Cheltenham Town: Alex Russell to retire on eve of his 40th birthday
Alex Russell will call time on his long playing career after tomorrow's match between Clevedon Town and Mangotsfield United.
The ball-playing midfielder turns 40 on Sunday and he has decided it is finally the right moment to hang up his boots and concentrate on his burgeoning coaching career.
He now works full-time for Bristol City, coaching the Under-21s team at Ashton Gate as he starts out on what he hopes will be a long and successful career in management.
“I always said I’d play until I was 40 and it will be my last game the day before I reach that milestone, so it’s quite timely really,” Russell said.
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“Physically I feel I could carry on for a few more years because I feel fine, but the level I am playing at is hard and the pitches aren’t great.
“I’ve not been particularly enjoying it this season and the new manager at Bristol City (Sean O’Driscoll) also thinks I should probably be at first team games on Saturdays so I’ll just play a bit of seven-a-side in the week for fun from now on I think.”
Russell will be remembered at Cheltenham Town for his successful loan spell in the second half of the 2007/08 season, when he and fellow Bristol City man Steve Brooker had a big say in the Robins’ survival at League One level under Keith Downing.
He scored a memorable goal at Elland Road in Cheltenham’s memorable 2-1 win and helped bring out the best in another ex-City man Steven Gillespie whose goals also played a key part in the club’s survival.
“I am still in touch with a lot of the lads from Cheltenham like Shane Duff, John Finnigan, Alan Wright and I was with Andy Gallinagh at Bath last season,” Russell said.
“That goal at Leeds was one of the best of my career because of what it meant and we totally outplayed them that night.
“I remember Brooks (Brooker) missing a chance to put us 3-0 up, but it they nicked one at the end to make it 2-1, but it was a great performance for us and a great night.”
Russell puts helping Cheltenham stay up in among them best achievements of his career, which also took in four promotions.
He helped Cambridge United, Bristol City, Torquay United and Exeter City climb a division, although he does not really count the Exeter success despite being given a medal as he was not heavily involved.
Crosby-born Russell scored the goal which took Bristol City into the Championship in front of a packed Ashton Gate
After his successful loan spell at Cheltenham, Russell joined permanently in the summer of 2008, but by the end of his first season he was on loan at Exeter due to financial difficulties.
“I spent a year and a half at Exeter after joining them permanently, but I hurt my back and I went to have a few games for Bath City,” Russell said.
“I was playing there and training at Yeovil Town, where the manager was Terry Skiverton and he offered me a deal from January to the end of the season.
“He then offered me another year, but stupidly I turned it down and decided to carry on at Bath to start out in coaching.
“I could have carried on playing in the Football League so looking back I got that decision wrong.”
Russell switched to Clevedon Town after being given his new job at Bristol City, to cut down on travelling.
He has completed his UEFA B Licence coaching qualification and is halfway through his A Licence.
“I was always keen to stay in football and I think I know how it should be played,” he said.
“I have always enjoyed the tactical side of things and also the psychological aspects too.
“I’ve enjoyed working with the Under-21s and they are young lads trying to prove something, which for me is better than reserve team football.
“I always kept a link with Bristol City after I left and the chairman said he’d be happy to have me back in the future.”