A quick summary of this recent event.
RS – Rob Smith
LC – Larry Chambers
DC – Darren Campion
Q. How happy are you with the start to the season?
RS – Six points is a great start, of course we were aiming to get to that point, we want to win every game we play but I think we’re all a bit surprised as to how we got there!
seven points from the opening three games would be a fantastic return. We took a big gamble last year in shipping out a large number of players and rebuilding but I think that has clearly paid off at the start of this season.
All the lads in our squad want to play at the moment which is very encouraging.
Q. What is the situation with Michael Lennon and his loan deal with Stafford Rangers?
RS – Lenny has gone to Stafford because we felt he was three weeks behind fitness wise. Stafford have been told clearly that it will be a 28 day loan maximum so hopefully he scores a few goals and comes back stronger.
DC – Lenny is a great character to have in the dressing room, he is a very lively presence and I’m sure the gaffer will ensure he doesn’t leave. It will be good to have him back.
Q. It was clear on Tuesday that teams such as Leamington are very physical and imposing in terms of size, would you agree we don’t necessarily possess those qualities in our squad?
RS – I understand your point but we have our big players, Bails and Franny being two, but that is something we are still learning about in this league. Our visitors on Saturday, Oxford City, are a very physical team so we must learn to compete.
There are six or seven teams in this league who are brutal and it will be a big test playing them but if we continue to show the team work like Tuesday we can compete.
The team spirit from last season was great and has carried through to the start of this campaign; we just know that if we get an opportunity we have the desire to drive on.
The fitness was huge against Leamington’s physicality and the belief we showed was superb but, let’s be honest, we can’t give a team a two goal start every game and that is something I have spoken to the players about.
LC – Just on the team spirit, when I left the Club 18 months ago I didn’t believe we had that togetherness, the squad lacked team spirit but, having returned, I can see the lads enjoy each other’s company and they are a great group to work with. This team will continue to improve and I think that’s a refreshing thing to see.
Q. Is it a worry that we seemed to be playing the long ball against Leamington in the first half and it wasn’t until we got the ball down that we got a foothold in the game?
RS – Of course playing the ball on the deck is vital, but I think the Leamington game was a case in point that teams in this league aren’t going to give us the time to play the ball around in the first half and we must cope with that. Our fitness and desire to win will ensure that, when the pressing of us tires the opposition out, that is when we can start playing our natural game.
No-one can accuse us of not wanting to play football, with the players we have in our squad we can do that but you must also remember that the likes of Elliott Durrell and Jamey Osborne will be marked men this season.
Q. Do you have any worries regarding the lack of cover in defence for this season?
RS – The defensive situation is a difficult one. Bailey and Francis are a strong partnership and I’m happy with Sam Barnes being the back-up player, but it simply isn’t an option to have any more top quality defenders on our books because of budget restrictions. Obviously if we did begin to struggle with injuries we would then go out and look for further players but only when/if that happened.
Q. Will you miss the Under 21’s this season?
RS – At times last season the players in that team were useful to fill the bench but none of the prospects really showed enough to break into the team on a regular basis. With the requirement not to play in any League Cups this year and also byes in the other cup competitions we do have markedly less games to play in.
Q. What is your aim for the FA Cup this season and how important is it to our season?
RS – Of course the FA Cup is a huge thing for us this year. Since I came here I believe we have really tried to win every cup game we play in and it has always been a big thing to impress on the squad. With the byes we have we could just as easily draw a weaker team or Conference North/South team away from home but we are more than capable of reaching the First Round.
Q. What are your aims for the season?
RS – As I said, all the cups will be taken seriously, we will look to defend both the Staffs and Birmingham Senior Cups we won last year but it’s very early days yet.
Top eight would be a fantastic season.
LC – I think it’s important to be lucky with injuries to key players as well, we had that last season so I believe we could be near the play-offs if we can keep the squad fit.
Q. Do you scout other teams on a regular basis and how much do you know about our challengers this year?
RS – It’s obviously difficult to watch too many games due to the fact they are on the same time as ours but we do have our spies and try to get to as many games as possible. We know about other teams in the league though, it’s very important. Any manager who doesn’t isn’t usually a manager for very long!
Our opponents on Saturday, Oxford, are a no-nonsense outfit. They will get the ball forward quickly and will be much more physical than Leamington were on Tuesday. There will be quite a few teams in that ilk and then the bigger spenders, the likes of Harrogate and Telford, still have that strong physical edge but also possess some real quality on the ball.
Set pieces are also going to be very important in the league this season, the delivery will be much better than from teams last year and it’s something we need to keep an eye on.
Q. What is your plan this season regarding a substitute goalkeeper?
RS – We will have no second keeper this year. If Craney picks up an injury we will go out and get a loanee.
Q. What is your highlight of the season looking at the fixture list?
RS – I’ve been dreaming of returning to Telford since the start of the season. Those two games over Christmas really will be a great advert for local non-league football. Personally, I cannot wait to go there and if we won it would be superb. Although I think the Chairman would rather us meet them in the Play Off Final!
Q. How have the new signings settled in?
RS – It’s early days yet but the signs are encouraging in that respect.
DC – Any new players that come into this squad obviously have to earn the respect of the current squad. We all work hard and we don’t take kindly to players who come in and are ‘big-time’, this squad isn’t about that.
In the past some players haven’t earned that respect and, as a close group of lads, it is difficult for them to then integrate into the team.
Q. How many of our players are contracted this season?
RS – 13 of 19 players are contracted this season. I believe it was very important that we ensured the majority of the squad was tied down from last year.
We will also sit down at Christmas and discuss the options we have for a further year on a number of the players’ contracts.
Q. How important will the support from the terraces be this season?
RS – As I’ve said numerous times in the past the fans at this club are fantastic and really help the players. We need full support from all the supporters because there will be difficult times this season and all I ask is that they continue to give us all the support they can.
The atmosphere when I came to this club has improved so much both on and off the pitch, there are lot of people working very hard for the club. They need to continue to do that and we will continue to do our best on the pitch.
DC – The fans were superb on Tuesday and on the part of the players, I can tell all the fans that their support is massive. Even at 2-0 when Leamington were on top, the supporters didn’t stop singing and that gives you such a big lift as a player. The second half atmosphere was fantastic, just like the Play-Off Final again.