Club Reporter Liam Drury spoke to head coach Marc McGregor about how September had gone, the development of the four young academy products in the first team squad and what he’s hoping for from October.
Let’s just start by looking back at September. You got one win from six. From your perspective, how do you think the month has gone?
It’s not been the best month. We should have picked up points in the league. You look at Saturday’s game where we hit the crossbar twice and had one cleared off the line, and then Dartford have gone and won the game from two poor officiating decisions. I’m not worried about getting into trouble now! Geth’s been tripped when one-on-one, their lad should get a sending off and from that they go up the other end to score. Second goal, they’ve just pinned Geth in to try and beat our offside trap, and then they’re left with a tap-in.
You chose to rest Jarrad Welch at the weekend. Was that a tactical decision, or did he just need a rest?
You’ve hit the nail on the head there! He just needed a rest. Jarrad’s come from U18s football with Cardiff, playing a few U23 games here and there, and he’s come here to play regular first team football. In U18s and U23s football, there’s not much on the line, there’s nothing really to play for, it’s all a bit technical with no physicality, and Jarrad’s had to adjust to that. We just thought that he needed a rest for one game, and he’ll be back in contention for Saturday’s game.
How will you be trying to change things going forward, to try and get a result?
We’ll be working hard, we’ll be working hard tomorrow (Thursday) and as a coaching staff, we will be looking at what we can change. It’s not easy, it is difficult when the luck’s going against you and to get a result, we may need a bit of luck that teams get in their favour against us.
Looking at your squad, are you still after that experienced head to help guide the lads through this tough period?
Yep. Potentially, we’ll be putting an offer in for one or two players over the next couple of days. As I’m sure you’ve seen this season, we just need that one player who can settle the lads down when our backs are against the wall, who can help us get across the line and see out a win either at home or while we’re away, at a place that’s tough to travel to such as Dartford. When you look at other teams in this league, they might not have the proper experienced players, but they’ve got a few young players in general that just know how to win games and see things across the line.
Just on the subject of Tom Llewellyn, he’s gone out on loan to Mangotsfield, he got into their starting eleven there, he’s now come back and he’s already made an impression here this season. Will he be in line for a start soon?
I have no doubt in my mind that Tom will be a National League South starter in the future. He came on at Salisbury and he made a much bigger impact than people see, he was the one who got their man sent off just because he broke a line and got the wrong side of him, and that’s one thing that Tom’s good at, breaking the lines. He then obviously scored the goal to equalise there, and he’s playing regular football for the U18s, U19s and hopefully us, but I can’t guarantee anyone a starting spot, really.
Liam Kingston’s come back from Shepton Mallet. You had no choice to recall him. Will he be going back out on loan?
Yes, he will be. Liam needs to be playing games, but based on his performance Saturday, I’m really pleased with how he done. He’s developing well, his performances are getting better and better, as they always do with goalkeepers.
Could he go out on loan to a Southern League side this time instead of Western League?
I wouldn’t have any doubts about throwing Liam into a National League South game. But the problem about where he goes is that some managers don’t trust the inexperienced, young players and you get that quite a bit at Southern League level. At Western League level, you do get the former academy lads of Weston and so on, as well as experienced, former National League South players so it’s a good environment for our young lads to go and get games.
Could the same be said for Jack Goodall then, that some managers wouldn’t trust him? He’s already proved himself capable of performing at this level, including his performance against Paulton in the Somerset Cup Final last season.
Yep, I think so. Some managers might feel that there’s a bit too much on the line in a competitive environment, and they might think of it as a bit of a risk to throw the likes of Jack Goodall in there. I wouldn’t have any doubts about that, about playing the youngsters. I’ve been really pleased with how Liam, Tom, Jack and George have all come on over the past 12 months. When I came in to the club, I was advised to not keep them but I wanted to give everyone a chance, and I thought that they were good enough for me. They got their chances, and they’ve proved me right. I trust all of my players to go and put on a performance.
If you do get this experienced head through the door, presuming that he’s a defender of some nature seeing as your squad’s fine on paper elsewhere, could George Morris-Edwards go out on loan?
I feel a bit sorry for George, really. He’s a good player, and he’s had to be patient, wait for his chance. He did well when thrown in at the deep end last season, and he impressed me. If we do get a right-back or right-sided centre half through the door, then it’s something I’ll look at. I know that it’s selfish, but I need to keep George around for the time being purely because of squad numbers. He does need to go and play football, and he will when the first, and right, opportunity arises.
Sticking with your squad again for a minute, how much of a selection headache is it having to choose from Brad Ash, Gethyn Hill, Jamie Lucas and Eli Phipps as the strikers?
Well, for this Saturday, we won’t be playing Brad, that’s for sure, mainly because we aren’t allowed to! But as a manager, it’s a good headache to have, it gives me something to think about. Them four can all score goals and they can all provide me with different options.
Was it good to see Gethyn back on the scoresheet at the weekend?
It was, definitely. As a striker, you always want to score goals, that’s what you’re in the team to do. Hopefully it can now give Geth a bit more confidence seeing as he’s off the mark this season, and after missing from eight yards out on Saturday, it was good to see him hit the back of the net!
Naby Diallo’s performances have improved. Are you happy that he’s now back in form?
For the first seven or eight games, I wondered where my Naby Diallo had gone! But yes, I’m happy that Naby is now back to the performances of which I know he can put in week in, week out and hopefully his performances can remain consistent for the rest of the season.
Looking ahead to October, you’ve obviously got Coggeshall in the FA Cup, then you’ve got East Thurrock at home, Dulwich Hamlet away at the moment, then Concord Rangers and Torquay United at home. Could it be a pivotal month here for you at the Woodspring?
We’ve set ourselves a target of six points a month within the camp to try and get to where we need to be. I think that it’s achievable with the set of fixtures ahead of us. Torquay’s a game that I shouldn’t need to motivate my players for. I shouldn’t need to motivate my players for any game, they should be self-motivating themselves. But, we need to start getting the points on the board.
Coggeshall are a team that you won’t know too much about. How do you feel ahead of that test?
We know that they played Friday night, and lost. As with any team we come up against, we’ll respect them and treat them with respect throughout the 90 minutes. We won’t underestimate any side that we come up against, because that then allows the complacency to set in and complacency in football never leads to anything good!
At the end of the month, you’ll test yourself against Torquay’s manager Gary Johnson. Are you looking forward to testing yourself against an experienced manager like him in a competitive game?
Yes, I am. I know Gary personally, I managed against him here in pre-season. Gary Johnson is as experienced as they come at this level, and I’m still learning. Gary’s a good manager, things didn’t quite work out for him at Cheltenham and he’s now dropped down to Torquay. He’ll have Torquay well organised, and he’ll know how to get them wins so we’ll be in for a tough Tuesday night at the end of the month.
You can watch the Seagulls take on Coggeshall Town at the Woodspring Stadium in the FA Cup Third Qualifying Round this Saturday. Ticket prices are: £12 adults, £8 concessions, £3 U16s and U8s go free.