Cheltenham Town Wales XI
It can be a strange life being a Welsh supporter of a lower division English club, explains Tim Nicholls. It is especially weird playing Newport County and Wrexham, having people stood next to me singing the usual anti-Welsh songs, mostly about sheep of course.
I was born in Cardiff but grew up with my Mum in England, and when I was 13 I started regularly going to Cheltenham Town games with my mates, and before too long I’d stopped watching and started supporting. I’ve seen us all over the country, from Exeter to Carlisle, via Stevenage and Mansfield. As a club reasonably close to the border it may be slightly surprising to learn that we haven’t had that many Welsh players over the years, so this squad is reliant on loan players with U21 caps to fill it.
GK: Martin Thomas – A regular for Newcastle United in the 1980s, at the end of his career Thomas made 80 appearances for Cheltenham Town in the Southern League in the mid 1990s. One of several keepers who rotated as back-up to the great Neville Southall at senior Welsh level, his solitary cap came in a Euro 88 qualifier against Finland when Southall, Eddie Niedzwiecki and Tony Norman were all injured. Before my time as a Cheltenham supporter but often mentioned by older fans as one of the best keepers to play for the club. Has since worked for the FA coaching young English goalkeepers.
RB: David Pipe – Loaned to Cheltenham Town from Bristol Rovers in 2009, making 8 appearances. Twelve under-21 caps, his solitary cap at senior level came as a second half substitute in a 2-0 defeat against the USA in 2003, a game that saw 18 withdrawals from Mark Hughes’s initial squad and standby list. Pipe was also selected in Phil Lambert‘s Coventry City Wales XI.
CB: Danny Parslow – Hengoed-born Parslow started out as a youth player at Cardiff City, Parslow moved on to York City, with two loan spells at Grimsby before signing for Cheltenham at the start of the 2015/16 season. Featuring in almost every minute of that National League winning season, the step up to the Football League proved more difficult and he moved back to York in January 2017. As well as his four u21 caps in 2004, Parslow captained the Wales semi-pro team in the 2008 Four Nations Tournament.
CB: Joe Rodon – Joining Cheltenham Town on loan for the second half of the 2017/18 season, twelve appearances in League Two followed before making the step up to the Championship on his return to Swansea. Much has been written elsewhere about Rodon this season, but a string of impressive performances for the Swans means his senior debut is surely only a matter of time?
LB: Josh Low – Mainly a right sided midfielder, but considered a useful utility player for Cheltenham (plus he was listed as a D M R/L on Football Manager), Low played for Cardiff City, Oldham Athletic, Northampton Town, Leicester City and Peterborough United before joining Cheltenham in 2008. His 121 appearances for the Robins is the most he made for any club in league competition in his career. Low moved into semi-pro football upon leaving Town for Bath City in 2012 to combine football with his burgeoning legal career; Low is now a legal associate in his home city of Bristol. His son Joe is currently in the Welsh youth setup.
RM: Marley Watkins – Grandson of Welsh poet Vernon Watkins, a member of the famed Swansea Group of poets and friend of Dylan Thomas, who failed to turn up to Watkins’ wedding despite being best man. Marley made his debut for Cheltenham in 2008, at the time becoming the Robins’ youngest ever League player. Leaving Town in 2011 to sign for Bath City he subsequently played for Hereford, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Barnsley and Norwich City before joining Bristol City in 2018. Made his senior debut against Panama in Chris Coleman’s final game as manager, and has since won a further cap against China in the China Cup.
CM: Joe Morrell – Loaned to Cheltenham from Bristol City, Joe played 39 games in 2017/18, scoring 3 times and impressing often. So to many Cheltenham fans it is a surprise that he is yet to break into the Bristol City first team, or to go out on loan to a League One side. Joe does at least seem to be a regular for Robert Page in the U21s for whom he was won eight caps to date after making his debut against Liechenstein in October 2017.
CM: Lee Lucas – The most tenuous name in the XI, Aberdare-born Lucas (not to be confused with prolific serial killer Henry Lee Lucas) made two appearances for Cheltenham while on loan from Swansea in 2014, a 1-1 draw at home to Northampton, and a 0-0 draw away at York City. Only made a single appearance for the Swans in a fifteen year, injury-ravaged association with them. Seems to be without a club since being released by Motherwell in 2017. Over 40 intermediate caps, and former u-21 captain, suggested Lucas would have had a better professional career that has mustered only 15 first team appearances.
LM: Jake Taylor – Loaned from Reading, Jake made 8 appearances for Town, scoring once in a 4-0 win over Wycombe on Boxing Day 2012. His only full cap came as a substitute, replacing Hal Robson-Kanu in the 85th minute of the 2-1 win over Cyprus in Euro 2016 qualifying, and even got into the Panini sticker book released after qualifying was assured. Now at Exeter City.
CF: Ian Walsh – Over 100 appearances for Crystal Palace before joining Swansea in 1982, then moved to Barnsley and Grimsby Town. Loaned from Cardiff City in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to regain his fitness in the 1988/89 season, making three appearances for Cheltenham. Famously a goalscorer in the 4-1 win over England at the Racecourse in 1980. No-one has ever scored more goals for Wales in their first six caps (5), Walsh finished with an impressive strike rate of 7 goals in 18 caps. The emergence of a certain Ian Rush a significant factor in restricting Walsh to further caps.
CF: Wes Burns – A loan from Bristol City in 2014/15 season, having already scored against Cheltenham in the Johnstones Paint Trophy for the Robins, and in the League while on loan at Oxford United that year. Burns’ four goals in his 14 appearances were unable to help prevent Cheltenham from avoiding relegation to the National League in 2015. Another player that was around the fringes of the squad during the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, and made that same Panini book. Scored six goals in 18 under-21 caps and now at Fleetwood Town.
GK: Connor Roberts – the goalkeeper rather than the current full back, Roberts made a single Cheltenham appearance in the last game of the 2013/14 season after sitting on the bench all season. A few weeks later Roberts was called up to the senior squad for a pre World Cup warm up friendly against The Netherlands. Since played for Chester, Bangor and The New Saints. Won six under-21 caps.
DF: James Wilson – Chesptow-born James was one of two debutant Wilsons, along with Harry, in the 1-1 draw with Belgium in Brussels in 2013. Wilson was on loan at Cheltenham from Bristol City at the time. Over 200 league appearances, mainly in the botttom two divisions in England, he is unlikely to win a second cap.
DF: Darren Jones – A loan from – you won’t be surprised to hear – Bristol City in 2003, Jones played 13 games for Cheltenham, scoring once. Jones won youth caps but slipped into non-league and spent time in prison. Youth cap.
MF: Eliot Richards – Solitary caps for Wales u19s and u21s (against Armenia in 2012), Richards made a promising start to his professional career at Bristol Rovers. While at Cheltenham Richards was diagnosed with testicular cancer, given the all clear in 2015.
ST: Stuart Fleetwood – Gloucester-born Fleetwood joined Cheltenham on loan from Champonship Charlton Athletic in 2008, despite admitting to being a lifelong Gloucester City fan. Scored two goals for Town in six appearances. Made his debut for Wales u21s against Latvia in 2004. For a short spell Fleetwood kept Robert Earnshaw out of the Cardiff City side, and his move to the Championship with Charlton came off the back of a red-hot Conference season with Forest Green. Fleetwood won u17, u21 and semi-pro u23 caps.
Manager: Bobby Gould – Post-Wales and post-Cardiff City, Bobby Gould took over as manager of Cheltenham Town in January 2003. Narrowly failing to avoid relegation to the fourth tier on the final day of the season. The following year started badly and Gould resigned in the October.