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INTERVIEW: We need the fans

24 December 2013

Tony Caig on Boxing Day and new year targets

Keeper coach Tony Caig spoke to us about the Walsall game about what should be an enjoyable fixture on Boxing Day when Preston North End come to town.

“Saturday was very frustrating for all of us,” he said. “We started well but I think we were rocked a bit when we conceded the first goal.

“We recovered and David Amoo got into the game more. He won us the penalty but we all know what happened with that. These things happen in football and it’s up to Lee [Miller] to bounce back from that.

“We weren’t playing as well we have done in recent weeks and it was a case of staying in the game as much as we could. We’ve spoken about this before because you can’t always reach the level of performance you want, for whatever reason, but that shouldn’t affect the effort or work rate.”

“To be fair to them their second goal was quality,” he agreed. “Of course we can pick out things we should have done better defensively but you can’t take anything away from the player. He finished it fantastically well. The sending off came after that and the game was away from us by then.”

“Another thing we keep talking about is consistency,” he continued. “If you look at the top teams in the league at the moment it’s those who have found that ingredient. 

“Outside of the top four or five we’ve all been the same. Everyone is trying to find what those other teams have got and it has been difficult for us. We had a tough start and that has meant that we’ve been playing a little bit of catch up. We seem to claw ourselves up a bit and then we get knocked back again. 

“We’ll keep going and keep believing in what we’re trying to do. As we’ve seen, when we do start well and we play the game in the right way then we’re a match for most teams in the league. It’s hard to put your finger on why we drop below our levels on occasions because football just isn’t an exact science. 

“Players at our level have to be prepared to dig deep and make sure they work extremely hard, even if things aren’t quite going for them. If they keep plugging away they’ll find that it’s often the littlest things which get them back to playing at their best again.”

“The response in our training sessions this week has been fantastic,” he told us. “To be honest we never have any issues at all with this group when it comes to attitude and application. There are times when we demand more but we’re finding now that they bring it out of themselves as much as anything. We have to say thank you to Annan again because they let us train up there. Our pitches are wet and waterlogged and them doing that for us has allowed us to get some good sessions under our belts.”

On the recent knee injury picked up Mark Gillespie, he said: “That has been very frustrating. He was in a great run of form and he has got better and better with every game. We’ve all been delighted with him, even when we were losing games, because he was calm and composed throughout. 

“His injury was fine and he'd been given the green light to start his rehab. He went into the gym to do his work and his knee locked up again. We don't know if he's been unlucky or what, so it will be very frustrating for him. I've had a chat with him about it and he's very focused on what he needs to do. He's only 21 so he will come back stronger, and I'll be there to help him do that.”

“The two home games coming up are tough games but they give us a real chance of getting some points on the board,” he commented. “Preston suffered a bad defeat at the weekend but, up until that point, they'd been on a good run. 

“The game speaks for itself because all of the players and the fans will be right up for it. I've played in a few of them myself over the years and they're always enjoyable to play in. The players definitely won't need lifted for the game because they'll all be up for it. 

"I think I was only about 19 when I first played against them when they had the astro-turf pitch at Deepdale. We beat them 3-0 and it was a good game to play in because we were trying to get into the playoffs and they needed a win to secure promotion. There was a heck of a lot riding on it. There's always a lot of away fans, which makes the atmosphere brilliant, and it all adds to what is a good day, particularly if you win. 

“I think I had a good record against them so hopefully I can carry that on as a coach. One of my first games for Blackpool was at Preston, which is obviously another big game, and Brett Ormerod scored in the 90th minute to give us the three points. I've got a lot of good memories from games against them.”

“It can become a day where emotions take over,” he added. “It can also become fiery and that’s when it’s about being calm and collected and making sure that you play the game in the right way. There will be an edge to it but you have to embrace that and enjoy it. These are the games, as a player, you want to be involved in. You can set the tone from early on by winning the tackles and the 50:50’s and that can help you to get on with doing everything else properly.”

"Peterborough will be another difficult one because they're a free scoring team, but they can also concede,” he said. “They've got a lot of threats going forward so it should be good to watch. We'll have to be right for it and we aren't going to underestimate them.”

On the season so far, and on his hopes going forward, he said: “We aren't where I want us to be because the aim has to be to get into the top half of the table. I think it is achievable but, again, the levels of consistency need to be there. 

“We want to get to a point where we're in the top half of the table with a solid base to work from. If we can do that then we'll just need to add to it to give ourselves a real chance of getting into that top six region, which is where we all want to be. 

“I think you can see now that the players are really starting to enjoy playing the way we're asking them to play. The main thing is for us to keep the excitement levels there for as long as we possibly can. 

“That keeps the players motivated but more importantly it keeps the fans wanting to come back. We need the fans, but we need to give them a reason to support us and help us. Hopefully we can keep doing that.”

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