Kelson Pollard - Weymouth u23's

Craig, congratulations on reaching the Hampshire Combination U23s Cup  final. A 3-1 victory away from home, what an emphatic way to do it.

The lads were class. That was our second journey to Fareham, which isn’t just up the street, in less than a week. Getting a squad together for these games can be difficult with school, college and work, so it was really good to do it the way we did.

We’re a young squad, with some of our lads being 17-years-old, but they were relentless with their energy and defending. The game was quite scrappy, so they learnt a lot about winning games in a different way. It was a good night.

To have Kelson Pollard settle the score at the end, how satisfying was that?

Very. Kelson is my player of the year, and when he scored at the end it really gave the players something to celebrate, because they’d be up against it all night. It was a nice feeling and I was pleased for the players.

But, I also think having Sam Swain score early on was just as crucial. We’d spoken about getting shots off early, and stamping out our authority on the opposition, so scoring early on gave us a lot of belief.

The game shows the players’ ability to adapt to tough situations in games. Is this what has taken the boys this far in the competition?

100 percent. The week before, we only had 11 players, due to some horrific injuries over the last couple of weeks. But, we went with what we had and still committed to the game. Then for the last game, we had the luxury of having two subs and we were up against it from the first whistle, but it just shows the commitment that the players have towards one another.

Mentally, I would like to think they’ve gotten stronger.

For the boys to not only travel to Fareham twice in such a short period, but also win a crucial game, doesn’t that show their commitment to the cause?

Undeniable commitment. There’s players in this squad who haven’t missed a training session all season, nevermind a game.

Last week, Callum Smalley, our captain, had a crash on his way to Fareham. He had to climb out of a ditch, but he still made it to the game. If you’re looking for commitment in a nutshell, Callum epitomises that.

There’s also a very strong togetherness that we’ve built over this season. We’re very close. I think that got us through on Tuesday.

The importance of commitment is spoken about a lot amongst the first team, too. Is this something that you drill into your players on a regular basis?

Commitment comes from the environment you’re surrounded in. I was brought up in a professional environment, and those high standards have continued to live with me. I’ve tried to sow seeds into the players to make sure they’re as professional as possible.

We’ve talked about diet, training and lifestyle away from the club. Their standards are very high, and I would hope I’ve had something to do with that.

With you reaching the final in your first year in charge, and with Mark back in the dugout, exciting times really do lie ahead for the club, don’t they?

I think so. Fortunately for us, Bradley Asagba and Jamie Wells have been to watch one of our games and pinpointed two or three players who might get to be involved in pre-season, so that’s a plus. With the seven-sub rule next season, hopefully a few more players will be integrated into the frame of the first team.

Mark obviously did so well the first time he was here, so there will be a buzz around the town, with the hope that he will replicate his previous promotions.

With the game a couple of weeks away, do you have any key messages for the players as we build up to the final?

They just need to keep doing what they’ve done all year. Train hard, and then replicate what they’ve done in training on the pitch. If it works, brilliant. If it doesn’t, they’ll learn from it.

It’s all about development. We’re developing people, first and foremost, before we develop them as players. If this gets us results, that’s a fantastic bonus.


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