On facing Accrington...
Looking forward to it like we have done with all of our away games this season.
Obviously, for a lot of people associated with the club, there’s been new venues that we went to and new challenges.
Where we’ve came from in the last couple of years and where Accrington have come from means that we’re meeting in that middle point, if you like.
A new environment for us to go into, but against a team that has performed well in League One, considering they’ve only just been promoted. More excited about it than anything else, I think we all are as a club and I’m sure the supporters will be as well.
On Accrington’s rise into League One...
I think that when you speak and you’re complimentary about them, I would always be conscious not to sound patronising in any manner because the success they’ve achieved to date has been fully deserved. Their opening half to this season or almost opening half, has been very encouraging as well.
So, everybody that has been associated with the club in that time period deserves credit.
I think that it’s fairly refreshing as a club as well when you hear some of the comments and opinions from the chairman.
I think how they’ve progressed and developed as a club is fantastic. I know Saturday is a big occasion for them because of the crowd that will be in attendance.
So, for many different reasons, I think we’re all looking forward to it.
On John Coleman’s managerial reign...
Well, first of all, I think it’s an indicator of how successful he’s been and how well he’s performed as a manager there.
Also, it’s an example of how they are as a club and how the owners and the chairman have decided to run the club and having that relative continuity as well because there have undoubtedly been defeats in that period as there always is in football.
So, the fact that they’ve been supportive of John and have obviously had faith in him being a really good fit for that club.
That’s certainly what seems to be the case from the outside that John’s tenure has resulted in success for them and I’m sure they believe that he’ll continue that success over the course of this season and beyond.
On keeping players sharp over Checkatrade Trophy games...
I think the competition to date has worked well for us in that respect.
The timing of the fixtures and where we’ve been at as a squad has enabled us to field different teams. If you look at the team that played against Morecambe, it was a very young side and allowed a lot of the Under 23’s players to make debuts.
The game the other night allowed some players that just needed games, Duncan’s a very obvious one. Glenn Loovens, Ozturk, even for Luke and Max to continue to get minutes under their belt.
So, we’ve tried to take that approach with those Checkatrade games, treating the competition seriously, but looking to see how we can maximise the benefit to our squad and Tuesday night certainly served it’s purpose in that respect as well.
On seeing Duncan play midweek and Maja coming of age...
I think to being with, I’m delighted for him personally because it’s been a really tough period that he’s had to endure as a young man.
So, any satisfaction is for him in the first instance and then a lot of the staff that have helped him get to this point.
Then, you start to look upon it selfishly as a manager and having a player of his calibre back available and looking as good as he did the other night, I think I said post-match that the best way to describe it was that everything he did looked natural.
There didn’t seem to be any hesitation in any of his decision making and that is testimony to where he’s at physically and mentally.
It will undoubtedly strengthen us because as you mentioned Josh, interestingly enough I was having a look this morning at the players that were here last year and the minutes they had played at this stage of the season in comparison to this stage last season and Josh, as you could probably imagine, the difference in the minutes he’s played this season to last season is remarkable.
So, that’s still challenging for a 19-year-old and that’s something that he’s having to adjust to as well.
On the Sunderland Till I Die documentary potentially including a promotion...
It sounds nice in theory, doesn’t it?
If it only was like a movie then it would be dead easy, and I could sit here and know the ending to it.
Obviously, we know that we’ve got a ridiculous amount of hard work ahead of us for that ending to come to fruition.
It’s what we want to achieve, I’ve never shied away from doing that and certainly, if it is the outcome of the season then it gives the production company what they want from it.
But, it’s been an interesting experience as a manager, it’s been different to manage a club with this going around as well.
On tough games bringing out the best in the squad...
You’re right in terms that we’ve faced it a lot this season. I hope that I’ve been quite consistent in never complaining about that. Recognising it was the first thing and then embracing it and dealing with the challenge and I think the players now do that.
I suppose the last two away fixtures have maybe indicated that. If you look at the league game against Walsall and then compared it to the cup game, the intensity of the atmosphere around the first Walsall fixture probably lent itself to us being better on the day than we were when it was slightly flat.
So, I think we’ve enjoyed that atmosphere and environment and Saturday will be very similar.
I’m hoping that the players, I’m not hoping, I know they will thrive in what they’ll go into.
On planning for the busy schedule...
Yes, there is an element of that. We would do it regardless, even if we weren’t congested.
I do think that you have to be mindful of what lies ahead and also, the differences in the opposition you’ll face and the challenges they’ll give.
So, each and every time you’re picking a team that you think is best suited to that game, but you’re also then balancing it out with the demands on each of those players individually.
This schedule in particular, the cup games being in amongst the league games changes the dynamics of it slightly as well.
So, we’ll do that over the coming fixtures, we’ll look to use the squad without it being a detriment to the strength of the team that we put on the pitch.
Are you at the stage of season where you’re looking at other results?
I do it, but not get worried about.
The only thing we can ever effect is our own results and if we continue to do that in the manner that we have done to this stage and we keep replicating that points per game or close to that, we’re going to have a really good chance of getting promotion regardless of what other teams do.
So, yes, I’ll look, but it’s not really at the forefront of my mind when a game finishes.
I think that at the moment we know that as long as we continue to control what we’re doing and effect what we’re doing, then we’ll be ok.
On players returning from injury...
Chris should be okay, he trained today.
Lee has trained a couple of days this week, so all being well, he’ll come back into the squad for the Walsall game because he’s been out for about a month now. But I’ve been really pleased with how he’s looked and trained, he feels good as well.
Duncan again, that was his first game back, but having him back in the squad. Charlie Wyke is now back in full training with us as well, so we’re getting there.
We’ve still got Ethan Robson, Denver Hume and Donald Love out, but we’re probably getting close to the healthiest we’ve been again all season.
On Charlie Wyke’s progression...
He’s only really just started full training, so he’ll be another couple of weeks away from games. The thing is, previously I take responsibility for rushing him back too quickly.
It didn’t’ impact on him becoming re-injured, it was just his general fitness and his sharpness. That was my fault for doing that, but this time, we have to be more measured with him.
He feels a lot better because of that, so it means that in a couple of weeks’ time when he’s available for games I think you’ll see a different player as well.
I think he feels a lot better about himself because of that.
Is there any change in Josh Maja’s contract situation?
No, no, just as is at the moment.
On the generosity of the fans...
I think since Stewart has taken ownership of the club, the one thing you have to commend him on is how he’s tried to rebuild the relationship between the supporters and everyone associated on this side of the club, the football side of it. I think he’s done a remarkably good job in doing that.
But there are factors within that, like the seat change, that have been innovative and creative, but really genuinely good. This is another example of that. I know it came from a supporter, so Stewart can’t take credit for coming up with the idea. To support the idea and buy into it, Is terrific. If you’re a lover of football like I am, it’s refreshing and reminds you of the good things about the game.
I know that not only are Stewart, Charlie and Juan have been supportive of it, but the players are going to be supportive of that and staff as well, in terms of us contributing towards those tickets being available. Which I think is a reflection of how the club feels at the moment and how they’ve recognised the importance of those continued relationships.
The good thing is because of the dialogue I have with Stewart and Charlie on a regular basis, Charlie had asked if he could speak to George about the players being supportive of that and my understanding of that is that they are. They understand the idea behind it and they would like to back it as well.
It’s an easy one for me as a manager to be supportive of that because it’s always easy if you actually believe in what’s getting done. As I said, it’s a genuinely brilliant idea that will be a benefit to people who ordinarily wouldn’t get to come and watch us play that I’m sure are supporters of the club as well.
So, I think even befitting of this time of the year as well. All in all, a terrifically good piece of work from the club.