Good morning to all our supporters, especially those that were able to get to our home game on Saturday against Stevenage.
After a few defeats on the road, I’m sure that everyone was getting a little bit anxious and a bit worried. I’ve got to say that the players would be included in that, and the only person who probably wasn’t thinking like that was myself. I know that these players are good players and I know that these players have got character and personality. It’s obvious that when you’ve ‘got’ to win a game – these ‘six pointers’ as the outside world understandably describes them – pressure does build up. That’s probably why we didn’t play so well in the first half against Stevenage, even though we did have good chances to score. Everybody probably thinks that I was ranting, raving and shouting at half time, but it really was very calm. One of the senior players stood up and had a few words, and we all knew that the team could play a lot better in the second half. This week the chances have gone in, and that is the difference.
The other big difference that was very noticeable from the technical area, was the input and the backing of all of the supporters. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that we don’t have the biggest support; but when they do start singing, getting behind the team and giving them their full backing, it really does make a difference to the players’ performances. We see it at every World Cup, we see it at the Commonwealth Games and we see it at the Olympics. The performers in all those sports always manage to beat their personal bests. They always seem to find a way of winning gold, when they’d have had no chance on someone else’s patch. When we were losing 1-0 on Saturday and all our supporters started singing, I thought it was pretty special. It gave me a lift, it gave me a boost and, God bless, I’m sure that it helped all the players. That feeling at the end of the game when I looked across the pitch and saw all the players thanking the supporters for their backing – that was a marvellous feeling for me personally, to see that happening again at The Hive. It’s something that we’ve now got to strive towards on a regular basis.
I’ve said from day one that this is a squad game and substitutions will always play an important part. Whether that’s to protect a lead or try to score more goals, they’ve always got a significant part to play. It’s never just about eleven players; it’s about the squad and even looking after the injured players. Everyone gets treated the same and gets treated well. Hopefully the players will respond to that, and start to believe that we can win football matches at home and away. They will do.
We’ve picked up a few knocks from Saturday’s game, but they are only minor. I didn’t have the slightest problem with having our youth team goalkeeper Kai on the bench, who made his debut at Portsmouth. We had Mat Stevens – another youth team player on the bench in case we needed a goal. Young Fumnaya is another lad who came through our youth team last season. It’s probably just been a little too early to put him in at the moment, but we saw what he did with the first team in pre-season – I haven’t forgotten him. It was great to have three young players on the bench on Saturday. I would guess that we could be the only team in the country that has two 17 year olds and an 18 year old amongst our substitutes. It was great for the dressing room and great for the morale of the players. It was nice at the end when I gave all three of them a packet of Haribo each for the weekend! They were chuffed to bits with that.
On Saturday we’ve got another London derby against our old rivals Dagenham & Redbridge. We’re doing this interview on Tuesday morning and I’m guessing that you’ll get to read it around Tuesday lunchtime. I can’t really thank you all enough for your great support against Stevenage. You gave us all a lift and a boost. We’re doing this interview at 7.30am in my office and it’s lashing down with rain – but there is sunshine at last on our training ground, and there is sunshine in my office! We can’t wait for the game on Saturday; to put in a proper performance for all the supporters and get this place buzzing again. I look forward to seeing you all then – let’s get through the drudgery of the the horrible grey days, because Saturday will no doubt be something to look forward to.