Interview: Cheltenham Town's Marlon Pack

Cheltenham Town's Marlon pack on September 28, 2012
© PA Photos
Sports Mole catches up with Cheltenham Town midfielder Marlon Pack ahead of a big weekend for his club in the League Two promotion race.

Cheltenham Town go into the final day of the League Two season this weekend needing to beat Bradford City to stand any chance of gaining automatic promotion.

What's more, the Robins also need struggling Aldershot Town to claim a victory over Rotherham United, who are currently in third spot, if they are to avoid a second year in the playoffs.

One of Cheltenham's key players this season has been midfielder Marlon Pack. With a big weekend ahead, Sports Mole caught up with the 22-year-old to discuss his side's chances of gaining promotion, as well as his plans for the future.

Automatic promotion is in the hands of Rotherham United, who play Aldershot on the final day of the season. Does that mean that the pressure is off Cheltenham?
"I think it does a little bit. The pressure is more on them because although they can probably go out and draw it, they will have to go out to try and win. All we can do is go out and win our game and hope that Aldershot do us a favour. I guess we can be a little bit more chilled out than they can."

You are up against Bradford City, who booked their place in the playoffs last weekend. Are you hoping that having secured their spot, they may take things easier against you?
"Perhaps. I suppose they may end up resting a few players [for the playoffs] - you never know. We could end up playing them three games in a row if results don't go our way [on Saturday]. You're always hoping and with the position that we are in, we will take any help that we can get. With them having confirmed their place, they may want to have a few fresher legs for the playoffs."

Of course, Cheltenham experienced the bad side of the playoffs last year. Despite the disappointment, are there any positives you can take from that run if you were to end up in them again this time around?
"I think the way we went about the semi-finals - winning both legs - we can use that. If we do end up in the playoffs we fancy our chances against anyone. As disappointing as it was last year, you can always look back on it and learn from it. It was certainly a learning experience and hopefully the fact that we've been there before will maybe give us that cutting edge we need over the other teams."

Are you surprised at the level of response from your team this season? After all, in the past teams that have lost finals have sometimes struggled during the next campaign.
"I don't think it has [surprised me] really. The gaffer has brought some good players in and the club has backed him. At the start of the season we were trying to go one better and keep the playoffs out of the question by finishing in the top three. We've still got a chance of doing that going into the final day of the season, so you never know. With the quality that has come in, added with what we had last year, it's not been too much of a surprise."

Should promotion be achieved either way, do you feel that the current squad is capable of surviving at a higher level? Or will improvements be needed?
"Most teams will need some sort of improvement if they move up a level, but Shrewsbury, for example, have shown this season that you can survive by not adding too much. I think the majority of the lads, if not all of them, could all go up another level."

How about yourself? Are you confident in your ability to perform one step higher?
"I feel ready. I want to better myself and challenge myself. I want to play at a higher level and I'm looking forward to that challenge if it was to arrive."

Cheltenham Town's Marlon pack on March 23, 2013© PA Photos

What does the future hold for you if Cheltenham do not gain promotion? You were heavily linked with Swindon Town earlier in the season. Are you are eager to test yourself at a higher level?
"It's got to be something that I think about. I'm out of contract in the summer, but first and foremost my aim is to get promotion with Cheltenham. With regards to my future, I've had two good seasons in League Two with Cheltenham and players can get comfortable at a certain level. I'm comfortable now and feel that I need to move on to the next step to better myself."

You say your contract is running out. If Cheltenham do go up, is there a chance you could remain at Whaddon Road?
"Hopefully that would be an option for me, but maybe not my only one."

Another club you know a lot about is Portsmouth, having started your career there. How pleased are you to see that their fortunes appear to have changed for the better in recent days, despite the fact that they have been relegated?
"It's great really because the turmoil down there has been hard to see. What the staff and the fans have had to go through must have been tough. So, to finally be rid of that is a big plus. Unfortunately, it will be in League Two, but what a massive club they will be in that division.

"They get 10,000-plus each week - there really is great support down there. You've just got to be happy for them because now they've got a base to start with. Hopefully soon they will be back up where they belong."

Perhaps you could pull on the blue shirt again one day?
"I think I've got unfinished business there. I felt like I shouldn't have been let go, like most players probably do when they have been released by a club. In the future it may be something that I consider, but like I said I've got ambitions to play at a higher level, so I can't see it happening at this time.

Finally, everyone is talking about Luis Suarez's bite on Branislav Ivanovic. What do you make of the situation and what should happen to the Liverpool striker now?
"It's madness really. On the pitch as a footballer, he's kept Liverpool where they are by scoring over 20 goals this season. But he's got that short fuse in him. It's a stupid incident and there has got to be something happening inside him that turns him.

"Ivanovic didn't even do anything to warrant it either - it wasn't bad challenge, just a tussle for the ball. I still can't really believe it now. There's all this talk about Liverpool having to let him go now, but I can't really see that because he's their top scorer and such a valuable part of their team. I can only see him getting a lengthy ban really, which is a shame because he will be a big loss to the game with his ability, but you cannot argue with it."

Ivanovic has been praised for his reaction. Would you have been able to deal with it in a similar way had you have been on the receiving end?
"I think you've got to nowadays. The referee didn't see what Suarez did and had Ivanovic gone a bit too far with his reaction, he could have ended up getting sent off. I think the majority of footballers have got their heads screwed on [when it comes to that sort of thing] and they know the right thing to do. It was a decent reaction from him."

Whaddon Road
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