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Cheltenham Town: Racecourse move 'looking difficult' – Baker

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: November 19, 2011

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CHELTENHAM Town chairman Paul Baker says the club now know the difference between the cost of a new stadium at the racecourse and the value of their current Abbey Business Stadium home.

Speaking at Thursday night's Robins Trust fans' forum, Baker said there is a significant gap but the club are still exploring the possibility of a move to Prestbury Park.

"At the moment it is looking difficult and we will need to find an alternative funding source," Baker said.

"No decisions have been made and we'd be stupid not to continue to explore the possibility of a brand new stadium."

Cheltenham have been given costings for both 8,000 and 10,000 all-seater stadia, but Baker said he would be in favour of having an end of terracing if the development goes ahead.

With the potential relocation still up in the air and likely to remain so for a while, Baker and his board have continued to plot the rebuilding of the old main stand at Whaddon Road.

Club representatives are set to visit Scottish Premier League club St Mirren to look at an example of a Barr Stadia constructed stand, with something similar likely if the Robins stay put.

Barr have built both the In2Print (Wymans Road) and Hazlewoods Stands (Whaddon Road) at the Abbey Business Stadium in the past decade.

Manager Mark Yates and team captain Alan Bennett were also in attendance to field questions at the forum, with around 40 supporters present.

Yates was asked about the departure of Ethan Moore, who left the club without making a first team appearance.

"I can't really say much because it's a delicate one," Yates said.

"It's nothing sinister, but things didn't work out and the less said about it the better."

Baker praised Yates for his use of the loan market this season, with teenage trio Jack Butland, Luke Garbutt and Jimmy Spencer making positive impressions.

"The last manager got most of them wrong and a lot of fans lost interest," Baker said.

"But Mark is able to phone up managers like David Moyes at Everton and bring in quality loan players, and long-term loans are preferable to short term ones because the players buy into the club."

Yates said that the deal currently being finalised with Everton involving Robins youth players Courtney and Tyrone Duffus helped him bring in Garbutt, with the Premier League club impressed with the way Cheltenham have handled the brothers' transfers.

Bennett has played with current Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and Huddersfield Town's Jordan Rhodes during their time at Brentford and he believes loan spells can only be beneficial to young players.

Bennett, who has already become a popular player at Cheltenham since arriving from Wycombe, was praised by fans for his leadership and performances in defence.

In turn Bennett thanked the fans for their terrific support, at home and away, and said he was thoroughly enjoying life in Cheltenham.

"Cheltenham is a lovely town and reminds me a little of Cork, where I am from," he said.

He admitted the FA Cup second round draw against Blue Square Bet Premier club Luton could have been kinder.

"It's a fairly even draw because they are a big club for the Conference," Bennett said.

"The pressure was on Tranmere in the first round last week, but now it is on us.

"Luton is not the nicest of places to go but we'll give it a good shot."

Yates added: "We could have had worse in the draw, but we could have had better.

"Luton are not having the best of times in the Conference, but we can't worry about it yet anyway because we have two important league games coming up."

Baker and Yates were asked why Sido Jombati's contract extension had been done so early in the season and if other players were likely to agree new deals imminently.

"We made a mistake with Wes Thomas last year in not putting an extension clause in his contract," Baker said.

"It is important now that because the club is in a stronger position, we need to hold onto our better players.

"Sido has been exceptional and he is a fabulous player. He came from Bath highly recommended by Lee Howells and I certainly owe him a beer next time I see him!"

Yates said that he has never had easier contact negotiations than those held with Jombati.

"We sat in Starbucks and I think Sido had an orange juice and a panini," Yates said.

"By the time he'd finished, the contract was sorted!

"We took a chance on him and he was one of the lower paid players in the squad. We want to keep our better players and give them a reward and Sido has featured strongly this season.

"We'll do others as and when, but most of them have appearance clauses."

It was confirmed that Bennett, who signed a one-year deal in the summer, has an appearance clause that will guarantee him another year when triggered – likely to be around the 25 mark.

The 30-year-old is an ever present in League Two matches this season and firmly on course to secure an extension.

Former Robins winger Martin Devaney is not currently on Yates' radar, but he did admit he would have signed him last season given the chance.

"Loans now are likely to be young players with something to prove," Yates said.

"It was great to see Martin at Tranmere and he was a fantastic player for this club. You never say never, but we have moved on now."

Baker said that the club are having to be careful with wage commitments due to a 26 per cent reduction in revenue from Sky TV next season.

It was revealed that senior sports therapist Ian Weston turned down a chance to join a higher division club, thought to be Notts County, last summer.

Weston was praised by Yates, Baker and Bennett for his work and Yates said that returning fitness coach Jason Murphy had made a big difference and helped the squad improve their fitness levels this season.

Bennett was asked about the facilities at the club's Seasons training ground, which he said compared favourably with his last two clubs.

"It's up there with Wycombe and Brentford pitch wise, but definitely better facilities than Brentford," Bennett said.

"We used to get changed in a cricket pavilion there."

Baker said that the club had negotiated an improved deal with the Swindon Village venue, with a 12-month rolling contract ongoing.

Supporters Tony Rastelli, Jason Bond and Steve Smith were praised by Baker for the work they have put in on a voluntary basis to spruce up Seasons and Whaddon Road.

Yates is happy for his players to use social networking site twitter as long as they do not 'tweet' anything that interferes with football matters.

The club are looking at possible new kit manufacturers as the current deal with Errea expires at the end of this season. Nike and Umbro are among the possible replacements.

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