Without Steve Cotterill, Cheltenham Town would probably not be the established Football League club they are today.

Instead, the Robins would more likely be where they’ve the majority of their 136-year history – playing non-league football.

Cotterill’s appointment, though he was a relative unknown at the time, made sense.

He was a local lad who had even played a handful of times for the club in the 1980s but he also brought unique management experience to Gloucestershire, having lead Sligo Rovers for two years in the Irish Premier Division.

However, despite a CV that included a League of Ireland Cup final and a run in the 1996 UEFA Intertoto Cup, Cheltenham fans were still sceptical.

The Robins had been stuck in the Southern League, England’s sixth tier, for four seasons and never finished lower than 3rd, but this was a league where it was first or bust.

Well, almost.

As caretaker manager, Cotterill led Cheltenham to their all-to-familiar second place, eleven points behind runaway champions Guiseley.

However, in a stroke of luck for the Robins, Guiseley’s ground didn’t meet the Conference’s requirements and so the Robins were promoted to the fifth tier for the second time in their history. 

They almost went one better the next year, but despite an impressive 17 game unbeaten run, Cheltenham finished in second but this time there was no lucky break into the division above.

Any disappointment from their league finish was quickly banished though when Cotterill guided the Robins to their first ever major silverware. Jason Eaton’s goal against Southport won Town the FA Trophy under Wembley’s twin towers.

Building on that momentum, Cotterill fulfilled Cheltenham’s dreams the following season and led the club into the Football League by winning the Conference for the first time. 

Not content with just dragging the club from the realms part-time to the fourth tier, he challenged his team to venture further into uncharted territory.

After two respectable top-ten finishes, the Robins finished fourth and qualified for the Playoffs in 2002.

After a season where Town had remarkably already made it to the FA Cup Fifth Round, Cheltenham agonisingly finished one point off the automatic promotion places.

Undeterred, they rallied to beat Hartlepool in the semi-finals on penalties before confidently dispatched Rushden and Diamonds 3-1 in the Cardiff final.

Cotterill’s departure that summer to join Stoke City marked the end of a legendary tenure in Gloucestershire, leaving behind a remarkable legacy of success for Cheltenham Town.