show what they had to offer.
There was no need to parachute a manager in with such haste, and I remain convinced that the Dover Cup game's importance to the club financially was the reason for the speed of thought.
Buckle was headhunted after two years off the scene in America. At the moment, in my view, it is not working. He has made the changes he felt were necessary, and I agree with the vast majority of the exits - I would have kept Steve Elliott around though. Even though he may not be a long-term option, his short-term value and experience is there for all to see.
The jury is still out on many of the incomings as most have played a game or two, but Burns and Wynter made promising starts and - to be fair - it is a shame he lost Kevin Stewart and Jack Dunn, who were adding something to the team.
On the subject of Elliott, the social media post attributed to him which was shared on Twitter makes worrying reading, talking as it did of 'not being able to work in the environment' at the club.
That is not the sort of thing we want to hear when our existence as a Football League club has never been in more jeopardy than it is now.
You want unity and a determined attitude to fight this situation. The environment should be harmonious, and for Steve to say something like that suggests that maybe it isn't. Concerning if so.
I have to admit I am not convinced that this manager will pull us away from trouble. His tactics and how he sets the team up does not instill me with confidence. The slide which started under Yates has not been halted, and if anything seems to be gathering pace.
He also does not seem to have been able to get any connectivity with the supporters. A fans' forum early on in his reign would not have gone amiss and I have to admit that to see him stomp straight down the tunnel on the whistle on Saturday rather than even look at, let alone acknowledge, the supporters isn't going to help his cause.
I fully understand that the players he has brought in need time to settle and knit together but, let's face it, we haven't got the time for them to bed in. He needs to inspire them, fire them up with belief and get them firing now - definitely for that run of four make-or-break games against Accrington, Tranmere, Carlisle and Mansfield which is coming up.
The manager says we need six wins, and we have 17 games to get them in, starting tomorrow. Remember, we have won three times in the last 23 games.
This is why I am not optimistic that those six wins will be forthcoming and I have to admit to being very fearful that the efforts of Steve Cotterill and that team which dragged us up in 1999 could all be undone.
I would be stunned if the board are not concerned, and did not discuss the situation at their regular meeting today. They care about this club, and I feel confident they will do whatever they feel is necessary to give us the best chance of avoiding the trap door.
If that means considering another change of manager, they have to entertain that thought, even though it would be a gamble and an admission that they got it wrong in November.
Ultimately it could be a call they have little option but to take - that is if the results continue in the manner they are going at the moment... and wouldn't a win tomorrow would be such a shot in the arm for us all?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The dust settles...

So that was January, and it was just another run-of-the-mill month in the life of Cheltenham Town FC.
On the pitch it went from good at Oxford, to terrible at Hartlepool, so-so against Morecambe, a bit better against Luton, then plumbed the depths again at Dagenham.
Off the pitch however, it hasn't been dull with the ins and outs happening with ridiculous regularity - I think it is eight in and eight out, but I might have lost count somewhere, it has been that crazy.
So Paul Buckle has done his wheeling and dealing and all in all done it pretty well, so much so that Saturday's team against Burton looks certain to include more players that he signed than he inherited.
Therefore, it is time for the excuses to stop. No more bleating about the poor team/squad that was here when he came in.
Many of them have gone, and of those left, he has given new contracts to a few and the others will most likely be gone by May, no matter what division we end up in, and lot of them won't be missed.
Paul, it is now your team, and it is time for you to take full responsibility for how it performs, rather than blaming your predecessor or how tough the job is etc etc etc. It is down to you now.
I wasn't at Dagenham but it seems from what I have been told that we gave away a stupid penalty, got back into the game, and then once we were 2-1 down we were never going to get back into the game.
In other words, a pattern we have seen a number of times in so-called 'pivotal' games under this manager and the one before, and similar to the Hartlepool game a few weeks back.
Some have told me they didn't question the effort, but others say we threw the towel in. I have only seen the goals so can't judge on that one. But a few things stood out.
First, no-one reacting to the penalty save bar, belatedly, Matt Taylor, then Trevor Carson seemed to be beaten from an angle at his near post.
The second was a good hit by Ashley Hemmings, but poor defending down our right hand side, and again, Carson beaten at his near post.
Then the third, more poor defending down our right. Then Troy Brown is given the runaround and for the third time, Carson is beaten at his near post.
From those highlights, it all looked too easy, and again we seemed to roll over in a powder-puff manner.
Again, the supporters who travelled were let down, and tales of players smiling and laughing as they left the field didn't do anything to lighten their mood.
That is something Buckle still needs to do - get that connectivity, and I think it would be a very good idea if he did a Fans' Forum or something like that in the not too distant future (he missed the chance in Woodall Services the other week...).
Team-wise my only surprise was Lloyd Jones staying at right-back after Durrell Berry's signing, with him being on the bench, alongside another out-and-out right back in Lee Vaughan.
My only explanation is that he wanted to keep (as much as he could) the Luton side together, but playing an out-of-position centre-back at right-back with two established right-backs on the bench was a strange one.
We have been a soft touch for too long, and players like Matt Richards, Troy Brown and Craig Braham-Barrett have been constants in many of the worst capitulations - so it doesn't surprise me greatly to see them copping most of the flak.
They are senior players now. We have a very young squad and these are the kinds of players who should be leading, setting the examples to these youngsters, but they are too often the ones being pointed at when things go wrong. I'd be stunned if any of that trio are here next August.
As Monday came around, we had seen Jason Taylor, Raffa de Vita, Adam Powell, Andy Haworth, Paul Black and Byron Harrison leave, with their destinations ranging from Dingwall to Atlanta, via Barrow and Northampton.
In had come the Liverpool loan trio Jones, Jack Dunn and Kev Stewart, Jake Gray from Crystal Palace and Durrell Berry came in from Torquay.
So the foundations were there, and the final day of the window was then going to round it off.
While many clubs higher up the ladders tried and failed to do most of the deals they wanted, we had no such luck. In (by Tuesday morning) came five more, and out went (by Tuesday afternoon) another two.
So it was overall 10 players coming in, while eight went out - but it actually balances out at eight in, eight out due to the injuries to Dunn and Stewart which cut their stays short.
Those setbacks - and they are big blows as those two have been excellent for us -  changed the deadline day priorities, as deals were sorted to keep all three Liverpool boys for the season. Now Jones is here on his own for the rest of the campaign.
That freed up a couple of loan slots - and they were used up quickly with the arrivals of Denny Johnstone and Wes Burns from Birmingham and Bristol City.
Johnstone started at Celtic and has played at age group levels for Scotland, and headed to Birmingham last summer, and has scored goals recently on loan at Macclesfield.
He looks to have some physicality about him, which we could do with. He has been given Byron's number 9 shirt, and seems to have been highly rated by Neil Lennon when he was in charge at Celtic.
We know all about Burns - he scored against us for Bristol City and in our win at Oxford, from where Steve Cotterill called him back and sent him to us - possibly with a parting shot in his ear  from the gaffer to tell him to get some goals and keep his club in the Football League... no pressure then Wes!
Signing number three was a permanent one, and on an 18-month deal.
Eliot Richards is a player who has been linked with us practically ever since Buckle, and more importantly Rob Edwards, came to the club.
Buckle was his manager at Bristol Rovers, Edwards was with him at Exeter on a loan spell where he scored six times in 11 games, and then took him to Tranmere in Edwards' short spell as manager.
He scored one goal at Tranmere - against us of course - and he also netted at Whaddon for Rovers when they won 2-0 in January 2012... when we were top of League Two. How things change.
He has always been a decent-looking player when I have seen him but I get the feeling he hasn't quite filled his potential. He is relatively experienced at our level, and this could be his chance to settle down.
It is good to see him sign up for 18 months. To me that shows commitment, and he won't want to be playing Conference football next season...
Richards can play down the middle, but equally on the left, so is an option for that role in either a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 system.
So three forwards coming in meant that we were able to let Terry Gornell go back to Accrington on an 18-month deal, and his last six months here was cancelled.
Terry was a hard-working player and that got him the backing of the crowd, but the hard truth is that his goalscoring record was simply not good enough, and the move is better for everyone.
Then it all went quiet. I finished my day job at the Echo having been distracted by the comings and goings all day and went to help my colleague James Young for the graveyard shift.
We were promised two more arrivals. What... surely not? Five players in a day?
With Stewart going back, surely one would be have to be a midfielder. The other? a defender? No. We found out, was going to be a forward. Four forwards...!?!
News of the midfielder arrived at 9.45pm - and it was a familiar face in Jordan Wynter, a player who did well during his loan spell in those heady early weeks of the season, and who we managed to get on an 18-month, permanent deal.
That is good business to me, as he seems a strong, mobile player, and a good athlete.
We have seen he can get a goal or two and his height will be handy at set-pieces in both boxes, and I think he is a player we can improve, and he can become a good asset for us. Cheers again Cotts...
The final signing wasn't going to be concluded until Tuesday morning, and that meant he had to be a free agent, and so it was as Mathieu Manset signed a six-month deal (slightly disappointing, but if we stay up and he does well I'd hope we could extend it) after being freed by Walsall.
He is a player with a chequered history. He burst on the scene at Hereford, scored goals and went to Reading for a six-figure fee.
From there, he has played in Switzerland, China, Belgium, Carlisle, Coventry and Walsall in pretty quick succession without great success, and now he is here.
But he is a beast. A tank of a man who is just the sort of player we have been crying out for, and I think we could have an interesting time with this guy.
He is only 25, which I was surprised about, and I think we have signed an unpredictable talent, who is capable of brilliance and mediocrity in equal measure.
Having signed him, I admit to being slightly disappointed that Jack Dunn has had to go back, as I feel these two would wreak havoc, but now I feel we have a real forward threat, and the front end of the team has certainly been improved from where it was when Buckle arrived.
So the loan situation now is that we four season-long deals in Burns, Johnstone, Jones and Ferdinand, while Gray is here for an initial month, which ends after the Southend game next Tuesday.
That is the same day that the loan window re-opens - and the option is there to extend Gray's deal or send him back and leave a loan space open for someone else - maybe Stewart or Dunn if they are fit.
If that happens that would an interesting choice - would Buckle, having signed four forwards, bring Dunn back as a fifth striker option, or opt for Stewart to continue the drive he was bringing to our midfield.
It may have been seen as significant that his absence from the side was the only change between the Luton and Dagenham games - and he was outstanding against Luton.
The other alternative would be to look elsewhere in the side. Many would say he should sign a new left-back, and others would want a centre-half - especially after the news I have been hinting at as a possibility was finally confirmed... the departure of Steve Elliott.
He has been fantastic for this club over four and half years and 194 games, via White Hart Lane and Wembley - one of the best free-transfer pick-ups we have had in the Football League era.
He didn' t play under Buckle having been injured in the Wycombe game which ended Mark Yates' reign, and had a couple of setbacks in trying to come back from his knee injury.
In his interview today, he says he is between 7 and 10 days away from fitness - but clearly Buckle does not see him as part of his plans on the field.
In the long-term, you can't argue with the decision as Elliott is 36. Short-term however, in a relegation battle and team without a clean sheet in 23 games, I am surprised that Buckle doesn't feel he has a part to play in the coming weeks.
So if he isn't going to play, then you can understand him moving on as he says he thinks he has 18 months left on the field - and the bush telegraph tells me he could be heading off to play for Archie Howells at Bath when he is fit, which will be great for them.
He will also get a bit more coaching experience, and I'd love to see him come back here in some capacity in the future -  manager, assistant, coach or whatever. A great bloke and a great servant to CTFC.
So that was that, and what a rollercoaster - and now we have the squad for the coming crucial weeks, and the 18 games which will shape our club's future.
There are fans delighted with the business we have done - while some are concerned that the squad is too young, or that we should have addressed the defence with the lack of clean sheets.
I am happy enough. I understand the defensive concerns, and those worried about a perceived lack of experience - but I also believe there would have been criticism had we signed four 31-year-olds from those worried that we had signed old players who might get injured too easily. It's a no win.
I also get people saying the balance is skewed too far towards youth, and we need that experience. But Yates relied on experience, and that's where the rot which Buckle hasn't yet been able to arrest started off, so it's swings and roundabouts really.
Basically, we have signed players that we can afford given the money the manager has generated from the players he has moved on. That is the bottom line.
Yes, there are loans, but at least four of them are season-long, so there is a degree of permanence there and we will not be shuffling them about a month at a time.
Two signed on 18-month deals, both players in their early 20s, is decent business in my book, and the other on a six-month deal which gives both sides a chance to look at each other and see where we are come May.
On the defensive question, we now have more presence up front with the likes of Manset and Johnstone. Therefore, instead of the ball coming back constantly to put more pressure on our back-line, we now should have the tools to try and see the ball stick up front more often, and maybe give our defenders a bit of a breather.
'Defending from the front' is something we hear a lot about, but we simply haven't done that well enough for a long time, and I expect that to improve now with these additions, and with Wynter's help I expect us to compete a lot better in midfield.
I want to see either Berry or Vaughan (Berry I suspect) at right back from Saturday onwards and if Jones is to play then he should partner Matt Taylor, who, with Elliott gone, becomes even more a key figure.
We also need Carson to re-discover his from from the start of the season, and tighten up a bit, stamping out the little errors which have I feel crept in recently.
So we have had a lot of changes, and amazingly now the player still at the club who made his debut first is, would you believe, Joe Hanks, who played against Exeter in a 3-0 win in October 2012 - every other player at the club then has now left.
So if you are struggling to catch up, here is the squad:
Goalkeepers - Carson, Gould, Reynolds
Defenders - Vaughan, Berry, Deaman, Brown, Jones, Taylor, Braham-Barrett, Bowen
Midfielders - M Richards, Hanks, Ferdinand, Wynter, Gray, Sterling-James, Kotwica, Williams, Hall
Attackers - Manset, Johnstone, E Richards, Burns, Dale, Lawrence
With these arrivals I must confess I am looking forward to Saturday. I think Buckle has done as well as he could bringing these players in and trying to shuffle his pack.
Fans wanted new faces, they wanted the underachievers moved on, and that's what they have got, even if all the underachievers that many wanted out of the door haven't been moved on - yet.
As the manager said in his interview on Tuesday, we all have to unite and work together or the task will get harder.
If we are all pulling in the same direction, we have a chance to help get this club out of the mire. Some may have doubts about Buckle, but he is the man given the task of saving us and we should try to get behind him.
His team sheet and system will be interesting on Saturday, when Burton come to town - and he has real options.
Playing 4-4-2 we could field Carson; Berry, Taylor, Jones, Braham-Barrett; Gray, Ferdinand, Wynter, E Richards; Burns, Manset - subs could be Reynolds, Brown, Hanks, M Richards, Sterling-James, Kotwica, Johnstone.
That looks a solid side against a high-flying team, and the bench looks so much stronger than it has in recent games with real alternatives, and even has people like Deaman, Vaughan, Bowen and Williams outside the 18.
Alternatively, we could opt for a 4-3-3, with the same back five, Matt Richards, Ferdinand, Hanks and Wynter fighting it out to be a midfield three, and Eliot Richards left and Burns right either side of Johnstone or Manset.
You want 3-5-2? OK - Carson; Jones, Taylor, Brown; Berry, Wynter, Ferdinand, M Richards, Braham-Barrett; Burns, Manset is a possibility for that formation - or 3-4-3 losing a central midfielder, Matt Richards for instance, and putting an extra forward, probably Eliot Richards, in.
This has been the last throw of the dice, and we have to hope that it works. The situation is pretty grave with us 21st in the table, one of five sides on 30 points.
There are nine sides within five points of each other, and the bottom line is that we need to start winning very quickly, and these players need to hit the ground running and gel very quickly.
Crunch time starts now... and we would all take 22nd, wouldn't we?