Part one of a two-part interview
Goalkeeper and first team coach Tony Caig spoke to us last week about the departure of Greg Abbott and about his new role going forward as part of Graham Kavanagh’s first team staff.
“It’s been a strange few weeks, especially with Greg [Abbott] going,” he admitted. “That came as a shock to all of us really. He brought me back into the club and I’ve been working with him for the past four or five years.
“I started as his player-coach and we developed the coaching role as we went along, so it was a difficult time for me, on a personal level, when we had to say goodbye. I enjoyed working for him and that first week was really tough.”
“However, Kav was next in line and we took the game on the Saturday not really knowing what was going to happen next,” he said. “The plan for that was that Kav, along with me and Davie Irons, would prepare the team as if he was in the job. He didn’t look at it as if it was a caretaker position; he did it as if he was the manager.
“We carried on doing that through the weeks that followed and we managed to get three decent results and some good performances. That led us to the situation where Graham got the job, and Davie and I will be part of that going forward.”
“The important thing for us four weeks ago was to walk into the dressing room on Monday lunchtime – and there was a realisation of the seriousness of the situation because Greg had already been in to say his goodbyes,” he told us. “When you think about it in that context there just aren’t any other industries or professions where it happens so swiftly and so clinically. It was the first time some of the younger players had ever had that happen to them.
“As a player I saw managers come and go for various reasons, but I’ve coached for three different managers and I’ve never had one leave until this came along. It’s a strange situation because the game doesn’t wait for anybody. Almost as soon as the manager has left the next question on everyone’s lips is – who is the next manager?
“Like I say, we took it on to the weekend and then to Stevenage, and we were then into an interview process. Graham was part of that and all we could do was wait and see. We were all really pleased for him when he did.”
“I think the first question for us as a group of three, looking back to that first day, was does Graham even want the job?” he said. “Davie and I were unanimous in our thoughts that he should try and go for it.
“Kav instantly said that it was what he wanted to do. It was then down to the staff to try and help to get him to a position where he could be in the running. We all worked as hard as we could and we talked closely about how we wanted the team to play.
“We were on a bad run so the first task was to stop the goals from going in. That had started happening anyway and part of my new role is to look at what the opposition are going to bring so that we can counter it, or stop it. Things clicked and the results started coming.”
Talking more about his new responsibilities, he said: “I have taken more on but it’s about managing my time and being organised. You draw on your experiences as a player in many ways, because I was very organised during my playing days. I was always in early, well before the other players, and I was thorough in my preparations.
“I wanted to make sure I was as right as I could be in terms of diet, training and mindset and I ended up being handed the role of captain when I was here first time round because of that. Once you know your stuff is ready and you’re prepared you can start to speak to other players and help them along.”
“When you go into coaching a lot of your work is down out on the grass,” he commented. “The core of my business is still the goalkeepers but I want to be used and of benefit to the whole team. If that means I have to take on the defensive side of things for set plays, or to take charge of the scouting and match reports to help to identify strengths and weaknesses, then I am more than happy to do that.
“It isn’t an exact science but as long as we know we’ve prepared as well as we can then we will be giving ourselves a fighting chance. We also know that the players are going onto the pitch fully briefed and they know, to a large extent, what is coming. That’s also when we can look at how we best use our set up to break them down and go on to win the game.”
“Graham is open to listening to advice and ideas all the time and he wants to delegate the work as much as he can,” he explained. “That can only be good for me and for my education as a coach going forward. Goalkeepers will always be my speciality, because of my background, but I think every coach should seek to be more rounded. If you specialise in just one area it restricts what you can bring to the group.”
We’ll have more from keeper coach Tony Caig on the official website on Wednesday morning where he talks about the chemistry in the group and the desire to succeed.
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