Following the appointment of Steve Conroy as first team manager last week, we had a chance to catch up with him yesterday and got a few words with the new gaffer.
Firstly, welcome to Walton Casuals. How does it feel to be the new manager and what attracted you to the club?
It’s a big club. What I noticed when we came down to play you was the facilities the club has and you can see the ambition and drive that the club has. Having spoken to people since I arrived and having looked around the club, it’s clear that they want to go in one direction which is forwards and upwards and for me, that’s exactly where I want to go. I want to coach and manage in the league in which I played, the Conference (now the National League) so for me it had to be a club that’s going somewhere. This club has some really great people behind the scenes, really genuine people who are passionate about football and it looks to be a very well run football club. When we played you down here it was a big game and obviously you went on to beat us and went on to stay up which was good for the club, but the way you conducted yourselves afterwards was really good to see.
It’s a joy to be here and I can’t wait to get started.
You’ve got Chris Winton beside you again, so he’s obviously a very trusted member of your backroom staff. Do you have anyone else coming across with you?
I’ve got Liam Walsh coming across with us as first team coach who was with us at Kings Langley as U18 manager. I’ve also got Dave Bass as a strength and conditioning coach, he won’t start off with us full time but he’ll be starting off the pre-season programme and will probably do four or five sessions to get us up and running, but the main backroom team is myself, Chris and Liam so we have three pairs of eyes which will strengthen us all round. We all know what we want and we’ve all got the same sort of ideas as to how we want to do things but that being said, sometimes we don’t always agree which is good as it creates a debate and a conversation that helps keep things fresh.
Have you had a chance to speak to any of the players here yet?
We’ve spoken to quite a few. Obviously it’s a shame that there’s four or five who have decided to look elsewhere as I’d have liked to have spoken to them and explained to them the style of football and philosophy that we’ve got and how I like to see the game. So it’s a shame but we’ve still spoken to various players, they’re all free agents at the moment so a lot of them are keeping their options open but it’s that time of the season where players aren’t really going to commit unless they’re on a contract. But we’ll be looking at all of the players that want to stay and we’ll also be getting some new bodies through the door.
You did a fantastic job with Kings Langley last season, narrowly missing out on the play-offs. What are your aims for the Casuals this coming season?
Last year this league was a bit strange with everyone beating everyone, so for me it’s about getting a bit of consistency at this level and getting on a run and building momentum. Once you can do that, the points quickly start to build up and once you’ve got the momentum and belief of wanting to win football matches, you can really start to climb the table. Game management is key for me, seeing out games when you go away to so called big teams. I say ‘so called’ because I don’t actually see any big teams in this league, we’re not frightened of anyone and that’s what I told my players last year and that’s a reason why we did so well, because we had no fear. Once you get into them and get amongst them, you realise that all the teams are beatable.
How is pre-season shaping up and what are you looking to get out of the games that have been confirmed so far?
I’m looking to get a good organised side that can start on the front foot from the word go, as we all know it’s important to get off to a good solid start. But you look at the teams we’re going to be playing (Kingstonian, Chertsey, Heybridge Swifts, Basingstoke and Virginia Water all confirmed so far) and none of them are going to be pushovers, they’ll be good games. There might be one other fixture that we’re trying to arrange where we will have more of the football, but some the teams we’ve mentioned already will have the lion’s share of the ball so as much as we want to work with the ball, there will be a lot of work without it and getting organised and in good stead for the new season.
So what can the Casuals fans expect from a Steve Conroy side?
Very organised, I like my team to play through the thirds and to mix it up a bit. Very attack minded, but you have to be very patient as well sometimes. We’ll always be on the front foot though, especially at home which are the games where you need to pick up points and get the fans on your side and show them what we can do and what you’re all about. So it’ll be attractive, but you’ve also got to be aggressive. For me, the main thing is hard work. I talk about the basics to the boys and those basics include desire. You’ve got to be physically strong and run hard and if they haven’t got that about them, we can’t talk about tactics and don’t even get that far. So the basics are what I expect. I expect big big recovery runs when you haven’t got the ball and knowing exactly where you have to be when you haven’t got the ball, but it’s just making them more intelligent really, knowing when to conserve energy and knowing when to go and press.
One final one. The Casuals fans have been growing in numbers over the past two seasons and most of them won’t have known any different at the club so might be a bit ‘afraid’ of change. What would your message be to them?
There’s always changes when a club moves on, but the philosophy they’re used to really isn’t much different to mine. With the 4G pitch out there, you have to use that and for me that means the ball has to stay below head height. So there won’t be massive changes, they’ll see some very fluid football being played through the thirds, I look to get my midfielders on the half turn to play forwards all the time. I’m always looking to play forwards if we can, to get bodies forward in attacking numbers. So it’ll still be just as exciting, we’ll just have more game management about us and I’ll be trying to share my knowledge of what I’ve experienced over my career and trying to pass that on to the boys. But as I say if you’re organised at this level then you’ve always got a chance.
I’m really looking forward to meeting the fans and hearing their support, I just urge them to continue what they’ve been doing up until now as it’ll be a massive help to everyone at the club.
That’s it from the gaffer for the time being. Tomorrow we’ll have more reaction from the Chairman, Tony Gale.
The first chance to see the Casuals in action before the new season will be at home to Basingstoke on Tuesday 9th July*
*All friendly fixtures are subject to change and will be updated on the website as and when confirmed.