As United’s promotion-chasing squad head for Essex to face Concord Rangers on Saturday, manager Gary Johnson reflected on the positive mood within the camp.
“Of course the mood is decent because we’ve had a couple of decent results recently,” said Johnson.
“We had to get over the Weston-super-Mare one, but we had a good look at that, and thought it was just one of those days. We could have got four or five goals in that game, but we saved them up for two games after that and the mood is buoyant without being unprofessional, we’ve still got a long way to go, eight games, that’s quite a lot of points, even teams that have got seven to go are still going to be competitive so we haven’t done anything yet and we’ve got to make sure we keep our focus.”
With the season reaching a crucial stage, having a vastly experienced manager such as Johnson in charge is a huge bonus for the club.
“Any manager who is managing the squad has a lot of responsibility. A lot of stuff I’ve learned over the years, everything you’ve learned, goes into it. Of course you’ve learned negative things as well, so you try to keep that out the way. I’ve said before there’s going to be problems along the way, icebergs I call them, and you have to deal with them. Just at the time when you think you didn’t need it, there it is and you mustn’t panic, get round it and make sure you sail on. That’s really the crux of it and then it’s down to the lads and their professionalism to make sure.”
“Of course when they’re in front of me, I can see everything they’re doing, if they come in bleary-eyed one morning or they look like they haven’t been conducive to an athlete’s work when they’re not in front of me, then sometimes I’ll pull them on it, and sometimes it’ll cost them. It’ll cost them their place. It’s up to them to be very professional when they’re not here and we’ve got to make sure that we’re seen to be very professional when we are.”
Although supporters of both sides are already billing the Woking match on April 6th as a potential title decider, United’s boss, as always, is purely focusing on the next game, beginning at Concord tomorrow.
“I think it would disrespect the teams we’re going to be playing before them. We’ve got some difficult games in the three games before we play Woking, so you can’t get your thoughts too far ahead, otherwise you can forget what you’ve got to do this week. We’ll give that the right amount of time when we need to. We’d have gained our game in hand by the time we’ve played Woking but we’ve got some difficult games before then, they’ve got a couple of difficult games I suppose. They’re all difficult, look at East Thurrock, they’ve have had a little run, Truro had their little run earlier on, Gloucester are having their little run so you just have to take each game as it comes. The media don’t like hearing that, but that’s the only way to describe it so you put all your efforts into the next game.”
With a league of 22 having 1 automatic promotion spot, 6 play-off spots and 3 relegation spaces, virtually every team has something to play for, meaning no opponent can be taken for granted.
“Well everyone still seems to have something to play for because 5 or 6 teams outside the play-offs will probably still feel they can make it, and of course they look like middle of the table teams at the moment, but in their eyes, it should be this, it’s seven places everyone is playing for, everyone has still got a chance, and there’s still a few that could get pulled into the relegation zone, so the whole league stays competitive for a long time.”
Looking ahead to the Concord match, the gaffer is once again ensuring his team have every eventuality covered against another team in good form.
“I don’t want to give our secrets away, or what we’ve found to be their weaknesses, I’m sure they’ve tried to look to find some of ours. We’re doing our work already on the DVD, we’re just going through it, for and against, you look after your own team but on Thursday we generally do an 11 v 11 on organisational stuff, and it was our team v Torquay / Concord, when we try to work on a few things.”
Selection-wise, Jamie Sendles-White’s return to fitness could not have come at a better time, with fellow defender Jean Yves Koue Niate missing the match due to suspension, following his red card against Dartford.
“We’re ok, we haven’t got Jean, that’s one game. Jamie was unlucky. He was in the team, got injured, so now he’s back in, which works out alright for a manager because you don’t have to pick which one, pretty much very similar and both committed to the cause which is great.”
The vacated spot on the substitute bench also means a recall for young striker Olaf Koszela, a player of real potential and one that Johnson is eager to work with.
“It brings Olaf back onto the bench. He was on the bench last week, but in his clothes as he didn’t quite make it. There’s reasons for that, but he’s made it this week. I’m looking forward to getting the opportunity to giving him a bit of a run out. I hope he will and I’m sure he hopes he will, but he’s got a long, successful career ahead of him, so all he’s doing at the moment is gaining experience. If he does get that opportunity, he’s already got over that feeling of joining the squad, being away with the squad in a hotel, eating properly, so when he does get his league debut start at some stage, he’ll be very comfortable and he’ll just need to worry about not things around it, but that game and that’ll save him being nervous pre-match, that sort of stuff. He’s been there, done that now, he’s been on many trips with us, he’s been involved with everything so I’m sure that’ll stand him in good stead when he gets his opportunity.”