High levels of focus is part of my motto

Bobby, disappointing to see another game called off. It must feel like a kick in the teeth considering how confident the lads have been recently.

I don’t think of it quite like that. I prefer to stay calm and reassure the lads that the game will still be played at some point this season. Of course we want to play, but when things like this happen it’s important to just adapt to the situation and keep up fitness levels whilst training hard.

At the weekend, I could sense a group that were extremely hungry to play, but my job was to just keep them relaxed. I even had to calm them down in training on Saturday. They were almost working too hard. Tackles were flying about!

Speaking of, it was great to see the lads training again. You just mentioned their hard work. How pleasing has that been to see?

I’m not sure how many teams would have trained on both Tuesday and Saturday, but as a manager I feel it’s really important to keep working, even if other teams aren’t, and over the last week, the lads have been an absolute credit. They’ve travelled a long way just to train. That can be quite frustrating for them, so I just need to make sure they’re as prepared as they can be. But, that togetherness has still been there, so that’s been really good to see.

That side of man management appears to be a strength noticed by the players. Joe Cook said to me that you and the staff are able to combine the discipline of managing the players, whilst being close to them as people. How key is that regarding player development?

I love to man-manage, and I love how the lads see that I like to man-manage away from the game as well as in it. I think this is where my experience is really important. A happy player is a good player. You have to adapt to every situation and what each player is going through. You need to dig deep into their thoughts and how they’re feeling. Cooky, for example, didn’t have the easiest time before he came to us, but people don’t see that. He’s been a pleasure to work with.

It seems like there needs to be a slightly different approach with each player to get the best out of them.

I have to approach every player differently. Look at Brandon Goodship, who sat on the bench for five weeks. That may have raised a few eyebrows, but I knew that would get him back to his best. I will get Cooky back to the National League, where he belongs, but right now he is going through a tough spell. Things like that can be challenging for me at times, but I have to adapt to where I am and the players that I am managing.

It’s not just that people don’t see the work I do behind-the-scenes, you look at the interview that Tom Bearwish did with Robert. Brilliant interview. People don’t see how much of a lovely lad he is off the pitch.

I’ll take you back to back to the ongoing events. Some teams are enduring the same frustrations as us, with not playing, and others less so. I suppose during these times it’s crucial for the lads to almost shut out what is happening elsewhere and just focus on what they need to do.

Yes, that’s important. Shutting out the conditions, weather and everything else. I’ve just gone back to the basics and let the boys know that we still have work to do. That’s part of the game, preparing for the next one. What’s been draining is that we’ll prepare for one game, with all of the training and analysis, only for it to then be called off. But, that side has also been really enjoyable, as it has allowed us to immediately move towards working for the next game.

This league is so fierce you just have to shut the last game out and move on to the next one. The moment we knew that we weren’t playing, we immediately began preparing for Taunton Town. It’s quite funny to think about. On Saturday morning we were geared towards facing St Albans, but within half an hour we were back on the laptop and analysing Taunton’s strengths.

It seems to me that this level of focus is crucial going into every single match.

High levels of focus is part of my motto. I have always said, when you don’t have the budget and finances, you’ve got to work harder than everyone else away from the pitch. You can do that, as well as being the fittest and most competitive on the pitch, because that doesn’t cost any money. This is something that I strongly believe in, and that will never change.

I’ll move onto Taunton now. With them being so close to us in the table, how crucial is it to create a further points gap with a result tonight?

I don’t look at the gap. I won’t put any more pressure on the lads. Tonight won’t define our season, but it will give a bit of light. Our mindset is that we’re always looking at the teams above us. Instead of looking at the bottom four, we’ve been looking at how close we can get to the top half if results go our way.  That’s why we’re playing with such passion. Taunton are simply our next opponents.

I’ll go back to something you mentioned on a regular basis during our earlier interviews. The idea that facing the teams nearer the bottom are just as difficult, as they are desperate to pick up points themselves. Is this still something that you’re trying to get across to the players?

Yes. This season has been absolutely mad. Looking through everyone’s stats, there’s been more draws this season than any other seasons played. You win two games, you’re just outside the play-offs, and if you lose two you’re near the bottom four. At the moment, we’re holding our own and we’re doing ourselves proud. But, it’s the business end of the season and we’ve got to push harder. I think we’ve shown over the last couple of weeks that we’re capable of pushing to our limits.

It goes back to what has been mentioned many times before, who is the most confident and focused on the day.

Yes, but anything can happen on the day. We also need a little bit of luck. Look at our defeat at Tonbridge. That was our only loss in our last six games, but it was the best we’ve played in that time. So, we know what we need. We just need to stay positive and keep picking up points.

We will certainly need a bit of luck tonight. It won’t be easy against a Taunton side who will be eager to get back on track.

This side, on paper, should be a mid-table side. They’re a powerful team, and the first 15-20 minutes will be the most important. But. it’s a game we look forward to. We need to turn up and match them in every department.

As always, what has been the key message going into tonight’s game?

We need to make sure we go there and stay as focused as we have done for the last five or so weeks. Let’s believe we can go there and get a positive result.

Interview by
Jack Webb

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