As we head towards the business end of the season, it would be understandable if some of United’s players, staff and supporters were beginning to feel a few nerves.
Boss Gary Johnson though, is relishing every minute of United’s resurgence, and is delighted with the way his players are responding to the challenge.
“I love it. If I didn’t, I’d have retired a long time ago,” confirmed Johnson.
“While I’m enjoying it, I can put over enthusiastically my views to the lads. The big thing is they’ve got to believe in what they’re doing, believe in what Downesy [assistant manager, Aaron Downes] is saying and what the other staff are saying. The more wins you get, the more belief there is, and so I think we’re at a stage now where these lads could write a book with the same words I use, and that’s a language that I needed to get into them at around about this stage, for the run-in. When they do their interviews, I hear their comments, their words now that they’ve picked up, they hear it so often that it’s become part of their football language, and that’s what I like. We’re ready for the last eight game campaign and we’re looking forward to it, we’re really looking forward to it because I’m pretty sure the boys are. Win, lose or draw, that’s how you’ve got to feel right now.”
Johnson has stressed on many occasions this season of the importance of focusing on one game at a time, with each opponent having their own strengths. Despite the hype surrounding the fixture and the obvious importance of it, the Gulls’ boss isn’t viewing the upcoming Woking clash as a title decider.
“I’m sure it won’t be settled, I’m sure both teams will think with four games to go that it’s a key six pointer. As I said six games ago, you’ve got to get your nose in front, but once you get your nose in front, you really have to not disrespect the opponents because they’re all picking up points. Nobody wants to go down, they’re all putting their bodies on the line, Weston-super-Mare did here, East Thurrock did it when we went there, I’m sure Hungerford will be doing the same, and Dulwich, they’ve got a game against Woking. Everybody is still in it, I really am going game to game, of course we all look at the table and do the maths, but we’ve got three games before and we’ve got two before we’ve got that game in hand. You can soon lose that if you don’t pick up maximum points.”
United’s boss is adamant that his team won’t take any of their opponents lightly, with the recent defeat against Weston-super-Mare proof that even lowly opponents can pose problems on any given day.
“They’re all tricky fixtures, you can’t really look at any and say there’s three points there, there’s three points there. You’ve just got to trust your training, trust your teammates, believe in what we’re doing, give your best and that’s all you can so. If you come out on top, you can say ‘that’s why’. We’ve definitely learned from defeats, that’s not to say you’re not going to get beat, I don’t want to say that won’t happen again because that’s football.”
Johnson took time to pay tribute to his squad for the way they have handed the increased expectation since his arrival.
“When we go back, how many wins we’ve had and how many points we’ve had to pick up to be in the position we’re in now, the boys have done fantastic anyway. What we’ve got to do now is keep going to the end and see where it takes us. I’m just really proud of the way they’ve taken so quick to what the management want them to do, and that’s what they’ve done. There’s a saying, ‘if you want to motivate players, get players that can be motivated’ and I think that’s very true, so we’ve had to move some aside of course, and bring a couple in, but the other saying is ‘who motivates the motivator?’ and the players motivate me, because they’re taking it on board and that’s good.”
The gaffer also expressed his gratitude for the club’s owner and board.
“The hierarchy are motivating me too, because they’re doing everything they can to help this club move on and I’ve got to say that because they are motivating the motivator as well. The owner is in daily contact with George [Edwards], and George works so hard to move this club forward. The first thing you’ve got to do is, if you trust your manager, back your manager, and I’ve had 100% backing. We’ve had discussions about the future, where do we expect the club to be, and it’s all been very, very, positive. I’ve had a couple of discussions with him [owner Clarke Osborne] and he’s a decent man, and that’s all I can say really. He’s got a lot of other businesses, so of course he’s got to look at them, but I know he keeps a very close eye on what we’re doing. George is the man on the ground, which is working, and I trust them both.”