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MANAGER: Learning very, very quickly

16 October 2013

Graham Kavanagh on player recruitment

United manager Graham Kavanagh spoke to us today about keeping things fresh, the importance of attitude and the frustrations which go hand-in-hand with the pursuit of new blood to add to the squad.

“It has been incredibly busy since I got the job,” he said. “The six weeks have been frantic, to say the least, and I am certainly now in the mould of being a manager.

“I purposely went away last weekend and it was nice to have a few days to be able to relax, enjoy ourselves and switch the phone off.”

“I think I am still growing into the role at the moment,” he continued. “I think they say you learn the most about management in the first 90 days. 

“I’m about 35 days or so into that period now and I can honestly say that something new crops up every single day. That means you do learn a little bit more about yourself, and the group, and I think that can only be good for me in the long run.”

On his approach to the task at hand, he said: “I’m trying to keep my ideas and the way I deliver them as fresh as I possibly can. I’m also slowly introducing the principles by which we want to set our goals and targets. That comes down to the small details of how we play and the platform we want to build from. 

“It’s important that we get that across in the right manner every day so that it does feel fresh. That can be difficult, but it’s something we’ve managed to achieve up to now. It’s also important that the players keep buying into what we’re asking of them and, hopefully, it’ll be onwards and upwards from here.”

“The game is all about players,” he commented. “They keep you in a job but they can also get you fired. If they buy into it and perform at the levels expected of them then you have certainly got a chance. 

“Up to now the boys have been absolutely magnificent, even when we haven’t played as well as we would have liked, because the energy levels, determination and the intelligence have all been there for us. I can only say that is first class from my point of view.”

An area the new manager has admitted can be very frustrating, for a number of reasons, has been player recruitment.

“That’s an area I am learning about very, very quickly,” he told us. “Obviously there are commitments every day to the club, the media and other areas like that – that’s just to let people know what’s going on – but the phone calls to and from agents and representatives is through the roof.”

And to highlight the frustrating aspect of the ongoing work to bolster the playing squad he spoke candidly about a player who almost joined the club at the back end of last week.

“We had a deal agreed last Wednesday, with Matthew Bates, and it looked like it was all finalised last Thursday,” he explained. “I was literally on the plane and about to fly to Spain on Friday evening when he called to tell me that he wasn’t coming because he had agreed to go to Bradford. 

“It shows you can put an awful lot of time, effort and attention into getting deals across the line, and I have to say that John [Nixon] has been magnificent. He’s given me scope to do what I want and I really want the signings I make to be effective and positive. I want them to be a benchmark for what we do going forward. Like I say, I’m learning very quickly that even though you want that it can’t always be the case.

“My wife [Ross] is really good with that kind of thing and she basically told me to look at it all in the way that, if they sign, then it was meant to be. If they don’t then that’s fate for you. You accept it and get on with it. There’s no point getting down too much because there’ll be more players just round the corner and it could well turn out better in the long run. 

“I have to say, it’s easy to hear that because it is still in the back of your mind that you have put a lot of time and effort into it. However, if the player isn’t hell bent on coming to the club then maybe it wasn’t for the best.”

“I think you find that unless you’re at a top football club, where players are pulling out the stops to sign for you, then you have to do more and more to get them over the line,” he continued. “It’s almost a case of not giving them any time. 

“If everything is agreed then get it signed as quickly as possible. I think last week the pressure was off us, with us having the weekend off, and Matt wanted to take a little bit of time to think about it. I can understand it from his point of view, because it’s closer to his home and they are higher in the league than us, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not disappointed.”

“This type of thing is part and parcel of the game and you do get an unbelievable amount of phone calls as a manager,” he added. “Players are being offered from every single scout and agent, and every single one of them is the best player ever. That’s what I keep being told, anyway. 

“That’s why we try to get as many people through the door to get a look at them as we can. That’s not always possible but it’s a big help if you can do that.”

New trialist Pascal Chimbonda is another example of that approach.

“I played with Pascal at Wigan and Sunderland and he’s a big character,” Kavanagh said. “He’s had a very good career and, if I’m honest, I thought he’d have gone on and done even bigger and better things. He definitely had the potential to do that. 

“He moved around quite a bit, for whatever reason, and he’s now at that stage where he’s coming to the end of his career. He’s desperate to play football and I know what his character and ability level is like. 

“It’s another one where I wanted to get him in the building to see what he’s like physically, and he is always in great shape. We did some testing on Tuesday, which he did really well with, and especially when you consider he hasn’t been training to the levels we train at for quite a while now. 

“He does need to get right back up to speed but we’ll work on that with him. We haven’t made a decision on where we want to go with it yet but, if it’s working, and if we can agree a deal, then that’s great. 

“That might not be the case because I don’t want to commit to saying we are or aren’t going to sign him. It has to be right for both parties and it’s one, at this moment in time, where it’s good that we have him here so the lads can experience his talent and ability.” 

We’ll have more from Graham Kavanagh on the official website on Thursday where he talks about the Oldham game and what he wants to learn from this weekend’s away trip.

United Player subscribers can see a series of video interviews 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.

Click HERE to see a clip from this interview on our YouTube channel. Follow the same link for more FREE content right from the heart of the club.

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