Cumbrian-born caretaker manager Gavin Skelton admitted at his Friday morning press conference that it will be a proud moment when he takes charge of the first team for their away game at Port Vale this afternoon.
Having come through the club’s centre of excellence and, over the past few years, having worked with the academy and as assistant manager, the 38-year-old spoke about the pride he will feel – but was also quick to point out that it wasn’t about that, and that the team and result will be uppermost in his mind.
“It will be a proud moment for my family, but it’s not about myself,” he said. “It’s about the game at Port Vale and trying to get three points.
“Look, it’s been a full-on week, but I will be proud when I’m stood there. There’ll be all sorts of emotions, I have no doubt about that, but it has to be about the team on the day. It has to be about making sure they are motivated.
“I’m sure they will be. We have some good characters in there that will have to lead from the front, and I’ll ask them to lead from the front. They’re professional footballers, they’re paid to be professional footballers and I’m sure they’ll go out to perform.”
On what he’ll be saying to the players, he told us: “I’ll be telling the players to make sure they represent themselves and the team to the best of their ability.
“People will be looking at us as a team and as individuals. I’m sure there will be people watching the game tomorrow, but whether it’s a reserve game or a training session, there’s always someone watching.
“They’ve got to take responsibility for themselves and their own performances, and if they do that and help their team mates it will give us the best opportunity to get a result. I’m sure there will be people watching who have applied for the job, but that isn’t my concern. If that can be a motivation for the players then that’s great.”
And with the Valiants on an excellent run of form, which has taken them to the brink of the play-off places, he said: “John Askey has got a good record, he’s done well there, did well at Macclesfield, and he’s got a good mix.
“People always talk about the big pitch, but that is what it is. It can be a strength for us. We have to be aware that Port Vale can go direct to the big man, but also play some good stuff through the middle thirds.
“They’ve got some exciting players. They performed really well last Saturday, they’ll be full of confidence and we know how difficult it will be. We’re more than capable of getting a result at Port Vale if we apply ourselves in the correct manner. They’re just outside the play-offs, so we’ll obviously respect them, but it’s about how we approach the game.”
“There’s no doubt that they are on a high down there and they’ll come out all guns blazing,” he commented. “We have a game plan and we’ll go there knowing we’ve had a couple of good results recently. We can take confidence from that and we’ll look to put our imprint on the game.
“The aspiration for the players has to be to start to climb up the table. You want to go and get a positive result, then going into the next one you’re excited by that. You take confidence from a game if you win, if you don’t you take a knock and that can affect the next one.
“The other thing is that I know we’ll take good support down there. I know it isn’t exactly local but it’s one of our closest trips, and our fans always travel in their numbers. We’ll make sure we all represent our football club to the best of our abilities.
“All I can ask is that they please stick with us. At the end of the game, whatever you feel, that’s fine. Over 90 minutes it’s vital if they get right behind us, which I’m sure they will.”
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