Assistant head coach Gav Skelton committed his immediate future to the Blues 10 days ago as he extended his stay with the club until the summer of 2022.
Having been appointed to the assistant’s role in 2019, he carried that on later that year when Chris Beech took over the reins, and his since forged a strong bond with the manager as they worked hard to turn the on-field fortunes of the club round.
Having signed for the club’s centre of excellence as an eight-year-old, he admitted this week that it was a privilege, as a Cumbrian, to be working in the industry he loves here at Brunton Park.
“I know it sounds corny but it’s great to get it sorted and be involved at the club, especially at the moment,” he said. “When you’re going well you’re desperate to keep it going and going.
“When you speak to people you can tell they’re excited about it. You feel that excitement and you’re desperate to work even harder to try and maintain that and do it even better.
“I’m obviously delighted to get it sorted, it’s good for me personally, really excited about it, nice to put it to bed and keep the focus on this season.
“Being from Cumbria and living locally, it’s brilliant because of all the interest. When you drop the kids off at school people ask you, when you’ve had a good result you please people, but people will comment [whatever the result] – you go into the shop or post office, everyone comments, and if results are going positively it’s much better.”
Obviously having the contract sorted means it’s one less thing to think about at what is always a busy time.
“It’s great having it done because it makes you feel a little bit at ease,” he told us. “Especially in football, contracts, you never know what’s going on, and if it’s up in the summer it’s on your mind.
“Results are everything, we all know that. If you’re winning games, your contract’s alright, if you’re not, your contract becomes vulnerable. That’ll never change if you’re a player or manager, or on the coaching side.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with a couple of managers, you’re conscious that you need results to help the manager stay in the job and that helps you stay in the job.”
“When it came to signing, it happened quickly,” he explained. “I think I got offered it on the Wednesday, agreed it within an hour – I don’t think I even told my wife actually – and signed it on Boxing Day.
“It’s good because it helps your own confidence to grow when you know others have confidence in you. It’s the same as a player, when you’re full of confidence you probably work better.
“I do feel I’m growing stronger into the job. I’ve got a long way to go to what I want to do and be, but I feel as if I’m improving, which is important.”
With things having gone so well over the past 12-months, he also admitted that it was something to be enjoyed, but always with a hint of caution.
“You just never know what will happen in football,” he commented. “You never know what’s round the corner, that’s why you have to work even harder.
“Football has a habit of kicking you up the backside if you switch off. If you’re doing ok, which we are at the moment, you’re on the radar, but we’re conscious we have to do more, and work even harder to maintain where we want to get to.”
Speaking more about the working relationship with Chris Beech, he said: “We didn’t know each other before he came in but the relationship is definitely developing.
“We know how each other works, I’m enjoying that side of it and if we can continue to work well together that will be positive for everybody.
“How we work together is something that constantly evolves. Games come thick and fast, there’s always something pops up for a player, especially in the Covid environment. Whether it’s travelling, training, the weather, etc, you never really get time.
“It just evolves and you do what’s in front of you. I know what he looks for now, he knows my personality probably better now too, and we both work within that.
“We’re almost doing something or working on something 24/7 so you have to get on and understand each other. You don’t really get the chance to think about it, it sounds a bit dramatic but it’s constant.
“You know what professional football clubs are like, there’s always something going on. As we’ve got to know each other better we’ve started to work quicker and more naturally, and it’s helped us both a lot.”
A factor of the way the management team has worked through a difficult and unprecedented set of circumstances in 2020 was to always be on the front-foot, demanding more from everybody in the building, whatever their role.
“You get greedy, you always want better, it’s great to win, a great feeling, but you don’t want that feeling to go away,” he told us. “It makes everything better in life, daft as it sounds, makes your weekend better, home life better, coming to training better.
“We’re top of the table – great – but we have to maintain that. With 25 games to go you look at what points you need, because it’s a long time where we need to stay up there, and everybody will be looking to take our place.
“It’s easy to say but we’ve got a good group of lads to work with, they’re hungry to do well, and you can feel that spirit in the building. That’s important because with five months to go we’ll meet some tough challenges. That’s why we need to maintain the positive environment we’ve created.”
One of the challenges mentioned is the ongoing virus crisis which continues to impact on every area of life.
“That’s challenging, but we’re grateful – to get to come to work every day and work in a football club and be involved in football, we know we’re lucky to be able to continue through this,” he commented. “It’s great that you come to work and get a bit of craic, and then I’m going home to see my family.
“I’m lucky in that way, I do something that’s really great, coming to work every day, and we’re fully aware of how fortunate we are. It is a job, but a job I really enjoy doing and I wouldn’t swap it for something else.
“We want to work even harder because we know it’s even more important to fans at this time. The manager and Rhys Bennett getting their nominations this week is part of that.
“That’s brilliant, it shows things are going well, bit it’s like beating the same drum – it’s great if people get awards, but the award you want is after 46 games and success at the top end of the table.
“It’s great short-term, but long-term it doesn’t change where you want to be, that’s why you don’t get chance to breathe. You enjoy the wins, but don’t properly enjoy it because you always want the next win, and you’re desperate to try and do well so that it becomes a successful season.”
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