On Josh Maja...
I think the award is deserved, when you look at this age the contributions he’s made this season to date. I know I’ve said this often about coming in and taking each player as I found them, I didn’t know a lot about Josh until I came in and worked with him. But, what he had and what he showed early with us was good and then the opportunities arose because of the circumstances the club found itself in.
He got given plenty of opportunities pre-season, in fact, probably too many because we asked a lot of him. If you look back at pre-season now, you’ll see he played a lot of minutes because we had so little options in forward areas. But, quite often for young footballers, it’s not just their ability that will determine how their career path goes. It’s sometimes just timing and opportunity, but then they’ve obviously got to take the opportunity when it comes along, and he’s certainly done that.
So, I’m really pleased for him because as I’ve mentioned before, he’s a bright young man, he’s intelligent, polite, wants to get better and he’s a real pleasure to work with in that respect as well.
Because of what we inherited and the number of other issues we had to put right, those players whose contracts expire at the end of the season, I’m not saying they became less of a priority, but we had to put certain things in order first. So, now we’re getting to the stage where, only recently as last week was the first time we’d really been able to sit as a senior management and assess those ones whose contracts are coming to an end and start to work towards putting a plan in place to hopefully keep them at the club and Josh is certainly one of a number that fall into that category.
As you mentioned, if you’re a striker and you score goals regularly at any level, you begin to become attractive to other clubs. For Josh, the decision will always be one of not only how much he’s enjoying, but the experience he’s getting at the moment of playing regularly.
On Charlie Wyke...
Unfortunately, he has a recurrence of the injury that he had pre-season and if anything, slightly worse, so we’re now looking at probably between 9 and 12 weeks. Some ligament damage, his posterior cruciate ligament, it doesn’t require surgery, but he’ll be in a knee brace for a few weeks and then begin working towards fitness from there.
We feel for him because his record over his senior playing career is very good in terms of his fitness. He’s unfortunate to suffer the same type of injury, I think it’s worth pointing out that the second injury is no relation to the first one, completely separate and just a bad coincidence that it’s on the same knee and a similar type of injury.
Disappointed because he wants to make a big contribution and he hasn’t had the chance to do that. So, it will probably be around Christmas time or New Year when we’ll have him back available.
On competition for places...
What we wanted to have was that competition for places that perhaps we didn’t have early on in the season because we were so stretched as a squad. Now, on the flip side of that, Saturday was probably the strongest our squad was and yet, first half certainly, was our poorest performance this season. So, it doesn’t follow logic in that sense because you would have expected the players to produce really good performances because they know their positions are under threat.
But, taking any positives from it was obviously Aiden, he’s just coming back to fitness, but his contribution given how much he’s playing catch up was good. In terms of Chris Maguire, his reaction to not playing was really good, that’s the one thing you look for from a player. I think he knew he had dipped below his standards in the last couple of weeks, but then his reaction when he got the opportunity to go back on the pitch was really positive.
That’s all you can ask for in that sense as a manager and then obviously it gives you that dilemma for the following week about whether you start players or leave them out.
On the teams response to losing...
The reaction has been good because there’s a consistency in our behaviour as staff and I’ve stressed that all along. The behaviours and the way we approach things remains consistent, regardless that you’ve suffered your first defeat. However, there’s obviously aspects of that defeat that we have made clear to the players and they understand it.
The good thing is as a group of players, they’re responsive to the information you give them, but I think they’re obviously quite self-aware. So, they understand why they didn’t play last week and then the next challenge is obviously to put it right. Certainly, in terms of mindset, I haven’t sensed any worrying aspects of that this week. I think that was something important to stress post-match, that we don’t want to slip back into that mindset and having any negativity around the club because we’ve worked incredibly hard to try and address that in short period of time. It’s still not there, but we have progressed it.
You will lose football matches at some point, we don’t want to, the ambition is never to go and do that, but it will happen at some point. When that happens, it’s the reaction that’s the most important thing as you mentioned at the beginning and that will be seen in terms of the performance level on Saturday.
On dealing without Wyke...
Yeah, we were forced into having a deal with a situation where we didn’t have a lot of alternatives in forward areas. I wouldn’t say we just survived that, we obviously did fairly well in that period. So, you’re right in that at least we have some comfort. Not just me as a manager, but I think the group believe they can cope.
It would be different if we’d had Charlie from the start and he’d scored in every single game and then all of a sudden you don’t have him available. That’s not because of his abilities as a player, it’s just because of the situation and that he was injured when we came.
So, we’ve had to be adaptive and flexible in that approach and we’re going to have to continue to be the same and try to be inventive in terms of how we try to win games. I think teams have probably got better in dealing with what we’ve got to offer, so it’s Important that we try to mix that up a little bit and cause them more problems. But, it’s still a blow, undoubtedly It’s a blow not to have that available, whether it’s starting games or from the bench.
On learning more from a defeat...
I think you probably learn more your players or certainly in the embryonic stages of managing them you learn more about them because I haven’t seen them suffer a competitive defeat. So, you learn more about how they deal with it and how they respond to it.
As a manager, I learn after every game. I never put more weight on losing a game or winning a game, every game that we play I reflect upon. There’s been games where I’ve won, and I’ve probably felt as if I’ve done things wrong as a manager. But, winning the game will never mask that, I think you always look back on it and think if you could have done that better.
But, certainly in terms of the players, yes. It’s been interesting to see how they’ve reacted and their response has been really good on the training pitch and the next test is how they respond on a match day.
On avoiding negativity...
It’s natural that when you’ve had a couple of disappointing seasons, it’s not just the players that feel that, it’s everybody that’s associated with the club that feels that. Momentum can shift very quickly and can build very quickly in the opposite direction. So, it’s a balance between not downplaying a defeat and not downplaying the significance of it or how sore it feels, but balancing that out with, you can’t allow that to mask some of the good work that’s already went on.
We’re still a working progress in a whole number of ways at the club. At the start of the season, I don’t mean mask some things, but we probably started as well as we could have imagined giving everything that had went on. So, that can obviously accelerate expectations very quickly. Saturday wasn’t a good thing in that respect, I would rather not have lost the game, but if there’s anything that comes out of it, it’s just that leveling out of where we are at the moment and what we need to do to get out of this league. We certainly don’t have any divine right to do so and we’re learning that very quickly.
Enormous amount of respect for what Keith Hill has done there because I think his record has been terrific in terms of gaining the clubs promotions and establishing themselves in this league. They obviously had a good result last week and their away record is very good as well.
I’ve said previously I do believe that we face challenges on a weekly basis that’s different to most teams in the league because we’ve seen how much it’s meant to everybody associated with the visiting clubs that have come. It’s not meant in a patronising manner because you can see the number of supporters that they’re bringing, the atmosphere the away supporters are creating, how the teams are approaching the game. They have very much cup tie or cup final feels about them.
When I mentioned about how we have to do better with the challenges we’re facing, that’s one of them because teams are approaching the game in that manner and I expect Saturdays to be no different and that means it will be another tough game for us.