Cheltenham Town Ladies Interview Jon Palmer

24th July 2017

Cheltenham Town Ladies has the privilege of working with an excellent regional newspaper in the Gloucestershire Echo. Its sports reportage is led by Jon Palmer, a local lad who is passionate about all sport played in the county.

Jon continues to give us some great coverage online and in print so we thought we would turn the tables and went behind the scenes to find out what makes him tick.


Did you always want to be a sports reporter?

When I was at school I was always sport obsessed and had a dream of becoming a professional footballer. I had trials with Cheltenham Town Under-18s when I was 16 and playing in goal for Cheltenham Civil Service men’s team.

That meant training with the first team at Whaddon Road when Chris Robinson was manager and players like Jason Eaton, Mark Freeman and Keith Knight were in the squad, which was an experience I’ll never forget.

However, I soon realised I was not going to make it as a professional so decided sports journalism was the next best thing. I also enjoyed writing, so it was the perfect match for me. The only other career I seriously considered was PE teaching.


What do you enjoy most about the job?

The best thing is that it never truly feels like work! It’s not ever going to be a chore to be paid to watch football and interview sports people. I consider myself extremely lucky to have a job which is also my passion. I am also fortunate to be covering my own ‘patch’ having grown up in Gloucestershire and always had a keen interest in the county’s sporting landscape.


It sounds like a seven day a week job. When do you get a day off?

 It is nearly always a six or seven day a week job, especially during the football season. As a sports journalist you have to accept pretty early on you are going to be working weekends and if I wasn’t reporting I’d be out watching a game somewhere anyway.

I grab a few hours back here and there when I can, but it’s full on with a lot of late nights too, but I try not to complain as I love the work, even if arriving home from a midweek away game in the middle of winter at 4am is sometimes tricky! Because I love writing, I don’t mind doing it every day.


What is your most memorable match a) as a reporter b) as a spectator

 a) As a reporter I’d pick the play-off final of 2006, in which Cheltenham defeated Grimsby Town. John Ward put together such a good, young team and many of them went on to play at a higher level. Reaching League One again and staying there for three years was an incredible achievement considering the club’s budget. The 2-1 win at Leeds United under Keith Downing (March 2008) was another special night, as was the play-off semi-final second leg win at Torquay United during Mark Yates’ reign (May 2012). The best match I saw last season was Evesham United’s play-off semi-final defeat at Salisbury which went to extra-time before they eventually lost 2-1, having had a man sent off in the first half. The drama was unbelievable that night.

b) As a spectator, my most memorable matches are Cheltenham’s wins over Rushden and Diamonds and Yeovil Town in 1999, securing promotion to the Football League for the first time. There are so many contenders, but those two definitely stand out.


Do you get to enjoy the matches you cover?

 I enjoy watching football at any level at any ground, so the simple answer is yes! Whether it’s Cheltenham Town, or a Cheltenham League Division Five fixture, I always find games fascinating to watch and there is always a ‘story’ waiting to be told somewhere along the line. I’d much rather be out watching a local match than sitting on the sofa watching televised Premier League games.


What is your funniest moment?

 It wasn’t that funny at the time, but in 2006/07 I had a dodgy car which broke down three away trips in fairly quick succession (Huddersfield, Oldham and Rotherham) so I spent a lot of time in the back of an AA pick-up truck along with some unamused colleagues, but remarkably we never missed any of the matches!

Also, the managerial reign of Martin Allen was comical at times, with some of his antics such as doing set piece work in a hotel suite using a piece of toast as the ball!

I was watching Bishop’s Cleeve v Hereford last week and one of the Cleeve midfielders smashed a shot against his own crossbar from 40 yards…there are always plenty of laughs throughout any football season!


Favourite ground (other than Whaddon Road) 

 Wembley is technically the best ground I’ve ever been to and I’ve been lucky enough to see Cheltenham Town play at the old and new versions. I  also love the Millennium Stadium and club wise I like grounds with character so in the Football League I prefer visiting places like Portsmouth and Grimsby Town, even if the press facilities don’t tend to be as good as the more modern stadia.


 You have to cover CTFC, Gloucester City and FGR not mention other local sides, how do you manage that?

 With some help from freelance reporters on match days and by doing my best to give as many teams in the county the coverage they deserve day to day.


What is your view of the women’s game?

I am a big fan and feel the sport deserves more media coverage than it currently receives, although it is improving all the time. I did a couple of seasons of voluntary media work for Bristol City Women (when they were called Bristol Academy). I enjoyed watching them regularly in WSL 1 and the standard of technical play and athleticism was very high. I have also followed Cheltenham Town Ladies closely for many years and enjoyed watching the club develop.


How do you think it should develop?

I think it is developing rapidly all the time (the progress since I first became interested in football has been incredible). The more young players who take up the sport and are given the chance to play, the better. There should be no difference in the opportunities to play football, and other sports for that matter, because of your sex.


Do you think that all men’s clubs should have a girls and ladies set up?

 I am a big advocate of men’s and women’s clubs working in harmony for mutual benefit and I believe that is improving gradually at Cheltenham Town.

I find it strange that some men’s teams don’t have a female equivalent because they can play such a big role in the community as well as the profile and reputation of the overall brand.  Manchester City set the standard in that respect.


Where do you think England Ladies will finish in the Euros?

 I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Sampson when he was manager of Bristol Academy and I have kept close tabs on his progress with England. He is an exceptional coach and communicator, with a superb temperament. There is an awful lot of talent at his disposal and I believe England Ladies should be aiming to go all the way and win the tournament, which could have such a huge impact on the future of the women’s game.


Who is your sporting hero?


My favourite Cheltenham Town player of all-time is former captain Chris Banks (1994-2003). Top level wise, I grew up idolising the likes of Peter Shilton, Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne.

I regard the late cricket commentator and former Australian all-rounder and captain Richie Benaud as one of the great broadcasters of all time and would say he is also a sporting hero of mine.


If you could meet one person outside sport who would it be?

Such a tough choice, but Sir David Attenborough would just edge out Jet from Gladiators!



Many thanks Jon. We hope to see you soon!

D2 Interactive