It’s not about hiding from challenges

Mark, commiserations following Saturday. Not the result we wanted, although it seemed like there were still positives you took from the game.

Yeah, loads of positives. I don’t think we deserved to lose, although we probably didn’t quite have that bit of quality in the final third. But, I think the players have certainly got the quality; I thought the attitude and hard work of the group was really positive.

For a manager to come in and deal with a new squad, is commitment and desire the first thing you analyse, before all else?

Definitely. The first thing I look for is body language and attitude, and I think the lads were first-class in that. Being a new manager, I can’t change much. I only met them on Thursday. Right now, I’m only assessing and having a look. But, from what I’ve seen from this group, I think they’re a lot better than they realise. I see some real quality.

On Saturday, they started to open themselves up in-possession really well. A couple of tactical tweaks and modifications can give up some quick wins. Obviously, I would like more training sessions, where I can make these tweaks, but at the moment there’s a lot of games and not much training. That’s not ideal, but it is what it is. We’ll be learning as we go along.

As you mentioned, your training sessions with the lads have only just begun. Is that an important message to get across, that progress at any club takes time?

Definitely, and, as I’m still in the process of getting to know the players, there may be a risk with points, as I open up the players on the pitch. But, I would rather that happen now than next season. I want to know everything about these players. I want us to work hard to win the ball back and progress up the pitch. Making these tweaks without training is difficult, but I want to push these players. I’m looking at long-term gain, and I want to build something special here.

It seems that, regarding being in “assessment mode,” that you are treating this period as a head-start for next season.

I think that’s the way we will look at it. That’s why I didn’t want to change too much when I first came back. But, after seeing them in training for the first time, I’ve realised that they are ready to be pushed. So, I’m going at the group’s pace.

The main disappointment on Saturday was, as you put it, “that little bit of quality in the final third.” To put a positive spin on that, the objective for what the players need to do tomorrow seems clear and simple.

Listen, I certainly think we have the quality in the final third, I don’t think we lack it, but I just think we fell short on that day. You have to give credit to Eastbourne for defending resolutely. Being a full-time side at home, maybe they had just a little more energy. But, I don’t think the result was down to a lack of quality, or trying, I thought we just didn’t have a killer edge in that game, although I see it in a lot of the players.

Maidstone United need no introduction, given the form they’re in. Perhaps it’s fair to say that we will be the perceived underdogs tomorrow – can that help us as a source of motivation?

Make no bones about it, we’re playing one of the best sides in the league. They have a large squad, full of quality. It will certainly be a huge challenge, but we want these big challenges. We want to show our levels of mentality.

It’s not about hiding from challenges; it’s about exposing ourselves to the toughest challenges. It’s a tough end to the season, with lengthy travels and a lack of training, so this is where the players will learn a lot more about themselves. But, this is what we want. Tough is good.

Do you have a key message towards the players going into this upcoming game?

As I have already told them, keep giving your all, playing for the badge and staying humble, but express yourself, too.

Interview by
Jack Webb

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