The Clarets legend has left his role as Burnley Under-23s boss to take over the Robins in League Two and take the first steps of his senior managerial career.
"A lot of things lined up at the right time. The opportunity came to me," the 40-year-old said.
“I had to think long and hard because I'm in a good place at the minute. But it's something that's always been the long-term goal.
“It hasn't been an easy decision because of the relationship I've got with the club and the manager, particularly.
“Some people might say you're mad doing what I'm doing, but I'd rather do it and see whether I'm any good at it or not, rather than not know, and there's only one way I'm ever going to find out.
“I only ever had two clubs in my career, so they are both close to my heart. Cheltenham is still a result I look for and all my family still live in and around the area. It's an opportunity to go back home.
“If it had been any other job in League Two I probably wouldn't have taken it, but you don't know."