Cheltenham boss Michael Duff says veteran striker Luke Varney’s “love for the game” is rubbing off on the club’s youngsters after a 2-1 win at Walsall moved the Robins up to fifth in League Two.
Varney scored Town’s second-half winner and was unlucky not to claim a hat-trick, seeing a header disallowed for offside and having two other efforts superbly saved by Walsall keeper Liam Roberts.
At 37, Varney is at his 11th professional club but Duff hailed the ageless forward after his winner helped stretch Cheltenham’s unbeaten run to seven league games.
Duff said: “People who watch him in training know he’s still a kid. He’s not doing it for money any more, he’s not doing it because he thinks he can get back to the Premier League.
“He’s doing it for pure love of the game. It’s brilliant because you get the younger ones ask ‘Why do I have to do this? Why do I have to do that?’.
“Well, have a look at him because he’s 37 and he’s scored in front of the Kop, and he’s doing it. He harnesses what we are all about really.
“That’s why he’s played in the top league. It’s his hunger and determination to keep playing. He doesn’t want to finish his career and he keeps delivering on the pitch.”
The hard-fought nature of the victory delighted Duff, who added: “We showed a different side to us and found a way to win. If you are going to do well, you have to win in different ways.”
Walsall slipped to a third straight defeat despite Josh Gordon’s penalty cancelling out the howler by keeper Roberts that gifted Cheltenham skipper Ben Tozer the opener.
The Saddlers sit 19th, having taken just five points from 21 at home and boss Darrell Clarke fumed: “It was not good enough. There’s a fear factor at home at the minute and I understand that.
“I don’t blame my fans for that, I blame myself because the mentality of the players is something I touch on all the time.
“We chuck them a goal – the last thing you need to do when you are on a bad run at home and your backs are against the wall. Then we score, then give them another sloppy goal.
“We’re killing ourselves and the mentality of the players that I’ve brought into the club has to be a lot better. They are like little boys, some of them, out there, and I take full responsibility for that.
“It’s a league where if you show a bit of quality and stop giving rubbish goals away, it’s not hard to shoot up the table but some of them I’m questioning whether they’ve got the right mindset.”