Saturday afternoon’s Emirates FA Cup home game against Horsham was a first outing in the home technical area for new boss Keith Millen, and he admitted afterwards that it had felt special to walk out and meet the crowd ahead of kick off.
“It was a proud moment, really proud,” he said. “We did the minute’s silence, and it sort of hits you a little bit, it gets quite emotional standing there.
“It’s a big challenge for me that I’m really looking forward to. The fans were great, really appreciative of what I’m trying to do.
“That relationship with the fans is important for me and also for them trying to support the players as much as possible.
“The players will need the supporters’ support without a doubt, even though it’s not great in terms of results sometimes, it makes a big impact on how the players feel. The relief after the first goal, you could sense it, and hopefully we can take that forward.”
And as for the feeling at full time when the job has been done …
“You can’t beat it, and I told the lads in the dressing room afterwards to enjoy the feeling, and remember what it feels like, because they haven’t felt it for a while,” he commented. “I want them to enjoy having won, and we’ll have time to reflect on what we did well and on what we can improve on next week.
“Without a doubt that’s a big lift for the players, the fans, the club and everyone connected to us. Even though it’s a cup game, it’s a win, and winning games breeds confidence and momentum.
“We knew it was a big game and I was really pleased with a lot of aspects from it. It was good to see the confidence, belief and composure we had on the ball.
“When you’re struggling a little bit with your confidence it’s easier to hide away and not want to be involved as much. We’re a group of players who showed today that we can handle the ball, and if you give them a structure and some understanding, with the movement being right, every time you get into good areas things look better.
“It’s only a case of playing simple football well and it becomes effective. There were signs of that in this game, definitely.
“We had options for the man on the ball, we had runners down the sides, and that will hurt teams if we keep doing it. Some of it caught in the wind, so it wasn’t perfect, and the conditions had a big impact on what we were trying to do with the ball.
“But there was a picture of what we were trying to do, and if the players keep that they’ll become better at what we’re trying to achieve.”
“I was delighted with the performance generally,” he continued. “It was a tough game because everyone said beforehand that it was a cup final for Horsham, and they were fantastic.
“What a journey they’ve been on, and their players have been a credit to Horsham. They gave it a real go, so we respected them.
“I felt we would have a lot of possession, and that’s how it turned out. We’d love an early goal, and I’m sure everyone was praying for that, but it didn’t come.
“Funnily enough I didn’t think we got on the ball as well in the second half as we did in the first, it got a little bit scrappy, and there were probably a few nerves involved with that.
“You can sense that the longer the game goes the crowd feel it, the players pick up on that, and that’s where I try to stay calm in the technical area.
“If I’m looking panicky on the touchline you’re giving off bad signals to the players, so I try to stay calm and keep encouraging them to pass the ball. I felt that Horsham would probably tire and that the opportunities would come, and that’s how it panned out.”
On a day that was all about avoiding the proverbial banana skin, it was more about being in the hat for round two as the manager continues along the path of getting to know his group.
“We knew what was at stake today, and it’s a different kind of pressure,” he told us. “For us it was an opportunity for us to get into the next round of the cup, and I told the players to embrace that.
“If you can get through the next step you never who you’ll play, it might be one of the big boys, and they’re the sort of games and occasions you want in your career. You don’t want to pass that up easily.
“Along with that we also knew, and the whole club knew, the fans, everyone, that we needed to win just to build a little bit of momentum and confidence.”
“Like I say, you have to give massive credit to Horsham,” he continued. “They’ve come here and worked their socks off, they looked dangerous at times and they made it a tough game for us.
“I know the journey they’ve got back because it isn’t far from where I come from, it’s a long journey, but they’ve had a great run in the cup and all credit to them.
“But we have to be pleased with aspects of our game as well. There was a composure to what we did, we didn’t just kick it long, we got some passes in.
“The fans need to understand that sometimes I want us to be patient. If we can’t get in down one side of the pitch and we have to come out and then go, that’s what we have to do.
“Hopefully the fans can see that we’re still trying to score goals, but there’s ways of doing it. We knew we had to move Horsham around, and if we’d stayed rigid and kicked it long, they’d have been in the game for a lot longer than they were.
“We moved it from side to side and you could see their players were tiring, which happens naturally. That’s why I was pleased with the confidence they showed on the ball.”
Click HERE to watch an interview with Keith Millen on iFollow United now.
Click HERE to see a clip from this interview on our YouTube channel. Follow the same link for more FREE content right from the heart of the club.