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York City midfielder Russell Penn eyeing League Two surge
RUSSELL Penn believes York City can climb the Sky Bet League Two standings in a similar manner to his former club Cheltenham.
The 28-year-old midfielder has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with the Minstermen, who have agreed a five-figure fee with the Robins for their club captain.
Penn has witnessed Cheltenham shoot into the top half of the table during the last three months after spending August and September in the division’s lower reaches following only one win from their opening 11 matches.
Back-to-back victories have seen City rise five places since ending 2013 only outside the relegation zone on goal difference and Penn feels anything is possible in the Football League’s basement tier.
He said: “This division is crazy. If you win four games on the trot you can be right up there so we have just got to keep picking up points between now and the end of the season and who knows then where that can take you?
“At Cheltenham, over the last two seasons, we reached the play-offs after starting well and then tailing off towards the end a bit, but you have had teams like Crewe and Bradford who have done it the other way by shooting up the table.
“There is no reason why we can’t have a good spurt up the league and that’s our aim, but we will be taking things one game at a time.”
Penn is also looking forward to joining forces with ex-Cheltenham and Kidderminster team-mate Keith Lowe for a third time with the latter expected to convert his loan move from Whaddon Road into a permanent transfer imminently.
“Keith is somebody I have a lot of respect for,” Penn admitted.
“He’s played the game at a high level and he’s a true professional who works hard and knows the game.”
Former England ‘C’ international Penn is expected to make his City debut at Northampton this weekend but, with fellow new signing Adam Reed, Lewis Montrose, Tom Platt and Craig Clay also on the Bootham Crescent books, he is taking nothing for granted.
He added: “I’ve played against Lewis Montrose and I am a big admirer of him, but there are quite a few central midfielders here and we will have to see what the gaffer wants to do.
“I am here to work hard, get in the team as quickly as I can and do my best for the club by showing the fans what I can do in terms of giving 100 per cent every week.”
Penn is also philosophical about the end to his Cheltenham career.
Despite being a mainstay during the previous two seasons, Penn fell out of favour under Mark Yates in November and has been allowed to leave the Gloucester club with 18 months still to run on his contract.
“I’ve had two good years at Cheltenham but that’s football,” he reasoned.
“I was at Burton for two years and I was disappointed to leave there, but moving to Cheltenham was the best thing I had done in my career.
“Now, I hope this will prove the same kind of move. I have signed a two-and-a-half-year contract so I can settle down and enjoy my football.”
Penn has already witnessed his new team-mates in action at close quarters, having been a member of the Cheltenham team that drew 2-2 with City earlier this season and he was impressed with the visitors’ industry that day.
He said: “I remember the wind playing havoc so there wasn’t a lot of quality from either team but York worked hard and I know what the club are about and what Nigel Worthington is about.”
Goals from midfield have proven elusive for City this season with Lewis Montrose (one goal in 23 appearances), Elliott Whitehouse (none in 18), Tom Platt (none in 18) and Craig Clay (none in ten) having only managed to hit the target once in 69 collective outings.
Penn, himself, is yet to get his name on the scoresheet this term or in his last 26 matches but, with a record of 18 goals in a ten-season career, he hopes to bulge the net at least once during the remainder of 2013/14.
He said: “If I can chip in with a few goals that would be good. I’ve never been a great scorer and I’m just happy if the team are getting goals but I usually pop up with one or two.”
On Saturday, Penn will be making his second visit to Sixfields this season having played during Cheltenham’s 1-1 draw with Northampton in October.
The Cobblers are bottom of the table but have improved in recent weeks with temporary chief Andy King taking four points from a possible nine from their consecutive away matches, losing 1-0 to Burton and sharing the spoils during a 0-0 draw with Portsmouth before a surprise 2-1 victory over Newport at the weekend.
“They have got a caretaker manager so the players will want to work hard and give everything for him because he wants the job on a permanent basis,” said Penn of the Minstermen’s next challenge.
“But they’ve got a good pitch and a good crowd and we will be going there with confidence after winning the last two games.”
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