Caretaker manager Gavin Skelton admitted at his Friday press conference that, despite what has been a tough week, the focus for him, his staff and his players is completely on getting a positive result when the Blues take on the Valiants at Vale Park tomorrow.
“It’s been a difficult week,” he agreed. “It always is when someone loses their job. Sometimes people just see the football side of it, but the gaffer was a really good man.
“He was really fair with me and with the players, and I don’t think you’ll hear anyone around the building say a bad word about him. It’s really disappointing for him, but he appreciates that football moves on, and everyone in the club wishes him all the best.”
“He treated everyone with respect and treat everyone as a human being, which is sometimes forgotten about in the world of football where results are everything and people are judged on that,” he added. “I know that just about every single player has been in touch with the gaffer to thank him for his efforts with them.
“We’re all professionals and we’ve all been through this kind of thing before. It’s a situation we’ve all been in, so whatever your own feelings are we’ll work hard to make sure we represent the club well on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s obviously changed the dynamic between the staff here now because you’ve lost your leader. The staff have been fantastic, and we’ve all worked really well together. From kit man Col, the media team, to Dolly, who is an excellent physio with a lot of experience, we’ve had a few meetings and we’ve made sure we’re solid in terms of what we need to tell the players ahead of the game tomorrow.
“We look forward to working as a team and we’re all just focused on tomorrow afternoon. Obviously some of the players will be disappointed, because the gaffer brought them in and he had a good relationship with them. Footballers are resilient and they’ll be bang on in training again today. We’ll go to Port Vale in good heart and hopefully we’ll get a positive result.”
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With the news coming as a shock to many on Wednesday morning, he confirmed that he’d spoken to both the outgoing manager and the board of directors about the decision that had been made.
“The manager spoke to me on Wednesday morning, then the club got in touch with me on Wednesday afternoon,” he confirmed. “That was when they asked me to take training on Thursday and Friday, then the match at Port Vale.
“As staff and players, that’s all our focus has been on. The next game always comes around quickly in football, so we’re focussing on that. When I spoke to Steven, he was disappointed. He’s put a lot into it.
“His work ethic is unbelievable, his detail … he puts a lot into it. Obviously he was disappointed. He wished us all the best, sent a message for me to pass on to the players to thank them for their efforts. He’s thinking about the players and the club, not just himself.”
As for what happens next, the obvious question was to ask whether or not he will be looking to make the step up to the managerial hotseat.
“I haven’t put my CV in, and my focus is just on the game at Port Vale,” he insisted. “Once we get to Monday we’ll go from there. I’m sure the club have a recruitment process ongoing, but a lot has happened this week, it’s been a full-on week, so our focus is just on the Port Vale game on Saturday at the moment.
“I haven’t thought about what might happen in the future because it has been such a crazy few days. I really enjoy working at the football club and I really enjoy the role I’ve got at the moment. I really enjoyed working with the manager and this is a club I want to work at.
“I’ve enjoyed my role in terms of being assistant manager, which is a step up from working with the U18s, which I also really enjoyed last year. We’ll see what happens after the weekend but, and like I keep saying, getting three points at Port Vale is the most important thing for us right now.
“Once Monday comes we’ll worry about what happens next, but that’s all we’re thinking about at the moment. I’ve been asked to take training and to take the game on Saturday, and I’m sure there is a process, or at least is there is going to be a process.
“As I say, I haven’t put my CV in, and I know I keep batting it back and it’s not the answers you want, but my focus is just on Saturday. I really enjoy working at the football club, everyone knows that.
“Whatever role, I love it here, I do genuinely enjoy my role. I’m keen to stay at the football club and work at the football club. I genuinely haven’t thought of anything beyond Port Vale. I enjoy my role and we’ll just get Saturday out of the way. Whatever the board ask me to do I’m genuinely happy to do it.”
And speaking more about the reaction from the players to the events of this week, he told us: “I spoke to the players before training on Thursday morning. The manager brought a lot of those players in and they all really respected him, but they have to focus on the next game.
“They were disappointed, but we spoke about it and we trained well. Friday is all about concentrating on the game, and as professional footballs I expect and know they will be right on it tomorrow.
“They’re disappointed for Steven, but they understand that unfortunately this is football and they have to get on with it, and they will get on with it. In terms of performances, they know they can certainly produce better.
“It is a newish team, we’re only 16-17 games in, which seems a lot, but it is a newish team, and as a team there is more to come. In the last month or so at times there have been false dawns, etc, but there have been signs that there is a team in there.”
“Like I say, it’s a strange time right now, but we have good staff right around the club who’ve been very supportive,” he commented. “Football’s no different from any workplace. If a colleague goes it does change the dynamics for a day or so.
“But the staff have been great. We’ve had a meeting this morning, it’s clear what’s expected from each other and in what we need to do to pass information on to the players. You don’t have to change a lot, but we all have different personalities, and certain players will pick up different bits from that. That’s just the way different people react.
“We’ll be doing our best to make sure they’re motivated for Saturday. They are a professional group, they’re a resilient bunch, footballers are footballers and it will be the same at every football club, they’ll just have to crack on, be professional and represent the club. Ultimately we’re desperate to get points to get us up the table asap.”
And on injury news, he also confirmed that this weekend has probably come too soon for midfielder Stefan Scougall.
“We don’t think Stefan will be ready for the weekend,” he told us. “He’s not quite there yet, but we’re hoping that if he isn’t ready for Saturday he’ll be ready for the Saturday after.”
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