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Interviews

INTERVIEW: It's good to be back

Paul Farman on a frustrating period

26 January 2021

Keeper Paul Farman has become a huge part of the solid streak that has been a feature of United's defence this season with an approach to his job which is both committed and reliable.

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We caught up with him this week, just as the group was returning to training, to get his take on what has been an excellent first half of the season for him at his new club.

“The last few weeks have been frustrating because we were doing well as a team and we were enjoying coming into work every day," he told us. "It’s a shame it was put to a halt because of this, but I think it was kind of inevitable. We obviously tried our best to manage it, but I think it will happen to every club at some point.

“It’s good to be back now and we’re right back into the thick of it with loads of games coming up, which is what every player wants. With the Leyton Orient and Harrogate games being called off before the isolation as well, it does make it even more frustrating.

“In the time off we’ve had we’ve just been told to go away and make ourselves better and ready for coming back. We’ve all been working on things we needed to improve on and followed the programmes we were given.

"We’re just looking forward to getting back on the pitch. It was weird waking up and not going into training or being able to do anything but, like I say, we're through that now and it's time to kick on again."

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And with the squad now chomping at the bit with the first set of training sessions under the belt, he commented: "We’ve obviously still got the rules to follow, but it’s nice to be back around the lads again.

"We’ve all got our masks on and there are only certain numbers allowed in certain rooms, but it’s nice to be doing what we all want to be doing.

“The main thing is getting out onto the pitch and playing games. We’re straight into the Newport game after a couple of days of training and that’s what it’s going to be like now.

"We’ve got Saturday–Tuesday games every week. Hopefully we’ll be able to take the work we’ve put in during this lockdown into the next run of games and it will benefit us when we’re out there."

Something which provided a welcome distraction for the lads as well as the fans was Rhys Bennett's charity stream, which raised over £4,000.

"It was good to get involved with Beno’s stream the other day," he told us. "I’ve actually followed him for quite a while on Twitch because it’s something I might look at doing myself.

"It was a great effort from him and it raised so much money for an important charity. It’s one that means a lot to me because I lost a friend, so it’s great that he smashed his £500 target.

"He’s a credit to himself and to the club, but the fans were great and they put their hands in their pockets to donate.

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“When I put it on my Twitter that I’d given a pair of gloves and boots I had fans from other clubs messaging me as well. It just goes to show that the football community is tight knit when it comes to things like this.

“It was good for us as players to be able to talk to fans in the chat and things as well. Obviously I’ve only been here this season, so I think I’ve only actually played in front of our fans in five games.

"Usually by this point I’d have been into a few schools and done bits and pieces in the community to get to know the people who support us.

"I think some fans won’t realise how much we, as players, and I think this period of games behind closed doors will have made people really appreciate how much of a big part fans play in football. At the moment, it’s like the heart and soul of the club isn’t there on a match day, and that’s why it’s important for us to represent the club well when the fans can’t be here.

"We’re just trying to win games of football for people who wish they could be there but are still supporting the club by watching iFollow and putting money into the club."

Working on from that, a major theme of the interviews is the dressing room, and how well they all get on both on and off the pitch.

“I’ve been in a few good dressing rooms but this one is right up there," he admitted. "Even Beno’s stream that we’ve just been talking about, there were so many lads giving him things to raffle off and getting involved.

"It’s a really young and hungry dressing room, I don’t think I’ve ever been one of the older lads, but it’s a real pleasure to come into work every day and see a bunch of lads who all want to do so well for the club, for themselves and their careers.

"Nobody is willing to settle, we all want to play higher, and that’s the sign of a good dressing room when you’ve got everyone thinking the same way."

The much talked about return to action is the Tuesday night trip to Rodney Parade to face fellow pace-setters Newport County.

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“Newport are obviously up there with us so we know it'll be a tough game," he said. "Whenever I’ve played them it’s always difficult. They’ve got some good, experienced players and they’ve obviously continued playing games when we haven’t, so that will be a benefit for them.

"The home game against them was a tough game and it will be the same when we go down, there but we’re all looking forward to it."

And on his own form, he commented: “I’ve been pleased, but that’s testament to what the gaffer and the coaches have got going here.

"I feel great and training has been spot on. It’s an environment where you feel like you can tell the staff what you’re feeling and you get listened to. That's a big thing because it shows that there’s a real trust between us all. I’ve loved every minute of being here so far and long may it continue.

“As for my shouting, the gaffer jokes about my football tourettes and he tells me to drink herbal tea instead of caffeine before games, but it’s something I’ve always done - I can’t help it!

"I like to be heavily involved in the game and it helps me to keep switched on during a match. The lads in front of me in the back four like it and I think it helps them, but sometimes I try to be a bit quieter for the gaffer."

“I think it’s eight clean sheets out of 21 in the league now, which isn’t bad going," he added. "Clean sheets are always good but it’s a massive team effort.

"The whole team are trying to stop goals going in, and it obviously helps if we can do that because it then gives us a real chance to go on and win games. Clean sheets make us all happy, especially when we can back it up with a win, and it’s something to keep building on.

"We’ve got the eight, we’ve set ourselves a target, which we’ll hopefully get to, then we'll have to set ourselves another target so we keep pushing on.

“We’ve had a few changes in the back four but it just shows the good work the staff are doing with the lads who aren’t playing as often because every time anyone has had to step in they’ve always played well.

"We’ve got such a good attitude throughout the squad. The lads who aren’t playing want to make themselves better every day and make sure they’re match fit for when they’re called upon.

“I’m not going to tell you what the target is but clean sheets are a big part of any successful side. It goes back to what I was saying about the boys being hungry to do well, we all want to improve as players all of the time. If we keep that mindset going into games we’ll give ourselves a real chance come the end of the season."

“It doesn’t matter that we’ve had a while without a game or only a couple of training sessions, we’ll be going to Newport backing ourselves to get a good result," he concluded. "If you don’t do that you may as well just wave your white flag before you even kick off.

"We’ll be going there looking to get another three points and get the momentum that we had going again."

But, having seen that Tom King did the other night, we wondered if there was a goal to come at the other end for a keeper who has an absolute whopper of a kick.

“I’ve played against Tom quite a lot and I am pretty jealous that he scored for Newport last week!" he admitted. "I would love to score, ideally I’d like it to be a Shearer-esque header, but that probably means we’re losing a game and I’ve had to go up for a corner late on.

"It would be nice to score from a goal kick but I’ll just leave it to the other lads and concentrate on keeping the clean sheets!”


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