What are your overall thoughts on Tuesday night’s defeat at Port Vale after analysing the match?
The most frustrating thing is almost repeating myself with dominating all the stats apart from the important one. We need to put teams to bed. We need to be more clinical in both boxes. We seem to be doing all right at the minute, but all right doesn’t get you where you want to go. We are still fifth in the league so we don’t want to get too up tight about one game, but it’s the fact that it’s been the same with quite a few games this season, just doing enough to win and it’s my personality that I always want more. You are disappointed after the game because of the result, but within it you don’t think they did a lot to earn a victory. I can’t remember the last time we were given a victory like that, where we have been dominated for large periods, but come out winning the game. So credit to them, because when they went 1-0 down they had a go, without really doing too much. We then gifted them a goal from a set play and then Worrall has had a good finish, but I am not sure he should be winning the first contact in the first place, so there are still mixed emotions, but frustration is the overriding one.
How much does it given you extra motivation for this Saturday?
They players shouldn’t need any motivation for the game that’s coming up. Even if it wasn’t your local rivals it’s two teams in the top five. Third and fifth. Add to that it’s a local rival, a derby, the history of it and the fact we lost on Tuesday night. If the players need motivating for the game, there is something wrong. You are looking for a reaction against a very good team, so it’ll be tough on Saturday there is nothing more certain than that.
How has this rivalry evolved since you played in it?
If I am being brutally honest, when I was a young player here the local rivals were Gloucester City. They were the two biggest teams in the area. Forest Green have obviously come on since then and had money put into them. The relationship in terms of geography and playing each other in the Conference and now over the last few years in League Two, that’s why it’s become the local rivalry. I am not sure there is the history of the Gloucester one, but it is the local derby now – the one everyone wants to win to become the top team in Gloucestershire.
Because Forest Green were a smaller club, is it a bigger game for them or does history count for nothing in terms of the rivalry?
The players know about the local derby and they might not know the history of where people have come from and all that sort of thing, but it’s a local derby and both teams want to win it, so I don’t think it’s bigger for one team or the other. Ultimately it’s three points at stake. Supporters want to win because it’s your local derby, but from a manager’s point of view you want three points. I don’t think it’s any more important to us, or vice versa. It’s a game between two good teams, I believe and two who have a chance to do something this year. It should be a half decent football game too. Mark (Cooper) has a team that can play in many different ways, they have a big of everything: physicality and the centre-halves, good legs and energy, good technical players and they can come on a full court press or sit off and let you have the ball and play on the counter. They are as accomplished a team in this league as anyone.
Because it’s two good teams, who want to play football, how do you avoid cancelling each other out?
It doesn’t matter who you play. Every team that’s come to our place this season has changed the way they play. That’s part of it. Whatever Forest Green do, we need to be prepared to counter that and they’ll be doing exactly the same, so you do what it takes to win a game of football. No game or half is ever the same and you might need to tweak things during a game, but ultimately you need to head it, kick it, run, and take it from there.
Because they have those different ways of playing, does it become a guessing game?
It’s whoever plays best on the day. Formations yes, but players win football matches. Any manager will tell you that. You can dress it up and have pretty patterns, but ultimately it’s a local derby and the key thing is get hold of the ball, pass it and run over the top of them. They’ll be trying to do the same. Whoever does that the best will wrestle the momentum and it’s about who can take their chances, being clinical in both boxes, keeping them out or taking your chances. Mark will be saying exactly the same thing – he’ll believe we are not a bad team and it’ll be a tight team. Hopefully the best team will win, which doesn’t always happen, but whoever plays best on the day will win the game.
How does the build-up affect a derby game?
We’ll prepare as we would for any other game, exactly the same. It’s hard because of the timescale, but from a preparation point of view there is never any more or less that goes into any other game. The players might have extra motivation because they are on social media and the supporters will tell them how much it means. From my point of view I am looking for a reaction from Tuesday, first and foremost, getting back to what we do. Add it all in and hopefully it’s a recipe for a good game of football.
How important is fan engagement on social media bearing in mind there won’t be any fans in the ground?
It’s of no importance to me because I’m not on it. I am from a different generation to the players and whether or not they admit it, they do read things. That’s what it’s there for, for interaction with supporters. It’s not always the sort of support you want and it can be quite toxic at times and players can be influenced by it whether they like it or not, but it’s the only way supporters can mix with players at the moment and I think everyone knows it’s difficult to recreate the intensity and it’s the one game of the season where the stadium would be full. That is a shame, but it is what it is. Hopefully the supporters get some good messages after the game and not so many of the toxic ones!
Injuries, how’s the squad?
Elliot Bonds is back with Hull now and they’ll look after him. He tore his ACL and there were a few other bits and bobs going on, slightly damaging his MCL and his LCL as well, but they’ll all be okay and the ACL is the main part of it. He had an appointment on Monday and I don’t know the results of that yet. He’ll need his cruciate fixing and hopefully he can come back strongly. We wish him all the best. George Lloyd is still a good bit away and he’s not allowed to jog at the minute due to protocols. Matty Blair, we don’t think he’ll be ready and it’s a bit too soon. We are a bit low on bodies at the minute. People are carrying bruises and knocks, but there won’t be a manager in the country not saying that due to the volume of the games and the amount of work they are getting through, but that’s the same for every team in the country.