Bobby Wilkinson's Pre-Match Thoughts
Ahead of Wealdstone’s National League South play-off eliminator at Bath City on Wednesday night, Dec O’Reilly spoke to Bobby Wilkinson to gather the manager’s thoughts before the play-off trip to Twerton Park.
“Tarryn [Allarakhia] is fifty-fifty. Just a slight strained hamstring [picked up against Hemel Hempstead] but we think he’ll make it and will be good to go.
“Everyone else is good, squad trained very well, [I’m] very pleased.”
On the experience of play-off football…
“Experience goes a long way now and hopefully I showed a little bit of that [experience] on Saturday [against Hemel Hempstead] with the likes of Smithy [Christian Smith]. Right now, let’s all just be happy we’re in it and just go to Bath and see how we get on.
“It’s going to be end-to-end, two good sides competing to make a semi-final of the play-offs which promote you to the National League. It’s a great honour to be managing Wealdstone, [I’m] a very proud manager right now.
“All I want is my boys to turn up, give one hundred and ten percent and show everyone why we’re here [because] we’re here for a reason. It’s not earned over one game, we got in there for what we did over the full season [and] fourty-two games, it’s been a wonderful season.”
On his current squad of players…
“I’ve been around some good players at some good clubs over the years and I just sensed something special was happening with this bunch of players. They believed it [and] I believed it. They made it difficult at times but that happens at every football club.
“All of the top seven were in-and-out of the play-offs all season but the ones that really mattered one the day that really mattered [the final day of the season] are the ones that got in. I see so many teams get into the play-offs [places] but they can’t stay in there.
“On Saturday we did have some luck, everyone’s seen that. Luck doesn’t come overnight, you have to earn your luck. We’ve had a lot of bad luck this year and for these lads to go the whole season without getting any reward would have unjustified for how hard they’ve trained and been dedicated to where the badge with pride.”
On the history the squad have made this season…
“All I’ve ever heard here [at Wealdstone] is if you where the badge with pride and give one-hundred and ten percent then you’ll always be loved here, well they should be loved for a long time and have made history by getting here [highest league position Wealdstone have achieved in the football pyramid since 1988] so whatever happens these boys will be known for that as well.
“I’m pleased for them [the players] and my management team. I’ve said in the past that I’m the leader but the praise always goes over my head because I’m already thinking about the next game, I thrive on winning. People laugh when I say I was at home on Saturday evening [after reaching the play-offs] at half [past] eleven preparing for Bath because I want to make sure that I give us every chance.
“I’m not going to say that we will win, I’m not going to say we’re going to fail, I’m just going to make sure we go there prepared to the best of our ability.”
On Bath and our entertaining encounters in the regular season…
“Play-offs are very very different. When you’re in the play-offs it’s about who handles their nerve [and] the ones that want it the most. An example is when I got promoted back in 2013, we beat Merthyr Town in the final and he had lost to them four-nil away and three-nil at home during the season.
“We lost two league games and an FA Trophy game with them [Merthyr Town] that season and when we played them in the play-off final we ended up beating them. It’s about how you handle your nerves [and] how you adapt to a one-off play-off game because it is a cup final. The team that hold their nerves, the team that don’t make mistakes, the team that focus and manage the game better than the other team will come out victorious.
“It’s two teams going toe-to-toe with each other tomorrow [Wednesday], we’re going to war because we want to be in the semi-final and so do they. I show them all the respect in the world because the league doesn’t lie, they made the play-offs like us. They are one-hundred percent [the] favourites because they are at home but that’s the side of it that this team and I quite enjoy, we enjoy being the underdogs.
“We know how difficult it’s going to be tomorrow [Wednesday], the first twenty minutes is going to be so interesting. When you go away from home you just have to make sure you stay in the game, you’ve got to play smart, you’ve got to play like men tomorrow [Wednesday] and our boys are ready. After training last night we worked on a lot, we’ve got a game plan and we’re just going to give it a go. I can promise you one thing, I’m going there to win and so are the boys. We might not but we’ll certainly be trying [to win the game].”
On playing in-front of a massive crowd…
“This is where my experience does come in because I’ve told the boys to relish it [and] love it. Love being an underdog, love that nobody thinks we can go to Bath and win tomorrow apart from our own and enjoy every moment because these moments don’t come around often.
“We want success at this football club so we go there, in their back yard [Twerton Park] and we let them know that we’re here, here to try and win a play-off game. You’re going to need a bit of luck on the night, decisions to go your way and defend like you’ve never defended before. You’re going to have to take your chances if you get your chances but let’s not let the occasion pass you by.
“Over the years I’ve seen this happen to so many teams, so many managers and so many fans. Don’t let the occasion pass, do anything you can on the day to enjoy the day. Always remember, we are a family, we’ve got to stick together through the rough, the smooth [and] the good tomorrow [Wednesday]. We will have to grind out certain stages [of the game], they’ll be times we’ll be on top and they have to grind it out.
“How many times have we seen over the years where you’re so pumped up that you forget what you’re going into and then your two [or] three-nil down in ten minutes. That’s the same for both teams tomorrow, whoever doesn’t let the game pass them by and that little bit of experience will hopefully tell and help out.”
Message to the supporters…
“I would just like to thank all the supporters and fans for the dedication in getting out of work, paying extra money for train fares and changing their schedules in their own life. From the management team, myself and the players we thank you all for all your dedication to support us tomorrow [on Wednesday] and it doesn’t go unnoticed.”