Graham Kavanagh talks about some sound advice
New United manager Graham Kavanagh and his support staff were thrown into the job at short notice three weeks ago, following the departure of popular boss Greg Abbott, and he admitted that it was a difficult day as he very quickly had to come to terms with the situation - and then with what was required to take the group forward.
“I didn’t have a clue what was coming on the day Greg [Abbott] left,” he revealed. “I didn’t expect it at all, but because it happened as quickly as it did I just didn’t have time to think about it.
“In a situation like that it has to become a case of thinking on your feet and looking quickly at how you are going to do things and what you can change. We considered a number of things but the focus came down to what we felt was vitally important. There were two main areas in our opinion – the confidence levels and the mindset of the players.
“We had a chat as a staff and we decided they were the first areas we were going to tackle. We needed the lads to know that the pressure was off and that we were going to treat it as a 40-game season from that moment on.”
“We tried to make the place as fresh and as vibrant as we could and, for whatever reason, you do get a new energy about the place when a manager leaves,” he explained. “We had to try to harness that so we trained for longer, we did double sessions and we went over and over the basics.
“We focused on how good we can be as a team and we reminded everybody about how good a feeling it is when you win a game.”
“We got a great response and the first two games were magnificent,” he told us. “We had to ride our luck a bit in the Notts County game and that was a result I don’t think we’d have got at the start of the season. That shows the mindset is getting stronger and the belief is growing, so we just want to keep pushing that forward.”
And on the events immediately following the departure of Greg Abbott, he said: “The biggest thing that happened just after Greg left was that I knew I had to address the group. I took myself to one side before I went in to do that and Davie [Irons] came over to have a chat.
“He knew exactly how I was feeling because he had been in my position before. He told me that he knew I was probably feeling a bit guilty and that we – the players and the staff – would also be feeling like we’d let the manager down.
“He then talked to me about the fact it was natural for me not to be feeling massively comfortable with the thought of stepping into Greg’s shoes in that way. He told me to ignore all that and to get on with it, because it’s what Greg would have wanted.
“At that time we thought we were only going to get a week to show what we could do and he advised me that if I hadn’t done it my way, and I didn’t get the job because of that, then I’d be disappointed with myself.
“I think I knew all of that in my own mind anyway but it was really reassuring to hear someone else say it.”
“We got that conversation out of the way, and I really appreciated it, and it was then in to talk to the players,” he continued. “I said a few things they probably didn’t want to hear at the start of that meeting, but I got that part of it over as quickly as I could.
“I then put an arm round them and I think I followed that up with 12 individual meetings with players who we felt would be affected most by what had happened, or who we felt could give us more. The reaction from every one of them has been first class.
“There are going to be casualties along the way, there is no two ways about that. Every player has to step up, improve, become better and stronger, and we could find that some of them just won’t be able to do it. That’s the nature of the game, and they are all big boys so they just have to accept that it’s part and parcel of it.
“It’s been a great three weeks but it hasn’t been easy. I’m sure there’ll be a period where we struggle to win games and, when that happens, it will show again how united and strong we are as a staff and as a club.”
We'll have more from Graham Kavanagh on the official website on Thursday morning where he talks about family life, sacrifices and his desire to succeed.
United Player subscribers can see a 12-minute video interview with Graham Kavanagh now. Click HERE to go to the Player platform. Follow the same link for more information on United Player, and to subscribe.
to go to our official YouTube channel to see a clip from this interview and for more FREE content from the heart of the club.