Bobby Wilkinson Pre-Match Thoughts
Ahead of Wealdstone’s return to The Vale on Saturday, Dec O’Reilly spoke to Bobby Wilkinson before facing the visit of St. Albans City.
Full squad and injury update…
“Everything is still the same as last week apart from Freddie Grant joined in training so that’s great news for us and great news for the boys. He’s not ready yet but he’s around the boys now training with us.
“Stefan Brown looked very sharp in training, that’s really good to see as well and I’m pleased about that. He could be ready for selection on Saturday for how well he’s trained all last week; we’ll assess him on Thursday night [after training] and make a decision late [on] Friday.
“Injuries are coming back quicker than we expect, we’ve been working very hard to bring everyone back so I’m really pleased about that.”
Rhys Tyler update….
“We are still trying to look at the little niggles that he’s getting now with his foot at the moment but he’s not far off. He done a lot of work on Monday night [training] but a lot of it was non-contact so not far off.”
On James Clark’s availability…
“He [James Clark] is available for selection, he was excellent at Truro [last week]. He went out, got some games; got lots of goals for Marlow. He’s an intelligent player, he reads the game a lot more than a lot of boys do, he reads it a lot quicker than other people.
“I brought him not to be the most flair-based person in the world, I brought him to this club because for instance games like that night against Truro you need someone playing at the back with a little bit of intelligence, he knew when to tuck in and when not to. He’s back in the squad now and doing really well, he got a tiny little knock on Monday but we’ll assess that and see how that is.”
On Eoin McKeown’s latest loan extension…
“Very raw, gave 110% from the very first day he came. One thing about him when he comes off the bench is he really does light it up a little bit, he could have scored two goals down at Truro. We can look at the bench and say we have someone that can come on and change the game and someone that can score a goal or give us that little bit of energy.
“It’s great for us and that’s why I’ve done it again [extend McKeown’s loan]. I think a few people might have been a bit surprised about that but he gives us something off the bench and even when we start him he’s done ok as well. He’s learning his trade and it’s all about learning for him and hopefully he’s learning a lot more [as we are] showing him a lot more movement in training and adapting to men’s football well.
“Every single month he’s been with us he’s just got a little bit better, a little bit fitter; turning into a man. I do like making players turn into men, he’s done really well. I know he’s been on the bench quite a few times, I sat down and I thought about it, do I or do I not send him back [to Colchester] but then I thought he deserved to stay with us and keep fighting to be in the squad.”
On the pressures of a six-pointer against St. Albans…
“We’re not talking about six-pointers we’re just talking about St. Albans. Can we do well, can we compete; let’s have a little bit of fun doing it and let’s see where we are. We’ve kept it very low-key again this week and St. Albans are the next opponents in front of us, we do realise how difficult it’s going to be, they’ve just had a bad weekend [against Hungerford] and they could have gone into the play-offs if they had won at the weekend.
“I think it comes back to our interview last week [Pre-Weston], who would have thought bottom of the league at the time Hungerford Town would beat a play-off potential side 5-0 at home? That’s one thing I hope people take away, that’s why you can’t take anything for granted. One thing St. Albans are going to have to do on Saturday is to respond, they’re going to have to come and go ‘that was just a one-off blip’ and it’s a big game for both clubs.
“I keep saying stay as a family, stick together and what will be will be. If we win the game, brilliant. If we lose the game we move onto the next one and we’ll see where we end up. My chats to you now are basically the same every week purely because I’ve got a cracking little squad at the moment that deserve a lot of credit but I’ve told them to not get carried away, we haven’t done anything. Let’s just enjoy game-by-game and let’s enjoy being together. Let’s enjoy training hard and like I’ve said to you in the past, it’s up to you [the players] how you want this season to end.”
On the players enjoying their football…
“All we want to do is keep it going but these lads turn up at training, they’re sacrificing their bodies and their work and all that, everything. That’s why I signed them and now people are recognising why I signed them, we can’t win every game. But so far [we are] six games undefeated in 2019 [and] it’s a credit to them, credit to my management team and credit to everyone at the football club by sticking together and enjoying the journey at the moment.
“It is where you are in six or seven weeks’ time, it’s not where you are now, the nice thing about it at the moment is we’re playing some really good football. We are showing lots of different sides to our characters, when we’re losing we can still win, when we’re winning we can hold on to a result. That passion is coming out of my players but most of all, they are enjoying their football, they are really enjoying their football at the moment.”
On having a relatively small squad…
“I think people do forget, and I said this at the start of the season, I actually like to work with a small squad. The squad only came large at one stage this season because we got so many injuries to key players and then you’ve got to chop-and-change to get the right players in. I wouldn’t want to go and get another player right now because this squad is very very special with a good bunch of lads. The squad has only changed over the season when we’ve got injuries and we’ve had to adapt to bringing someone in to help us out.”
On the momentum gained from picking similar team selections…
“Well it goes back to the start of the season, I don’t ever chop-and-change the team when I get a settled side. That’s what a lot of people have got to understand from the start of the season but you can only have 16 in a squad so you want the same 16 all year if you could. The only problem is you can’t because you get injuries, lack of form, you get this [and] you get that; that’s football. The squad at the moment, no one is getting injured so you don’t need to change anything; no one is out-of-form so you don’t need to change anything.
“We’re not keeping the squad the same at the moment because we have to, we’re doing it because that’s the right thing to do. If I thought someone was out of form or someone wasn’t doing it [for me] then they wouldn’t be here. At the moment, the lads deserve all that credit but I make that clear that we’re not just keeping this small squad because that’s what we have to do, we’re keeping this small squad because that’s what we wanted from day one anyway.
“We’ve only brought in [Ramarni] Medford-[Smith] because we lost our left-back Freddie [Grant] for a long time, we only bought Eoin [McKeown] in people forget because we lost Bradley [Bubb]. We only bought in Simon [Mensah] and Christian Smith because we lost Wadah [Ahmidi]; people have got to remember that you’ve only got people that have come in because people have got injured. When I pick a side in pre-season basically I like to be that for the season but as you know football changes every seven days, everything changes.
Praising the current squad and their bonding…
“I’ve been around the game a long time and as a management team we’ve got promotions under our belt [and] the 16-man squad at the moment is one of the most enjoyable squads I’ve worked under [in terms of] being together, we want to go throw a brick wall for each other. All I’ve been doing is putting my arm ‘round them, a bit of man management, make them feel special because they are special people and kept everything that’s gone on behind the scenes away from them in the last two months, I’ve kept that away from my players. All I’ve done is got my players focused on how can they be better, how can I make my players 5% better and that’s all we are doing. When they make a mistake now, they stop moaning about the mistake and they learn from it and that’s the basics for looking after them.
“What these players are doing for the football club right now is just brilliant, it’s a pleasure to work with them. I love going into work, I love being ‘round them, we love getting together every Thursday. We did bring in a rule that when we go to service stations [when travelling to away games] where we do quizzes now. So for instance, when we went down to Truro they did a quiz. Christian Smith is in charge of that, we did ask [Jonathan] Northy to but he’s too intelligent and came up with questions that were too hard, so there’s a bit of fun there. When we go on Thursday nights now we play pool and darts and we’ll bring quiz nights into Thursday nights as well – I don’t force them to do these things I ask them because I trust them to do it, that’s why players like [Daniel] Greeny and Jerome [Okimo] deserve praise.
“We lost Glenn Wilson four weeks ago and that was the biggest loss of our football team this year, never wanted that boy to go and I’ve got out-and-out respect for him. That’s where I think a lot of the lads deserve a lot of credit because we could have dwellet on that but I wanted them to concentrate on football matters. I think the biggest achievement for these players was that, let’s not lie about it, in December we were a sinking ship. There was a lot of things going on behind the scenes, then there was football out on the pitch that I wasn’t happy with and didn’t like it. I think where the players deserve the biggest praise is instead of sinking to the bottom we got that engine going and we’re trying to get back to the top.”
A quick message for Coach Mike Percival…
“Mike [Percival] has his mother’s funeral this Friday, I just want to say that we’re all backing and supporting you all the way and like I always say Mike, we’re family to you and you’re family to me.”