Cheltenham Town manager Gary Johnson has been coming to terms with life without his captain and centre-half lynchpin Aaron Downes. The Australian was ruled out for the rest of the season after he tore the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in his knee in last week’s game against Borehamwood.
Crucial to the Robins’ push for promotion back into the football league, Downes will now seek consultation from an Orthopaedic specialist before undergoing a long rehab process back to full fitness.
Gary Johnson has admitted this week that Downes will be missed in the heart of the defence on the pitch, but the experienced defender will have a big role to play off of it. He said:
“It’s horrible for Downesy because he loves playing, if you ever have any thoughts about saying ‘Downesy I want to rest you this week’ he’ll say ‘Why? Why do you want to rest me?’ Well because you’re 45 and got grey hair!
“He has done fantastic for us and now he’s going to be that same leader and same influence but off the pitch, he wants to stay involved he’s asked me saying “send me out scouting if you want, if you want me to do a couple of sessions I’ll do them.” Already he’s still well in with the group and that’s good- so we haven’t lost the person we’ve just lost the player.”
With Johnson in typically upbeat mood the ex-Bristol City manager has offered a seat on the bench to the defender:
“If he wants to sit on the bench then of course he can but it might be dangerous on his crutches with his legs sticking out if he trips me up then that’ll be the last time he’ll be on the bench!”
Following Downes’ injury, vice-captain Kyle Storer will now wear the captain’s armband for the remainder of the season- a scenario the ex-Kidderminster Harriers midfielder sees as bittersweet.
“After the result against Borehamwood we were all down and then we got the news a few days later that the skipper would be out for a significant period and it was quite low for the first couple of days, but we’ve got a big game Saturday against Oxford City and we’re full of confidence.
“The onus [to lead] isn’t just on my shoulders although it will be fantastic to wear the armband for such a well supported club and with the situation we are in it would be fantastic to get us over the line. I’ve spoken to Aaron quite a lot about the situation, nothing is going to change, I’m very vocal myself and different players lead in different ways. Pars [Daniel Parslow] is more quiet in the way goes about his business and takes responsibility as does Wrighty [Danny Wright] he finishes off and is a strong target man for us, where as I’m more vocal and try and organise.”
To watch more of Kyle Storer’s interview click on the video below:
Cheltenham Town travel to Oxford City on Saturday 16th January in the second round of the F.A. Trophy.