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INTERVIEW: A real feeling of energy

16 October 2013

The second part of our Tony Caig interview

In the second part of our interview with goalkeeper and first team coach Tony Caig he spoke first about the changes he has seen within his core business of keeper coaching over the last few years.

“Keeper coaching is a relatively new thing in this country in terms of the age of the game,” he explained. “We’re probably 20 years behind Europe because Italy, Holland, Germany, Spain, etc, were specialising in this side of things way back in the 70’s. 

“I’m not saying our coaches aren’t as good, because we are, but they have that extra period of experience and knowledge to draw from.” 

“I’m on my A licence assessment next month and one thing it’s taught me over the last 18 months is that our role, as goalkeeping coaches, has evolved – and that’s even as recently as the last two years, never mind what went before. 

“It now focuses on being able to assist the manager with advice on defensive situations and also in those situations where the keeper is the first point of an attack. We scored our first goal against Shrewsbury, for example, when Mark Gillespie threw the ball out quickly. That led to a Matt Robson cross and a tap in for David Amoo.

“If I don’t work with Mark on him being aware of that kind of opening, when he is receiving the ball, then he is more likely to catch it and hold onto it. We’re working with all of our keepers all the time on how quickly they recover and to make sure they are looking immediately for that type of opening. If it isn’t there then by all means slow things down but, if it is, distribute it and get us on the front foot again.”

And on the management team he’ll be working with, he said: “The chemistry in any coaching department is really important. You need to have it because you do go through the good, bad and ugly times together. 

“You need to be able to rely on each other. We need to be able to be clear minded and not let emotion get into the decision making with player selection or team shape matters, for example.”
“My relationship with Kav has grown from when we played together in the reserves five years ago, and our role was to help to develop the younger players, and has moved onto coaching together through some real highs and lows,” he added.

“I worked with Davie Irons at Gretna when he was head coach and I was a player-coach. I know how he works and I know he is very forward thinking and thorough. He likes to use anything that can benefit us. 

“That could be the smallest little paragraph from the internet that one of the opposition players has said about us or any little stat that can be used in a positive way. That’s good for Kav because it brings a freshness and adds more food for thought.”

“Graham openly admits that he will never have all the answers and that’s why he has a staff,” he confirmed. “We are there to bounce ideas around and to make the job as easy as possible for him. We all have one common theme and that’s our very good work ethic. We put the hours in because that’s what we have to do to give us the best chance of winning games.

“There is a real feeling of energy around the place because we want to bring success to this club. One thing that won’t be any part of what happens is that we haven’t been thorough or worked hard enough. 

“Another one of the big things Graham has been talking about is the mindset of the players. That’s on and off the pitch because if you train hard and well then you are more likely to reproduce that during a game. 

“So, if we give the lads a free afternoon it comes down to them as to what they do. Do they wander around town, or do they go to the gym? That’s a mindset. If you continually choose the option to go to town then you are more likely to find yourself out of the team because other players will push past you. We’ll take responsibility, but we have also pushed a lot of it back onto the players to see how they respond.

“They’re all walking one-man businesses, at the end of the day, because they are looking after and protecting their own futures and careers. If they do that as individuals then collectively we’ll be much stronger.” 

“Knowing the club as well as I do helps massively,” he admitted. “This is my 24th season in football and my 14th at Carlisle United. That tells its own story. I know the club, I know the mindset of the people and I know the expectation levels. I’ve experienced real good times here as a player, and as a coach, and we have an unbelievable record of getting to cup finals, even at our level. 

“You draw on your experiences from the bad times and you analyse them to try to pinpoint why things weren’t working. You can’t get away from the fact that a lot of it is mindset and confidence, but there might have been decisions made along the way that pushed you towards it. That could be team shape, player recruitment, training schedules – any number of things. 

“We’re into a process of logging everything we do because if you do have a bit of success, you also want to see why that is the case. That means when, almost inevitably, you do hit a bad run you can look at what you were doing when you were winning and assess if anything has changed.”

As for the attitude currently on show from the players, he said: “I can see it in their faces and their eyes – they are buying into what we’re doing. 

“They know there is no such thing as a free ride and demands are being put on them every day. We keep saying, what we do today won’t be good enough for tomorrow. That’s the way it has to be. That goes back to the players taking ownership of what they do and how they prepare.” 

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