For last Saturday's programme against Exeter, we caught up with defender Joe McNerney who is fit again after missing the start of the season with a back injury.
First of all Joe, how is the injury and how hard have the last few months been?
The injury is feeling good. I had a nerve problem in my lower back which required time off my feet followed by a long period of tedious rehab work. It has been hugely frustrating as I was feeling good in pre-season and looking forward to having a full season.
Despite not being involved it’s been good to see the boys doing well as it means the training ground has been a happy place during my rehab. There’s also a darts board which has been my way of keeping a bit of competitive edge!
What keeps you motivated when you know it’s going to be months before you’re playing again?
Getting injuries and returning to fitness is the hardest part of football especially when it is long term. Quite often you’re on a different schedule as you have different needs, so you’ll find yourself separated from the squad during the week and on match days. You may see different specialists or spend days in the gym or pool. Every player suffers injuries at some point in their career. It’s a great feeling being involved with the boys again, even if you do get some abuse for how bad you are!
With four central defenders vying for two places, what do you think gives you the edge?
I feel we're very strong in central defence this year. Every player, in every position, brings their own style to a team. I like to think I’m a good organiser and add experience and leadership. That being said I think Jordan and Tom have been brilliant which is why I’m having to be patient. Jamie has also done well, especially against a strong Plymouth side. I think the competition will be good for us as whoever plays knows there are people breathing down their neck.
You have been at the club for nearly five years. How different is Crawley Town now compared to 2015 when Mark Yates signed you?
Mark Yates brought me to the club, along with Jimmy Dack, and gave me the opportunity to play in the League which I will always be grateful for. They had a huge task that season with a small budget and a takeover going on behind the scenes. I was disappointed they left. Dermot Drummy and Matt Gray were a brilliant combination and were hugely popular with the backroom staff. After a squad overhaul we finished the season in a similar position to the previous one and Dermot was replaced.
Gaby Cioffi challenged me last season to earn a new contract which I did and I’m keen now to win back my place and show him what I can do. Thankfully we have a training ground which makes an enormous difference. I must have trained at nearly 20 different places during my time here! Every manager has their own way of doing things and normally any changes are brought about by their plans. Thankfully a lot of the backroom staff have been the same since my first day which has helped me feel at home.
We’re in a difficult period, as we have been before. What’s the secret to getting back to winning ways?
Every team has tough spells throughout a season. Our start was very good and included some huge nights in the Carabao Cup. I think consistency has been our biggest issue which is natural with our young squad. We’ve played brilliantly at times and it is about rediscovering the confidence we had in those early months. I’m sure it will come and there is plenty of time left in this season to push up the league.
Have you started thinking about a career after football – not that anyone is writing you off just yet!
I haven’t got a definite plan as I’d like to have a few options. I’m currently doing a Biology A Level with a view to doing a Physiotherapy degree. I did some A Levels at college, but Biology is recommended for the degree. It’s strange going back to the books but I'm enjoying it even if I don’t understand a lot of it! Bully has talked about running a pub but I don’t know if I could trust him behind the bar. Besides he’ll probably still be playing when I do finally retire!