It seems like only yesterday that defender Morgan Feeney came through the door (it’s coming up to a year in January since he made the move from Sunderland) and it’s been a lesson in determination and patience with him having overcome a frustrating injury - picked up during his first training session with his new club - to now starting regularly as he builds up an excellent rapport with the fans.
Covid cancellations, managerial changes, postponed fixtures, you name it, it’s all been part of the package for the 22-year-old who still insists that there is much more to come, both on a personal level and with the team.
“The last year has flown by, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he told us. “Hopefully I can stay here a bit longer and I can do well for the club.
“I had a stop-start time with injuries, then obviously the season was stopped with covid, so I’ve had to be patient. But I’ve had a good run of games lately and I’d like to think I’ve done ok. Hopefully I can keep that going and stay in the team.”
Always focussed whatever the situation, he confirmed that his outlook is to continue to work hard, even when not involved in the starting eleven.
“It’s just the way I look at things,” he said. “I can only affect the things I can control so I just concentrate on that. Sometimes things are out of my control, if I can’t get in the team for whatever reason, I can only do well on the training pitch and wait for my opportunity, which is what I’ve done.
“I do believe in what I can do and I like to think I can bring something to the team when I’m given the chance. I’ve had that mindset throughout - when I get that chance I’ll take it and put my stamp on it.
“The reason I’m here is that I just want to play as many games as possible and keep that going and do well. Personally I still don’t think I’m near where I want to be, or where I was before my injury.
“I’m working my way back there and I’d like to think I’m heading in the right direction. I’m not overly pleased at the moment, because I want to be back to where I was. I think you have to have that desire.
“Physically I feel great, feel sharp, feel ready. And mentally as well, I feel great. I’ve been waiting for my opportunity, been doing everything right off the pitch, so to get a run in the team now I’m really enjoying it and hopefully I can stay there.”
It goes without saying that a change of manager brings with it a level of uncertainty, with players challenged with showing a new set of eyes what they’re about.
“It’s tough when a manager gets sacked, it’s never nice to see it,” he confirmed. “It was a strange one for me because I played a little bit before the previous manager left, so it was a bit of a strange time after that, during the transition.
“Gav was in charge and I played a couple of games, then I was out of the team again, then the new manager came, so there was a lot going on. I had to be patient once again and bide my time.
“In a way you not so much refocus, because you’re focused anyway, but you know you’ve got to show the new manager what you can do, particularly when you’ve been used to training with coaches who know you already.
“You’ve got to hit the ground running and show what you’re about. The gaffer pulled me for a chat early on and told me what he’d seen of me already and what he thinks of me, and what he feels I can do for the team. It was a good chat and I knew where I stood straight away.”
Performances have improved since the arrival of the new gaffer, but results have still eluded a team that has been visibly frustrated at its league position.
“The results haven’t been what we’ve wanted but I feel like the performances have been better and we’re really close to getting a run of wins,” he insisted. “Clean sheets are what me and the other defensive players are about, so if we can get them then we’ll win more games than we lose.
“We’ve maybe drawn or lost a game lately where you don’t know how we’ve come away from it not having won. That’s why you’ve just got to distance yourself from the table a little bit.
“We haven’t paid much attention to it in the dressing room because we know we’re a lot better and we know it’s only a matter of time before the wins start rolling in.
“That’s a good thing, but it’s tough as well because you’re coming in after a game and feeling really deflated. It’s strange because we’ve had a lot of positives to take from games, but everybody hates losing.
“When you go through the video analysis and see all of the good work, and we’re doing it on the training pitch as well, you know it’s down to missing a goal or a sloppy mistake and you concede.
“It’s down to small margins in the end, and that’s what’s been really frustrating, because we should have won games where we haven’t.”
“You’ve got to dig deep within yourself at times like this because when things are going well and you’re winning it’s easy to turn up, play well and be confident,” he continued. “When the chips are down you’ve got to pull together and as an individual you’ve got to sort yourself out and up your game, because that’s what the team needs.
“I want to contribute more, with clean sheets and from set pieces in the opposition box. I like to think I get a couple of goals a season, so I want to get a few.
“That’s the same for all of us, we all want to be getting goals. We scored from a set piece in the last game so, yeah, I’d like a couple.
“If you look back to Stevenage, the feeling was amazing. We were really confident going into it. We knew it would be a different battle, almost, to if we were playing at home.
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“It was a League Two battle really, but we knew we had enough in the dressing room to go on and win it. The feeling after it was really good, we’d needed that for a while, and it was really enjoyable.
“Everything we felt we’ve been piecing together, we’ve just missed the result somehow, just to get the win, psychologically, we know we can do it, we know there’s more to come and we’ve got more goals in us.
“To win 2-0, confidence is high at the minute. That’s why it was disappointing to lose the Bradford game. Hopefully there won’t be many of those. It was tough to take because we’d prepared really well.
“We just wanted to play, we were on a high, and we wanted to get the momentum going. Hopefully it gets contained and we don’t end up in the same situation as last season.”
And next up for United is the visit of Rochdale on Boxing Day, a game to kick off what will be a steady procession of fixtures.
“Ask anyone in the dressing room and that’s how we like it, we want the games coming thick and fast,” he said. “You play a game on the Tuesday, Wednesday, whatever, the more games the better.
“It’s more taxing on your body but a quick turnaround sometimes helps, whether you get the result you want or don’t. The next one is either a chance to put it right or something to build on.
“There are plenty of points there as well. With the feeling in the dressing room we feel we can take maximum points from them all. That’s where we are at the moment and that’s what we’ll be looking to do.
“It feels like its been a long time since we played, but training’s been really good. We’ve had a couple of tough sessions and some good tactical sessions. We’re all just like coiled springs waiting to go.
“Even with the Covid situation, you’ve just got to get on with it. It’s been going that long now it’s sort of become the norm, just to keep the restrictions in place, distancing, testing, masks, it becomes second nature.
“It’s something we’ve got to get on with. Hopefully it’s not always going to be like this. It’s a strange scenario, just been put to the back of our mind a bit, it’s second nature.”
But come Christmas dinner time with the family, does he tuck into a huge turkey leg with all of the trimmings, or is it a bit of breast and one eye on the calories?
“My prep is the same for every game,” he told us. “Although it’s Christmas Day it will be match day minus one for me, so I’ll be doing everything right to make sure I get the right fuel in and good sleep.
“It’s just about doing things right and then hopefully on Boxing Day it will be a decent crowd. We’ve had the long wait to play at home, the occasion of it being Boxing Day, we’re hoping we can get a big win and we’re all looking forward to it.
“Beyond that I just want to play as much as possible and do well. I want to get back to where I was before my injury in terms of performances. Getting back really sharp, where I was, keep improving and kick on from there.”
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