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The mind of a manager on matchday

by: theterras

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“WHEN you win, it’s almost relief; when you lose, it’s the end of the world.”

Those are the thoughts of Weymouth boss Mark Molesley on the strains of being a manager on matchday.

Like millions of others this week, Molesley has been advised to stay at home following government advice amid the coronavirus pandemic.

An enforced suspension in play has given the former Bournemouth midfielder a chance to catch up on odd jobs around the house.

As Echosport catches up with the Cherries’ under-21s assistant, he is taking a break from digging up his garden in preparation to lay a new patio.

He has certainly broken new ground at the Bob Lucas Stadium.

Three trophies and a promotion in less than 12 months has cemented his place in Terras’ folklore.

But success takes its toll. Here, Molesley hands us an exclusive insight into the mind of a manager on matchday.

Stresses of the job are evident, even the day before kick-off.

“There’s always sleepless nights in football,” he concedes.

“I’m getting better now – as long as you’ve had a good week’s prep, trained well and controlled what I can control.

“Everything else, I’m starting to learn to try and let go the best I can. I always sleep quite well on a Friday now, I’m quite confident with the group, with the way we work and the way we do things.”

And why wouldn’t he be?

Even the most optimistic Weymouth fans could not have imagined a current placing of third in the club’s first season back in the Vanarama National League South for nine years.

Last Saturday’s 2-0 victory over promotion rivals Slough epitomised the steep climb Weymouth have undertaken under Molesley’s stewardship.

Decisions both before and during a game are crucial.

But Molesley revealed he had tinkered with his starting line-up during his almost ritualistic pre-match breakfast with assistant Tom Prodomo and coach Brad Asagba.

“Our whole emphasis is on our work and preparation in the week, so the Saturday is business as usual,” he said.

“One thing we do is Tom comes and picks me up, we then pick up Brad and then we always go for breakfast together every home game.

“We go to a place on the way called The Barn. We end up having breakfast there and that’s when we go over and finalise everything.

“Usually, all our planning is done on Thursday – scout reports done – and Saturday is the final dotting of the Is and crossing the Ts, how we finalise the team completely. We usually have a very good idea on the Thursday, but not always.

“Saturday, for Slough, I don’t mind admitting the team was picked literally as we were paying up for breakfast, we’d moved some stuff around.

“We just felt with what was going on, that was the way we wanted to go.”

From breakfast, the Terras’ car school rolls into the ground at 12pm as anticipation and a sniff of three points begins to build.

Molesley said: “Tom and Brad go out and set the warm-up up, we go out and check the match balls, then the physio (Ben Hayes) comes in about half 12, one o’clock.

“We just double check that all the lads are fit and healthy, we name the team and draw up set-pieces.

“Then we usually speak to them about 10 to two for not long; we’ll recap our gameplan.

“Me and the captain (Josh McQuoid) will take the teamsheets in at two o’clock with the referee, then they’re out at 10 past two to warm up.”

Molesley, famous for scoring a stoppage-time winner for the Cherries at Dagenham & Redbridge to help stave off relegation in 2009, admits he still lives and breathes every moment as a manager.

“It gets difficult at times,” he admitted. “I’m in my third year of management now but I still kick every ball on the sidelines.

“I’m not long out of playing and the emotional side of the game on the sideline is tough, it’s something I’m trying to get better at.

“I usually have myself under control and every now and then you get a bit irate on the sideline.

“There’s a lot riding on it. I know how hard my players and staff have worked that week.

“The only satisfaction you get is by winning. You want to win so badly. Sometimes that does affect your emotions.

“That’s something I’m practising is to keep level-headed so I can make rational decisions.”

With the final whistle comes an end to the adrenaline rush.

Win, lose or draw Molesley will now go and speak to the media – a task which brings its own pressures.

“Usually I’ll try and speak to the lads quickly before I speak to the Press,” he said.

“Sometimes we do that out on the pitch in a huddle and I’m happy with what I’ve said.

“I can’t do the Press straight away sometimes, it needs to be a bit more behind closed doors and maybe give myself a five-minute breather.

“Usually, when we win, the huddle’s enough! I’m also a believer that after a game not too much needs to be said.

“It’s always better to have a more in-depth conversation with the players at training when everyone’s had a bit more time to calm down, think about things and look at the video.

“You can have a bit more clarity in your message. Also, with the emotion of the game it is a good time to be speaking to the team.

“You want to show that football is a game of emotions. As much as you want to control them, you also want to grow them and put that emotion onto the players.”

Managerial and media duties done, Molesley finally has time to relax – depending on the result.

“When you win, it’s almost relief; when you lose, it’s the end of the world,” he reveals.

“It’s horrible and that stays with you for a while. The only remedy is to look at the game, look at some clips and work out why and how.

“As long as you have a remedy if you’re not happy with something. I can spot why and then plan training to try and make that better. That makes you sleep better at night, to know you’ve got a solution.”

Away fixtures are full of variables out of Molesley’s control, however.

Early starts, gruelling coach journeys and late arrivals home are just some of things Molesley, his players and backroom staff have to contend with.

“That’s why away games are so tricky; you’re going into an unknown environment,” he said.

“You don’t know what the pitch is going to be like. You don’t know what the changing rooms are like – are they cold, are they warm?

“Where do we put up our set-pieces? There’s so many unforeseens.

“Also, the timings. Sometimes we’re leaving at half eight, nine o’clock in the morning. Sometimes you’re leaving about half 10.

“It’s just staging where we’re going to stop. When we stop, I like to give the lads a chance to have some food. It needs to be the right food.

“Whether they bring their own or we try and stop at a services which offer better choice of food. It also gives us an area to have a walk.

“Where we’re away, I do quite a lot of our work in the services. We end up having a walk and having a team talk outside in the air because there’s a little more space.

“It’s all a bit hectic when you get (to the ground) because you’ve got to get all the kit off the coach, put it out, the lads look at the pitch.

“You run out of time a lot more. You try and do a little more of our work at the services so the lads know what’s happening.

“They know who’s playing, who’s not and then when they get to the changing room the physio knows who he needs to look at first, who has their rub or strapping so he can prioritise them.

“So we’re not in a mad rush. Just before they go out I’ll have a couple of minutes with them before they go out for the warm-up.

“Again, a couple of minutes just before they go out for kick-off.”

Molesley recalled one week where the Terras were assigned three lengthy journeys for away matches.

“At one stage of the season, we had a really tough eight days,” he explained.

“We went to Hemel Hempstead away on the Tuesday, Braintree away on Saturday and Havant away on the Wednesday.

“You’re racking up over a thousand miles in a week. It’s not just that, it’s the times you do get back.

“You’re getting up at two or three in the morning, lads are getting up for work and then going again. That’s when they really do earn their crust.”

Molesley revealed the latest he has arrived home was as a player for Aldershot in 2014. It was not all a nightmare journey, though.

“I remember our coach broke down at Alfreton away when I was playing for Aldershot.

“We must’ve got back at five, six in the morning. We were trying to fix the coach, they couldn’t and then ultimately we got cabs back.

“I think we won that day, 4-1, and I scored. So, it wasn’t as bad. It’s a lot worse when you lose.”

So, there you have it. A glimpse into the mind of Weymouth’s manager.

Aldershot or Weymouth, player or boss, losing really is the end of the world.

Dorset Echo