It’s been over two months since Steve Conroy was announced as the new gaffer along with his assistant Chris Winton. In that time, they’ve had to pretty much rebuild the squad from scratch and have had an unbeaten seven game pre-season. It’s so far so good for the new duo, but what do they make of things so far?
Let’s find out…
You’ve been here for six weeks now. Now that the dust has settled and you hopefully feel ‘at home’, what have you made of the club within that time?
SC – “It’s everything I hoped it was going to be. I was excited when I got here having initially met the people in and around the club and having been here a couple of months now and knowing these people really well, it’s whet the appetite even more. Everyone’s so friendly and positive and we’re all pushing in the right direction with everyone wanting to do the best they can, so we’re really looking forward to the new season.”
CW – “Ah yes certainly, everyone at the club has made us feel right at home, the chairman and board have been nothing but welcoming since our first meeting back in May. Steve our sponsor has been superb, he has a vision and a drive but also a calmness that has allowed us to embed ourselves and dive head first into the project.
The academy and ladies staff have been fantastic also, we aim to work closely with these other facets of the club to aid with developing WCFC.
We are extremely proud to take on this challenge, the facilities are second to none at this level and we plan to make every second of our tenure here count!”
You were unfairly tagged as ‘long ball merchants’ by some on social media when you came here. However, an unbeaten pre-season with 27 scored and 8 against and some great football at times against some good sides has hopefully put that one to bed already. What are your views on how pre-season has gone, you must be pretty pleased?
SC – “It’s gone really well. We’ve had a lot of players to look at and decide on and it’s been really good getting everyone to gel together. The pre-season games, I don’t like to call them friendlies, that we’ve played have been good. We’ve had a good variety of opposition that have been picked correctly, we’ve picked teams below us for when we’ve wanted more of the ball, looking to break them down and then we’ve had tougher teams where we’ve not had so much of the ball and where you have to be more organised and work harder off the ball. The last two friendlies have been against teams below us but who have healthy budgets and will no doubt be in the top 3 or 4 of their divisions, and they were also really good tests for us.
So it’s been good, but the fact is you don’t get any points for pre-season games so we’re now looking forward to Saturday.”
CW – “Since our appointment we’ve been chomping at the bit to get started so to get the players back in late June was a long time coming. In terms of results its always pleasing to win games, however we will be judged solely on our results in the league campaign so we haven’t got carried away with how results have gone. It’s always satisfying to win football matches and we believe that creates momentum to go on and instil belief individually and collectively.
You started with a blank canvas in terms of the squad and you’ve had to pretty much start from scratch which was never going to be easy at this level. We’ve seen players come and go in the past few weeks but there’s still quite a few here who have been here from the start. How well do you think the squad we have now have gelled since that first session on that boiling hot Saturday, when nobody really knew each other?
SC – “The lads are getting stronger every week and are gelling more with each game and session we have. They’re all on the same wavelength, they’re all very good technical players which is what I like in a player. Whether it’s on 4G or grass, I’m more technically minded of keeping the football and moving it quickly. So technically they’re all up to scratch and it’s looking good and long may it continue.”
CW – “An extremely busy and testing off period, building from scratch and in a new area has in all honesty been extremely hard, we always believed once we got going we could attract players and now this has bared fruit and I’m now excited with the boys we have in place to start the campaign. From the 6 weeks we’ve been together they have displayed an outstanding work ethic. We constantly relay to the boys that if they are motivated to improve and strive we will add value to their football toolbox.”
There’s been some very good signings so far that have raised a few eyebrows, can we expect more of the same over the coming weeks or is the squad pretty much as you want it now?
SC – “I’m happy with the players we’ve brought in, especially as we started with just Jay and Mano from last season, both of whom have been superb. The squad now is pretty much as I want it but you never know what will happen in the future and what players might become available.”
CW – “On the whole we are happy with what we have acquired, we have a nice mix and blend of youth and experience; that rawness and hunger married up ‘non league nous’. The boys all know that hard work, character and heart will be what underpins our foundations here at the club. All players are good at this level but you need that fire in your belly and that obsession to never be satisfied.
In terms of new arrivals in the coming weeks, all I’ll say is never say never!!”
Training has been great to watch with all the different methods you’ve brought with you and all of the strength and conditioning stuff, some of which even the players themselves haven’t seen before. How confident are you that the lads are now ready for the season, in terms of both fitness and knowing exactly what you want from them on the pitch?
SC – “Fitness levels are good. It’s the modern way now of doing a pre-season, we don’t want to run around a 400 metre track because we’re not an athletics team, we’re a football team. So everything is done on the football pitch and is realistic to what we’re trying to achieve. The strength and conditioning stuff is something I’ve been doing now for a couple of years with Dave Bass and it’s been really pro-active because the stuff we do is more football orientated on the muscles the lads are going to be using. It’s been really worthwhile on the injury front because that’s where we’ve benefitted over the past two years by doing it, we’ve had no muscular injuries at all. We’ve got Ollie injured at the moment who’s twisted his ankle on the pitch, but we’ve had no muscular injuries at all and this is what will hopefully take us forward because being a relatively small squad, you have to keep everyone fit and healthy.
The fitness stuff has again all been football orientated, little mini games whether it be 3 v 3, 4 v 4 etc and for me it’s all about spiking the heart rate and getting it up high. That’s how you get fit, you don’t run at one constant speed at the same heart rate, you keep spiking it and getting the lads fitter and fitter and now they all look quite sharp.”
CW – “Early on in preseason we had Dave Bass in to implement the strength and conditioning work, he is highly educated with regards physical performance and recognises how to tailor his work in order to get them in peak condition and also educates them on injury prevention. We employed Dave at Kings Langley last season and didn’t have any muscle injuries, this is down to his foresight and expertise in this field.
In recent weeks whilst building up the player’s minutes gradually we have started implementing our philosophy and vision of how we want the boys to play. We take pride in being organised both in and out possession whilst managing and being effective in the turnovers of ball. The key element here for us is giving the players clarity in their roles and responsibilities from an individual standpoint as well as a collective one.”
51 points was needed just to stay up last year (compared to 33 the year before), do you think it’ll be much the same this season given the quality of some of the teams we have or was that just a freak season?
SC – “It could have been a one off but with the teams that have come into this division both from the leagues above and below , there’s going to be no runaway teams in this league and I believe everyone will beat everyone again. I think you’re probably looking at the mid to late 40s to stay up again this year so very much similar.”
CW – “Similar to last season. I believe everyone is capable of nicking points off each other, last year demonstrated how tight the league was with title going down to the last day as well as a relegation dog fight amongst 5 teams. It certainly keeps everyone entertained and I envisage the same this year.”
You got a glimpse of how good the fans can be when we played Virginia Water a couple of weeks ago. How important will that sort of noise and support be to the lads this season?
SC – “They’ll play a massive part. We want them to get behind us all the time and for that to happen the lads on the pitch will have to put in good performances, run as hard as they can and show passion and aggression with each game and show they’re fighting for their shirt because the people that come through the gate to support you every week and travel all over to away games, they’re the most important thing. So you just want to get a result for them above all else, they can act as an extra man on the pitch and I noticed that when I came down with Kings Langley in April, how noisy and vocal they all were and it does make a massive difference.”
CW – “Steve and I noticed when we visited back in April how passionate the Walton fans were when we were opponents and have now had a taste of what it ‘s like when they’re on our side. They really are a driving force and us and the players are forever grateful of their backing. We hope to give them a side that they can be proud of being a part of.
We also look forward to meeting more and more of them as the season progresses and encourage them to come and have a chat, as we want to get to know all the supporters of Walton Casuals.”
Finally, not going to put you on the spot in terms of predictions, but what do you think this group of lads can achieve over the course of the coming season?
SC – “I’ve got an aim in my head, I know what points total I’m looking to achieve and I know it’s achievable. But we’re looking at short-term targets and we’re looking to build from there, so I’m looking at blocks of six games at a time and how we’re going to prepare, what sort of game plan and just take it those six games at a time. Of course, I want to win every single game but we can’t look too far ahead at any point.
A cup run is one thing I would love at this club either in the FA Cup or the Trophy. You win two games in the FA Cup and you get extra money through the turnstiles and also from the FA and it’s always good to keep the boys ticking over. The longer you stay in the cup, the excitement builds with each round and it keeps things bubbling up for the league games as well so I’d really like to do well in the cups. That’s all the cups, the local ones as well. The club won a local cup last year and it would be nice to retain that and maybe win another one. So we’ll be looking to win as many games as possible in both the league and cup.
As long as this club continues to move in the right direction, we can achieve quite a lot.”
CW – “Considering we only have 2 players from last years’ squad and had to completely put a new side together in a matter of weeks, I feel a top 10 finish and a nice cup run would be a realistic objective for us this season.”
Come and see the new era under Steve and Chris next week, with back to back home games against Farnborough on Tuesday night and Tiverton Town on Saturday 17th.