Interview: Cheltenham Town's Darryl Duffy

Darryl Duffy
© PA Photos
Darryl Duffy's goals have helped fire Cheltenham Town to the League Two playoffs this season. Sports Mole caught up with the Scottish striker to discuss a number of issues.

The goalscoring exploits of Darryl Duffy have been credited as one of the major contributing factors behind Cheltenham Town's promotion push this season.

With the Robins' semi-final play-off encounter against Torquay United fast approaching, Sports Mole caught up with the Scottish striker to talk promotion, Wembley and babies!

For a while it looked as though Cheltenham were strong contenders for automatic promotion. How do you feel about ending up in the League Two playoffs instead?
"We're delighted to be in the playoffs but at the same time there is that twinge of disappointment that over the March period we tailed out of the top three. We had been in the top three for a lot of the season and if you kind of tail off you've obviously got to have a little bit of disappointment. However, for a club that was 300/1 at the start of the season to be promoted, you've got to be delighted with the playoffs."

You've played Torquay three times this season in all competitions - winning once, losing once and drawing the other. How difficult a tie are you expecting?
"It's going to be so tough. Any of the teams in the playoffs were going to be very hard games. We need to be at our best if we want to progress to the final. If we can do that and get to the final then we will have to replicate that again. It is going to be two absolute massive games and it is going to take two massive efforts."

You home form has been crucial this season. How important is it that you take a lead down to Torquay for the second leg?
"I think it's quite important to take advantage of the home game and to try and take the lead into the second game. If we can do that it will force them to come at us a little bit and that's when we can be at our best away from home as well. When teams come at us we can hit them on the break. If we can take a lead from the home leg I think that will be a big advantage for us."

Are the players and management treating these two matches any differently to a normal league fixture?
"We've prepared exactly the same way that we have all season. Our preparations for league games this season have been spot on so I don't see any reason why we would need to change it. Having said that, we did train up at Birmingham's ground on Wednesday. I think the manager was thinking that it would be a nice change for the boys because we have been training at our own training ground all season. It was good to get away and have a nice change of scenery. The next two or three days leading up to the first leg will be the same as it has been all season."

Talking of the manager (Mark Yates), he recently signed a new deal at the club. How much credit does he deserve for the season that Cheltenham have had?
"Massive. The manager and Neil Howarth (assistant) have been working on a really small budget since the start of the season. They deserve massive credit for being able to get the players in that they have done on such a small budget. All credit to them. We don't have the biggest squads but they've managed the boys really well and for such a small squad we still look really fresh."

How did the manager convince you to join the club last summer?
"I came down and spoke to him and he said all the right things. All the players that he had brought in up until that point were built to play football, which suits my game. He wasn't interested in playing long ball football. Teams that want to play football really suit my style of play. He told me that I would get the opportunity to play and score goals and that is what I have done. That is all I needed to come here."

You mentioned your goalscoring achievements there. In fact, you're Cheltenham's leading goalscorer in all competitions with 15 goals. How satisfied have you been with your contribution this season?
"I've been reasonably happy, but to be totally honest I'm disappointed with 15. I feel like with some of the chances that I have had and missed I should at least have 20 goals, possibly more. It is kind of bittersweet because I'm happy with 15 but disappointed because I should have had a few more."

There's still time for you to add to your tally isn't there?
"Obviously I would be delighted to score but as long as we get to the final that is the most important thing. I'd put my own goalscoring exploits behind the team's success. If was between scoring two goals and going out or not scoring and getting to the final I would take the latter."

Obviously there is still two games to go, but how excited are you about the prospect of playing at Wembley in the final?
"It is the best stadium in the country, isn't it? It is such an iconic football stadium. It is a massive incentive to get there and play there. Some of the best players in the world have played on that pitch. The FA Cup final last week gave you a little taste for what it's about. It would be an incredible experience to play there."

Have you got a preference as to who you would rather play in the final? Bearing in mind the other semi-final is between between Crewe Alexandra and Southend United.
"No. We are just going to totally focus on Torquay at the moment. There is no point in speculating on who we could play in the final because we are not there yet. Hopefully we can do the business and beat Torquay over two legs. If we do that then we can starting focusing on potential opponents."

You became a father for the second time last week. Would promotion to League One round off the perfect month for you?
"That would certainly be the perfect month. To have my second son born at the start of the month and for us to get to Wembley and win the final would be a dream month to be honest. It couldn't really get much better. I'm hoping for the perfect month!"

Finally, how are you coping with the sleepless nights?!
"It's not too bad! My wife is great. She understands because she has been with me long enough now to know the importance of football and how physically demanding it is on me and much you need your sleep. She has taken the baby away to another room on important days and she will again this Saturday before the game on Sunday. She's been fantastic."

Cheltenham face Torquay at home this Sunday, before travelling to Plainmoor for the return leg on Thursday, May 17.

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