On the first few games...
Yes, I think so. I think the games have shown how tough this league will be this season. It hasn’t surprised me in that sense. I think we’ve had a tough two opening fixtures and that’s proven to be the case on the pitch as well.
I think it’s been good for us because we’ve seen how teams will react coming into our stadium and then equally what environment we’ll go into away from home because Saturday was a proper football match in that respect. Obviously, an old-school stadium with the capacity and the really intense atmosphere around it. I think that’s where we’re going to have to cope with off the pitch and then obviously deal with the challenges on the pitch as well because we looked really good on Saturday.
In terms of the difficult of the matches, it’s what I expected. But, I think what’s been pleasing is how we’ve dealt with it because we are stretched in terms of numbers at the moment. We’ve been without good players throughout this early start to the season as well, so I’m pleased with how we’ve managed without them.
On having enough to challenge for automatic promotion...
Well, I’ve never shied away from it being the ambition for us, that was before a ball was kicked. It was before I met any of the players that were here and then before obviously we recruited new members. It’s always been the ambition for me, to try and get promotion.
What I’ve seen is that it will be difficult. However, what I’ve also seen is that we have enough quality within our group that will be able to cope with the challenges. What’s been pleasing is that from a character and mentality wise I think they’ve already show in these two games that they’re able to meet different challenges that they’ll come up against this season.
That may have been the question that was imposed on the group off the club, can they cope with different challenges of this league? I think they’ve shown already that they’ll be able to do that, it’s just then replicating it over the remaining 44 league games. But, the signs are certainly encouraging in that respect.
On the culture shock for experienced players...
They’ll probably be able to answer that question better than me. My career has been varied, both in terms of playing, coaching and management. I’ve had experiences at grounds a lot smaller, but equally then grounds at the top level, if you like. So, I think if your mindset is consistent in how you approach games then I don’t think those things should phase you too much.
From the group of players we have here now, so the ones that have remained at the club and the ones that we’ve recruited. I think they have a proper understanding of the challenges that lie ahead and certainly, I’ve never seen or heard anything from them that would suggest that they’re not able to cope with those challenges.
On Saturday, I never heard or saw any player flinch or complain about the surroundings, I think they actually embraced it. If you really enjoy playing football and being involved with it, walking out on Saturday at Kenilworth Road makes you go; “Yeah, I’ll have some of this.” It’s proper football, it was a really intense atmosphere, the crowd’s very tight to the pitch and it was a very competitive game. It’s encouraging for me because I’ve never felt as if there are any in the group that aren’t welcome In that challenge.
On potential new signings...
Still trying to. It’s difficult to say with certainty whether we’ll manage to have anyone else involved in the squad prior to Thursday evening. We are very light in forward areas at the moment, but the balance is obviously then who we bring in, what they add to the squad and how they work with what we’ve got coming back because these players are going to come back.
Unfortunately, none of them are really short ones that you’re going to have back for Thursday night or Sunday. But, they’ll be back sooner rather than later. So, we’ve got to bare that in mind as well because we don’t want to end up with a squad that’s too heavy because that’s problematic at times as well, from a management perspective. So, it’s a fine balance at the moment and that’s why we’re trying to make sure that if we do recruit it’s one that fits where we are as a squad and how we’ll be moving forward.
We’re still working hard on it, but I couldn’t say with any certainty that we’ll have that done before Thursday.
On Lee Cattermole...
Well, from my perspective nothing changes. He’s been part of my squad from day one of pre-season and I’ve said often enough how hard he’s trained, how he’s conducted himself. He’s been a credit to himself in that respect and then it just becomes me selecting teams and squads based on what I think is right for the games. Sometimes we’ll get that right and sometimes we’ll get that wrong.
From Lee’s own individual perspective, he’s just remained part of that squad and he will do until I’m directed otherwise. There was a number of players that it was obvious in terms of where they were at contractually that it would be a big ask for the club to carry them forward. But, I think we’ve managed to do a lot in a short period of time that’s helped us be in a healthier position.
Stewart would probably be able to give you more clarity on that and how it affects us moving forward. But, from my perspective in terms of just looking solely on football, then he remains very much part of the squad at present.
On N’Dong and Djilobodji...
Well, from a contractual and legal aspect, I’m not entirely sure. But, I do know at the moment that I don’t think the club is under any obligation to pay them as far as I’m aware because obviously, they’ve failed to report to work.
It’s not a healthy situation, I don’t think its ideal. Its disappointing when it comes to that in terms of professional players conducting themselves in that matter. Again, from me, simply from a football perspective and management aspect, it’s been ok. Selfishly for me, it’s been ok because they’ve never been here. I’m not abdicating responsibility with it, but I’ve never really had to worry about it.
I do feel for Stewart and the board in that sense because they have to carry that burden and try to find the solution. I think they’ve worked incredibly hard to try and do that. I think for everybody concerned it would be best if a solution was found before the end of the window.
On Cattermole and Oviedo wanting to be here...
When I took this job, I tended to shy away from taking too much opinion before I took it, so I wanted to gauge everything myself. Those two players that you’ve mentioned have trained with me, Brian I gave an extended break and I got off on a good footing because I gave him longer, I think that helped him and he came in with a good frame of mind.
Again, how they’ve trained, they both trained today and trained really well. I think they’re enjoying it and I think they’re enjoying the environment they’ve created. Naturally, I think all of these players looked at whether they wanted to play in League One and what challenges would that bring. The challenge for me was to give them something that made them want to be involved in what we’re doing.
I’ve taken every player as I’ve found them and those two as you’ve mentioned have been absolutely no problem to me.
On Sheffield Wednesday...
Yeah, I’m looking forward to it because part of the new experience for me at the moment is gauging oppositions and I can watch and look as at much footage, but I’m only really learning about them when I see them on the pitch.
From a Championship perspective, we played Middlesbrough, all be it for only 45 minutes in pre-season, so that was good. It gave me some insight into the quality that’s in that league and the good thing for me is that I’ve got a number that have played in that league and have enough quality to play in that league as well.
It is in the middle of a busy schedule, you mentioned changes for Sheffield Wednesday and we have to assess our squad because we’re light as well. We play three league games in six days following Thursday night, so there are a number of players that have been good within training and they may get more of an opportunity on Thursday night as well.
Is the cup game a game you could do without?
I loath to say that because the attractiveness of the tie and the opposition.
I think the fact that it’s been broadcast on television adds to it as well and it means the game won’t be flat in that respect. But, there is a balancing act for me as a manager to make.
We have three really important league games in six days, two of them in the London area that are logistically difficult for us as well.
In four days in particular, I have to be very careful because Josh and Chris as almost an auxiliary striker are all we have really, so we have to look after them ahead of these important league games.
On Josh Maja...
I try not to think about it too much in case anything does happen to him because he is the only one that’s available within our group at the moment. But, he’s taken on the responsibility fantastically well and you can’t ask for anymore than scoring in consecutive league games.
His performances have been good and I think he’ll get better as the season goes on. He’s learning more and more and we’re asking him to play slightly differently than he’s probably ever had to do before. Naturally he’s always shown for the ball and came short, but he needs to lengthen the game at times for us. But, he’s got the ability to do that because what we’re trying to do is isolate him as much as possible with defenders because he’s got incredibly good feet and he’s a good finisher, as he’s shown.
I’m really pleased with him, but we have to try and protect him. He’s still a very young man who hasn’t had an awful lot of game time in senior football and that can sometimes catch up with you as well.
On Under 23’s featuring in the game...
I think it’s a balancing act again, between where they’re at in their progression and are they ready to go and deal with the challenges of that. Connor Shields travelled with us on Saturday but will probably go out on loan. Luke Molyneux is one who although plays in a wider area, can play higher up the pitch and has done through his career. I think where he’s at in his progression is probably more ready to face first team football at our level, so we’ll have to be creative in what we do in forward areas tomorrow night.
We’ve had to do that through pre-season as well, we’ve never really had that many options in forward areas, as we’ve seen already. It’s nothing different in that respect, if we can continue to play positively and get decent results in that period, then hopefully when we get more options in forward areas we’ll be better for it.