We prepare to win every game.

Mark, not the ideal result on Tuesday. You spoke about our “slow start.”

For a team like Maidstone United to go ahead early on in the game, it’s always going to be a challenge to salvage a point after that.

We certainly didn’t do ourselves favours with our start. They probably smelt a bit of indecisiveness from ourselves and we paid the price for that. After their penalty, we gave ourselves a bit of a mountain to climb.

Having said that, I was pleased to see the lads’ resilience. Maidstone are a very strong side, who are rightly near the top of the table, so it was always going to be difficult travelling a second time in quick succession to face another full-time outfit. Take away the first 15 or so minutes, we went toe-to-toe with them.

We did, as you mentioned, grow into the game after the two goals. Result aside, is this an early sign for you that this young squad is able to respond well when the going gets tough?

Definitely. That’s what pleased me the most. We had an unfortunate break in play, when Ben Winterburn suffered an ankle injury, but after, we regrouped and found our feet in the game. I thought we posed a lot of problems.

My message to the lads would be to believe in themselves and commit to what we’re trying to do. When they did that on Tuesday, I thought we caused some problems and looked a lot more solid. This game was a big learning curve for us all.

Touching on Ben’s injury, is there any more you can tell us?

The way his ankle has swelled up, he’s obviously done some ligament damage, and, with such little time of the season left, I’ll be surprised to see him before it ends.

It’s a crying shame, because he’s an exciting young player learning his trade, and it would have been nice to see him in a Weymouth shirt a lot more. Now, it’s up to another player to take their chance.

You described the result as a “big learning curve.” How fair is it to say that these young players can learn more from losing matches than they do winning them?

You learn more in-defeat than you do in-victory, that’s for sure. But, we don’t want to be losing; we want to be winning. However, at the same time, I’m willing to have tough times now because I want to see how the players respond. This final part of the season, for me, is learning about these players.

You will, at least, get the chance to see them in training tomorrow.

How much are you hoping that this can give them some much-anticipated practice in terms of how you want them to play?

The difficulty is that we will probably have to use training as a time to rest the players. Some of them have played 10 games in a row. So, we do need to be careful.

I won’t be able to teach them anything in just one session, and with a lot of games, and travel, in a short space of time, recovery is more essential.

Moving onto Saturday, it’s another match on the road. We imagine you’re itching for the lads to play in front of the fans at home, although we suppose this run of fixtures is the sort of “tough” that you want them to embrace.

Absolutely. We want tough, and three away travels in a week definitely is that. It will be difficult, but these are the challenges we want to rise to, and we all want to play games. Matches are always another chance for us to get better and learn more about ourselves.

Given that Welling United are level on points with us, some may describe this game as a “six pointer.”

Is this something that has been discussed with the players, or do you prefer to encourage them to go into every game with the same attitude?

We prepare to win every game. There’s no preparing to draw or holding out. I will always tell the players to go out and express themselves, play for the shirt and do the club proud.

But, at the same time, there can’t be too many messages. Too much information is probably worse than not enough; we’re so new to each other and things are moving so quickly, game-to-game. There’s not a lot of time for reflection. Instead, it’s a case of rolling our sleeves up and getting ready to go again.

One of the first things you told us was how important the fans were. Although we’re, once again, playing away from home, how much of a 12th man can they be on Saturday?

They’re always the 12th player. The most important member of my squad is the fans. They’re why players want to play for this club. We’re certainly going to need them, especially at this gruelling part of the season. We’re going to have to pull on every resource we can, and our fantastic support is always our biggest asset.

Interview by
Jack Webb


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