What’s the biggest thing you have learned as a coach after your first full season in charge?
Not to take every defeat like it’s the end of the world! I was really hard on myself when we lost last season but you know, when you watch back games and spend some time reflecting, there are so many matches which are decided by the smallest little things – a missed tackle, a mis-placed pass. So hopefully this season I will be able to treat wins and defeats the same way and not get too carried away.
Is the squad stronger than last season?
Well, we’ll see over the next few months if that’s the case. But the difference is that these are my players now, the ones I wanted to keep from last season and the additions to the squad during the summer that I pushed for. But overall, I think it’s stronger. A lot of the players we have brought in have got a lot of experience of playing at a higher level – they have won things, they know what’s expected and how to get the job done. I am genuinely excited about what this squad is capable of achieving. There’s a good spirit in the group already, they are very professional in their approach and they’ve got targets amongst themselves that they want to achieve this season.
What do we need to do differently to challenge at the top end?
Start better. That’s what cost us last season. There was always the risk of that because the players had to get used to a different way of playing. When we did that we went on a great run in the middle of the season. This year, in pre-season, the lads left from last year have picked up where they left off and the new players, because a lot of them are experienced and have been with coaches who like to play passing football, have brought into what we want them to do quickly. If we can get off to a good start, build some momentum and we can stay injury free we can definitely be a force this season.
What are you expecting from Cheltenham on Saturday?
We had two tough games against them last season. Down there we lost 1-0 and then there was the crazy 5-3 defeat at home. They’ve lost a good striker in Mo Eisa but they seem to have recruited well and we’ve seen their last two pre-season games and they have been impressive. But one thing we do well at this club is prepare for what the opposition could throw at us. Gary Johnson (Cheltenham manager) will be the same. It goes back to what I mentioned earlier, the game might be very tight and decided on little things. But we’ve prepared well and we are looking forward to Saturday.
Finally, what’s your message to the fans on the eve of the new season?
Stick with us! There will be some ups and downs – we all know that – but we need everyone pulling in the same direction. I think the fans appreciated what we are trying to do in terms of the way we play. The pitch here at the Broadfield is fantastic and that will encourage us to play on the floor. Let’s hope we can build on last season and if we can get established in the top half who knows what we can achieve.
We’ve got a forum with the fans next Tuesday (7pm) and I’m sure they will have some interesting questions for me.