NEW goalkeeper signing Luke Southwood has all the talent to push Nathan Baxter for the number one position at Wanderers.

We asked Gloucestershire Live’s Cheltenham Town reporter Jon Palmer for his insight on the 26-year-old, who was ever-present for the Robins over the past two seasons in League One, helping the club to their second-highest league finish in 2023/24.

Last week Southwood became Bolton’s second summer addition, following Wycombe’s Chris Forino, and will now challenge last season’s first-choice keeper Baxter alongside Joel Coleman and Luke Hutchinson.

How highly do you rate Southwood?

JP: “He will go down for me as one of, if not the best goalkeeper that Cheltenham have ever had.

“He played in two seasons of League One football and the club has only ever had seven seasons at that level, and last season not many players could really say they came out with head held high, but he excelled.

“I think a lot of the players were at their limit, more League Two players trying to eke every bit out of their ability, but he looked comfortable.

“I think if he was two or three inches taller, he would be playing at the top level. He isn’t a giant, he’s just over six foot.”

What type of goalkeeper is Luke Southwood?

JP: “He is definitely a footballing goalkeeper, as comfortable as I can remember of any Cheltenham goalkeeper with the ball at his feet. He is calm and not afraid to play it out under pressure.

“He is not a giant, old school, 6ft 5ins long-levered goalkeeper, he is quick, nimble and very confident when the ball is at his feet.”

Luke Southwood was ever-present in two seasons with CheltenhamLuke Southwood was ever-present in two seasons with Cheltenham (Image: PA)

Cheltenham were relegated last season. Did Southwood stand out in his time with the Robins?

JP: “When he came in permanently it was definitely seen as a coup.

“I think Cheltenham fans thought one year on loan and he’d be off to bigger and better things but from what I remember he had Championship interest last summer but to be number two, or to compete for number one but not necessarily play.

“He said to me that pre-season that he wanted to guarantee another season of games under his belt, then he could kick-on. I don’t think Cheltenham fans were too surprised when he left but he gave some great service to the club.

“He had a testing start – I remember he let three in on his debut against Peterborough when Cheltenham had been two-up. He then let seven in against Exeter City in the cup, which was possibly his third or fourth game, but he didn’t let it affect him and there were no signs his confidence was disappearing even in that run where the team hadn’t scored in 11 games, he didn’t do much wrong. It was just the Alfie May-shaped hole was very evident at that point!”

When fit, Nathan Baxter played every league game last season. Do you think Southwood will see it as a challenge to change that?

JP: “I think he will know how well Baxter has done, how well-regarded he is there too, and he won’t just walk in to the number one position but I think he will fancy his chances of pushing him hard.

“He is also the type of lad who will support and be the sort of friendly rival, wanting a colleague to do well but certainly wanting to get a few games under his belt. He got what he wanted at Cheltenham with 92 League One starts and I don’t think he will want to stop there.”

It was reported that Southwood broke his leg on the final day of the season. Should Bolton fans be worried?

JP: “He did break a bone but it wasn’t anything that was going to affect anything in pre-season. It was a blow at the time because he had played every game but we were told very early on that it might disrupt his summer a bit but he wasn’t going to be rehabbing once pre-season started again.”

Southwood has one Northern Ireland cap – can you see his international career continuing with Bolton?

JP: “He was in squads throughout last season and I think being in a squad challenging to get out of League One into he Championship, if he can get himself in and around the first team, he will see that as a route towards getting into the international frame.

“He made a lot of appearances for Reading at any early age and also playing for Northern Ireland shows the potential we saw in him and now he is still at a good age to kick on.

“There is a long way to go before he is in his prime for a goalkeeper.

“I can’t speak highly enough of what he did for Cheltenham. It was a shame it ended in such a painful way – both in terms of his leg and the relegation – but he was a top performer, no doubt.”