Look forward to the challenges

Bobby, we spoke following Saturday’s game and you said it was back to the drawing board. What has the preparation been like this week?

We had a team meeting on Monday night and the boys were in great spirits. They trained hard and stayed longer than normal, because they know that our next two games are against two of the big guns, so we wanted to think outside the box to help us prepare right. But, we’re really looking forward to our next two games.

In the bar, after the game, the players seemed disappointed but in good spirits. Is that reflective of the current mood around the club?

Listen, we were very disappointed not to take a point, but one thing that speaks volume of the club and the team is that we’re disappointed not to win away against one of the top-three teams in the league. It shows how well we’re competing.

We’ve finally started to change our draws into wins, and now we need to start beating some of the big boys, who are in a different league with budget and spending. But, like I say, on the pitch it’s always 11 versus 11, and my players are really starting to compete against these sides. That’s brilliant for me to see, and if we can learn from these games and be even better, that will only take us in good stead going into next season.

Overall, does this show how far we’ve come, that we can say we could have taken a point away to a team like Chelmsford?

When you look at the top teams in the league, we’ve gone there and played very well, and we’ve been unlucky not to come away with points. With my point about changing draws into wins, what also needs to happen is changing our good performances, away to the league’s best teams, into wins. That comes next season, if we can keep the group together.

Rebuilds happen in stages. Next comes the belief that we can beat these top sides. We can’t compete in certain areas, but we can compete with them on the pitch.

This is something that you have spoken about before, the idea that, if you can’t match a team regarding finances, you can always be the fittest and most committed during a game.

That’s why my lads deserve a lot of credit. Let’s not forget, we were one of the favourites to get relegated. But now, I think a lot of teams look at us in a very different way. They can see how fit and organised we are, and how we score goals whilst being a tough unit.

Are we where we want to be? No.

Are we heading in the right direction, week by week? Absolutely.

We know we have some tough weeks ahead, but that’s why we’re looking forward to all of it. We know that it comes down to three points on a Saturday, but to have 41 points at this stage, with a new squad, is absolutely remarkable.

With our squad as you mentioned, watching them play, it’s hard to imagine that most of them have yet to play together for even a year.

When you look at all the top teams, Bath City, Torquay United, Worthing etc, their squad has been together for a few years. We had to start from the bottom, but we could be like these teams if we stick together. It would be nice for the players to stay, learn their trade here, and get used to this league. What’s nice is that, since Christmas, we’ve had a settled side.

We’re competing every week now, because we’re building something. When Chelmsford came to us at the start of this season, they blew us away, but last weekend I felt we closed that gap. It felt like they played against two different teams.

Harry Jones also said he was “really looking forward to the tough run of fixtures coming up.” Is this the sort of approach to matches that you need the boys to have towards the business end of the season?

One thing you’ve got to do is look forward to the challenges. Not many people will be expecting us to beat Worthing. Could we cause an upset?

These are the nice challenges that I quite enjoy, and I know that, with their mentality, the boys are looking forward to facing Worthing as well. We’re at home, where we’ve been playing well. Yes, we’re the underdogs, but that’s nothing to worry about. Our team meeting was all about throwing down the gauntlet and having a go at Worthing.

It’s also another opportunity for us to show how good we are.

Look, Worthing are our next opponents. That’s the way I’ll always look at games, even though it’s important to remember that, right now, Worthing are on fire. They scored six in their last game; they’re banging in goals for fun. They’re on a different scale to us with finances, which might sound corny, but just at their squad. It’s very good. They deserve to be where they are. Like I said earlier, it’s a game we’re really looking forward to, but we won’t be underestimating our opponents.

Worthing look set to bring a turnout of away supporters. We’ve spoken a lot about our fans being a 12th man, how much of a role do they play during games?

I get excited for the home games. I loved watching the crowd during our game against Hemel. I don’t think they were as loud as they were just because we won, they’re seeing with their own eyes that we’re building something. A lot of this comes down to what’s happening in the media. The fans are being kept in the loop. They’re seeing the process. They’re seeing the under-23s being looked after. The club is together on and off the pitch.

We may not win our next few games, but that doesn’t change the direction we’re heading in.

They’re seeing an exciting and hungry team, which will help us in Saturday’s game.

We just love being together as a group. We love our football and trying to win games. Whatever we do, I just want to come out of Saturday and Tuesday knowing that we gave our all against two of the big guns. But, if we can get a result or two, that would be special.

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

Make this game an atmosphere. Let’s see if we can compete and keep moving forward.

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