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MANAGER: I saw it as an excellent opportunity

Chris Beech on his first year in the job

27 November 2020

They tell you that a week is a long time in football, but it has to be said that it feels like the last 12-months, following the appointment of Chris Beech just days before our second round FA Cup trip to Forest Green, have flown by.

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A march away from the bottom end of League Two; a January transfer window with 16 transactions completed; a patience sapping lockdown; the release of 19 players; a hectic and extremely entertaining August recruitment drive and an early season set of performances and results which have taken the club into the play-off places - albeit (as the manager keeps reminding us) with just a quarter of the season so far done – have all conspired to leave us feeling out of breath as we look back on a year that nobody could have predicted.

But what has it been like for the man who walked through the door into a completely new environment having been given the immediate remit of making sure the club stayed up?

“It has gone quickly but it’s so enjoyable that every day still feels like my first day at work, to be honest with you,” he said. “My approach hasn’t changed since day one. What I want is to do my job well, but I don’t take anything for granted as I work hard to make sure that I’m always trying to make something within our working environment better.

“That’s just the way I am. Often you don’t have everything in place that can make it easier, but you should never us that as an excuse.

“You have to adapt to what you have at your disposal and make it work. Being able to do that is a positive skill in any working life, and hopefully it’s what I bring here.”

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The evidence of the last 365 days suggests that is indeed the case, but what attracted him to Brunton Park in the first place?

“Looking back, I wasn’t working and I’d been in football all my life,” he explained. “I loved playing, and I did what I did at my previous clubs in terms of coaching, but I’d never had the opportunity to manage in my own right.

“A lot of that was down to me just being loyal and consistent with the people I worked with. There are different ways to progress your career but I’ve found that if you stick to the simple facts of doing a good job to the best of your ability, all within the restrictions you have, then you will continue to grow, learn, develop and get better at what you do.

“It’s about maximising what’s at your disposal, working hard to better yourself, so that’s what I’ve always done. I’ve never been one to be disloyal or to take an opportunity, because I’ve always felt that the job I’ve been doing has been the important thing to get on with.

“Obviously when you aren’t in work you find yourself treading water, so to speak. I wanted to be in football, the Carlisle job came up and I put myself forward.

“The call came in to say that they’d have a look at me, and I think there were a good half dozen or so people interviewed around that time, I’m not sure on the actual figure. I do know they had over 120 or so serious applicants, so it was good to get in front of the board for the interviews.

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“It was daunting, but at the same time I saw it as an excellent opportunity, and I knew that I had to sell my vision, myself and my philosophy so that I could start to create a bit of a rapport, and trust, and then hopefully I could be considered for the position.

“I was delighted when they gave it to me and I am very, very thankful that I do now have this opportunity.”

With the formalities done and dusted it was then the small matter of heading into the office, meeting the press, and then the staff and players, with that first game against Forest Green just four days away.

“That first day was a whirlwind,” he confirmed. “It was a series of meetings, which started when the board told me I’d got the job, and within two hours I was in the changing room meeting a group of players who had just got back off their Christmas do.

“I’ve been in football for a long time but if you don’t play in the Premier League you don’t really have a reputation that goes begore you. I would imagine most of those players didn’t even know who I was.

“Anybody who is interested in football probably knows who I am, and some of the places I’ve been, but I’m fully aware that I’m not a household name at all.

“The day as a whole was like being trapped in a washing machine, getting bounced from one thing to the other, and then I had a room full of lads who looked hungover but who I knew were just five points away from the relegation zone.

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“It really was like – wow, here we go Chris, the suit’s on today but it’s the tracksuit tomorrow.”

On how he had planned his approach to the task at hand, he told us: “I looked at how the team had played before I came in and how they’d been trying to do things.

“It hadn’t quite been working, which is why they were where they were, and it might sound like I’ve simplified it but I knew that the thing we had to get better at was not losing.

“We were losing too many games and it meant we were floating around at the bottom, which is a really uncomfortable place to be for everyone. Some of the players needed to be reinvigorated, people like Byron [Webster] for example, because they were good players who just needed a gentle push.

“I watched a lot of the DVDs from previous games and I could see where somebody like Aaron Hayden, who hadn’t really had an opportunity, could possibly help us out. Ultimately he’s a very good defender so I looked closely at how I could introduce that into the team.

“I identified that we conceded goals because our wide areas weren’t strong enough, so one minute I was playing Gethin Jones as a left back and the next he was over at right back, or I had Aaron as a right back with a different mix beside him.

“We had to find solutions, quickly, and the only way you do that is by trying things out, but that all must be based on your coaching knowledge and experience, and on what you see in each individual, because it’s them that have to do it for you when it comes down to it.

“When things are tough, as they were when I came in, you have to stay calm and have a plan, and that’s when players will buy in and follow it through.

“If you panic, they panic. We weren’t in any kind of situation where we could have anything other than absolute focus and belief in what we needed to do.”

We’ll have more from the manager on his first year with the Blues on the official website on Saturday morning.


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