Gary Johnson’s side head into their top-of-the-table clash at Woking on Saturday in fine form, with five successive wins seeing United go seven points clear of their nearest rivals.
“You are always feeling good when you’ve had a run of wins.” said Johnson.
“Obviously it’s started with the five wins we’ve had going into this game, and of course your confidence and belief at this stage of the season has got to be at it’s uppermost. Every game you win, you believe more, you know you’re getting a bit closer. You’re not there yet until you’re mathematically there, so we’re keeping the lads’ feet on the ground.
“We’ve just got to make sure that we enjoy what we’re doing, because not many footballers have the chance of being champions of a league and we’ve got that chance, we’ve got that opportunity, but we’ve got a couple of obstacles to deal with in a very professional way.”
Despite the team’s strong position with only five games left to play, United’s boss is taking absolutely nothing for granted.
“It’s not mathematically possible to win the league at Woking. What it does, it gives you a great opportunity in the next game to win the championship. Everybody has been looking forward to this game anyway, now of course because we’ve given ourselves a bit of a cushion, it’s always nice to play a game when you’re in a bit of credit
“If they beat us of course, they’ll still feel like they’ve got a chance of nicking it with four games to go, so we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing it for all our fans that are down there, because going ten points clear is obviously putting you in a very strong position after that, so that’s what we’ve got to look to do. They’ll know they can peg us back, so this is your actual six-pointer, you can be ten points clear or you can be still four points clear.”
Johnson’s has spoken many times this season of his team’s need to focus on one game at a time, and that tactic won’t be changing as he warns against any premature celebrations.
“We celebrated the win against Chelmsford, it wasn’t over-celebrating, but the boys and the supporters knew how important that game was. We know going into this one, again there’s no champagne coming out or anything like that, because it’s not done until it’s done. The boys have grown up over the season, understanding what they’ve got to do, not to get too excited too early.
“Football is football and things can change. I always talk about icebergs and I’m sure there will be a couple more before we get there, but at the moment we’re on an even keel, the ship’s floating nicely and we need to just do the job and enjoy what’s going to be a really good football game against Woking. There’s big rivalry between us, it’s been nearly the whole season, since I’ve been here, that it’s been toing and froing since Christmas and we’d like to win it for our fans.”
Johnson remains committed to helping the club achieve its long-term aim of regaining Football League status. Promotion back to the National League at the first attempt would represent a huge step in the right direction.
“We are nearly there, we’re not quite there yet, so we’ve not quite reached my requirements just yet for this season, but of course your aim is always to move the club forward. The aim of this club over the next few years is to make sure we give it all we can to get back into the Football League, where really, looking at it, it belongs. The fans belong there, the stadium belongs there, off the field staff belong there, and we’ve got to make sure we’ve got a football team to get us there. We’re working very hard to get there and it’s good that we’ve got that vision, because everything is going well, and we’ve got to make sure that it stays going well by just being professional and being a professional club that you want to be.”
With a number of promotions already under his belt, Gary stresses that any achievement completed with United would rank favourably alongside his earlier successes.
“I think it’s the same as any other, it’s all relative. If you’re champions of this league it’s just as much effort like when Bristol City were nearly champions of the Championship. When I was at City we were one game away from the Premiership, the Yeovil promotions, the Bristol promotions, it’s up there with all of them because it’s relative. You have to be better in this league than 21 teams, and that still takes some doing, especially when the new regime took over, it was looking like the play-offs were the best that the team would be able to produce.
“Anyway, we’re here now and I’m enjoying it just as much as I was, and I’ll enjoy the end product just as much, but I know things can change quickly, so I understand football, I’ve been around long enough. I’m 18 with 45 years experience, In my head I’m 18 years of age! I’m just looking forward to the enjoyment that everybody gets, if we win it, and I know how that can turn a club’s fortunes. As I always say, you change your thoughts, you change your world, we’ve used that a couple of times and I think it’s true, and at the moment the club is on the up and we need to keep it on the up.”
For now though, all focus turns to our opponents on Saturday, with the trip to Surrey presenting United with possibly their most difficult test of the season to date.
“They’re not second for nothing, they’ve obviously got threats, they’ve got dangerous players. He [Woking boss Alan Dowson] has brought in some players that he feels are going to better his team and we’ll see how they gel, and whether they gel quickly. They’ve definitely got some quality on the pitch, that’s for sure, and they’ve worked hard to stay up there and generally keep up there. We’ve had a great couple of winning runs, and that will be hard for any other club to keep up with that, but they’ve basically done that.
“It’s only now that we’ve gone a little bit further ahead. Certainly they are running out of games to pick up the points. We’ve been relentless in our games and results, it would have been hard for any other team to keep up with. They would have had to have been top of the form table every month. We’ve been close to being most months. We’ve certainly been keeping the pressure on, and we’ll still have to see whether that pressure that we’ve put on them by us winning regularly has held them back a bit and cost them their energy.
“It’s a cup final for them, we must remember that. We’re not just going to turn up and have an easy time. We’ll have to turn up and have got to do our job, and make sure that we’re worthy winners if we do win on the day.”
With bodies being thrown on the line to help secure United’s 3-1 win over Chelmsford City on Tuesday, the United boss will be leaving it as late as possible before finalising his team to face The Cards.
“Well because of the game Tuesday, we’ve got a few knocks, but you would expect that anyway with the workrate and the effort we put in, and the effort that Chelmsford put in to it, so we won’t be picking the team just yet, until late-on tomorrow. We think we’ll be ok, we’ll be happy with our squad, that’s for sure.”
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