Director of Football Paul Maitland shares his thoughts on our start to the season and looks ahead to a busy weekend.

The Start

“When we looked at the fixtures that we had at the start of the season, they look difficult on paper. There is no certainty in football and there is no easy game in this league. There is not a week that goes by where you can take your foot off the gas.

“It’s an old cliche but anyone can get a result against anyone else. We’ve obviously had a very solid start. We were not quite sure what to expect but we recruited well over the summer and the decisions we took have been vindicated so far. Hard work in pre-season has helped where we are at this point, I don’t really read too much into the league table at this early stage but we have surprised a few teams and they have been caught out by perhaps not doing their homework on us.

“Make no mistake, this is a big step up in standard. Mark and I always felt that with the players we signed in the first year, that they would be actually better suited at this level. It’s more intense, it’s quicker, the standard is better. It is a pleasing start and the players deserve credit for that but at no point do we just stop and turn up thinking we will just win.

“I am a big believer in one game at a time. We have two tough games at the weekend, away at Chippenham, they are good side in a bit of a transition. Wealdstone on Monday, well they are a big well supported non-league club. It’s a good league with some big names. We have got to be ready for every challenge.”

The Squad

“We take our recruitment very seriously. We look at everything, attitude, what the individual is like as a person, what their ambitions are, do they have the same drive as we have? We almost have a criteria and they have to fit in it. In non-league you spend a lot of time with the players.

“The new lads have fitted in really well. We don’t accept any big egos, and our standards are always high. You have to fit the bill. It was a difficult summer with some fans favourites having to leave us and with new players coming in but you have to do that, it’s part and parcel of gaining promotion and going up a level.

“We felt with the amount of fixtures we have at this stage, we had to have a big squad. Evidently, so far, Mark has got it spot on with the squad rotation and we have had injuries, unavailabilities, and an illness. The intensity of the league demands a strong competitive squad, there are a few full time and established teams, so we need to compete with that and we do it with demanding high standards.

“Most of our lads are working full-time, so like Slough last week for example, some of the players were off the coach at 1am and had to be up for work at 7am. We have a remit on where we sign players from too in terms of location. Previously, we had lads coming from places like Plymouth and that’s just not sustainable.

“We have a good group of players, a fairly young management team and a fairly young squad. We all have the same drive and everyone works hard to maintain our high levels.”

Chippenham on Saturday 

“Chippenham have to be respected. Mark Collier has done a good job and they have ambitions. They have made some good signings and of course a couple of familiar faces for us in George Rigg and Dean Evans. As I said before, there are no easy games, they would have done their due diligence on us as we have on them but I always think our team is capable of winning any game.

“We need to remain very focused and grounded and we can’t get carried away. They have the slope on the pitch that will be an advantage to them, we know all about that and naturally we will have our own plan for the game as we always do.

“It’s a reasonably short journey as well and I urge our supporters to come in numbers as they always make such a huge difference. 

“See you all on Saturday.”

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