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Interviews

MANAGER: You could see that everybody was delighted for him

Keith Millen on togetherness within the group

29 November 2021

Storm Arwen did its best to disrupt things this weekend [and today] but the Blues overcame the worst of the weather to secure a victory, and to sort out a Monday training session, despite some challenging conditions.

We caught up with boss Keith Millen to talk about how the first day of the week had gone, and to get his considered reflections on Saturday’s win.

“Having looked again at the game it was really how I saw it at the time,” he said. “Sometimes I might see it in different ways but when I look back it was a very competitive game in which we needed to compete, and we did.

“They were a physical side, but we dealt with that quite well. We had spells where we controlled the game, but they also had spells, and we had some good spells of possession.

“The good thing was that when they had their possession they never really looked like opening us up. Obviously they had that really early shot, which was poor from our point of view, and they had a decent shot in the second half which went just over the bar.

“That was another moment I wasn’t pleased with from our point of view, but anything that came into the box was dealt with and that was really pleasing.

“We had a good shape about us with and without the ball and there were opportunities we created because of the way we worked the ball.

“I thought our front two worked really hard and well together, and for lads who are only 18 to do what they did, it was fantastic.

“It was just that final ball or the little bits of detail which didn’t quite come off. Both of their centre halves were big lads so for our two to compete like they did was really good to see.”

And we looked again at the manner the victory was claimed with the team having picked itself out of a lull in their performance to then grab their dramatic winner.

“The mindset is changing, but it needed to,” he commented. “I felt we looked really fragile at Northampton and I was concerned when I was looking at the faces in the dressing room after that game.

“That’s improved so much over the days and the weeks since, and if you go in the dressing room now you sense that there’s a determination in there.

“It comes with belief in what you’re doing, and in turn that develops confidence. When I looked at the running stats from Saturday I’ve been told by Greg [Short], our strength and conditioning coach, that they’re the biggest numbers he’s seen since he’s been at the club.

“Now that’s on the back of three games in a week. I look at stats, it’s part of what you do as a coach and as a manager, because they tend to back up what you see with your eye.

“You’ll never find me telling you that we played well just because a particular set of stats are positive or they say that the team has run a certain amount of kilometres – with that one in particular you have to ask if it was effective running.

“But for us to hit figures like that having come out of two defeats, and with plenty of nervous energy around, it shows the players are giving us everything. That’s important to me.

“I spoke to the lads about it this morning and I told them that if they do this kind of thing, and it’s with purpose and it’s effective, they do get the rewards that go with it. That’s what happened for them on Saturday.”

The all-important goal brought with it a swell of positive messages on social media for Tristan Abrahams, who was on the end of a delightful pass from Rod McDonald at the very moment it mattered most.

“I think Tristan’s running stats went through the roof when he scored,” he joked. “He ran half the length of the pitch and that showed how much it meant to him.

“It will be a big relief for him, there’s no doubt about that, and the challenge for him now is to kick on. He’s worked really hard in the last few games, he’s got his goal and he deserves that.

“Now he has to go again. He needs to keep finding those areas where he hurts teams and keep looking to be in that right place at the right time type scenario that got him Saturday’s winner.

“We want to see him on one of those runs that forwards enjoy, and fingers crossed this is a catalyst for that.”

The celebration became a bit of a talking point after the game, with club physio Ross Goodwin explaining the reason behind it.

"I'm not sure how it started but Tristan has been rubbing my bald head for good luck in the last few weeks, and he mentioned that next time he scored he would come over and do it in the dug-out. 

"I saw him sprinting my way and took my hat off in preparation. It was great that it was an important goal to win us the game. 

"It's also great that it's got everybody talking because I think it highlights just how much everybody wants each other to do well." 

And the manager agreed that the pre-planned nature of the celebration was another good sign that the dressing room is together as they look to pick up some momentum.

“It may look daft, and it certainly gets the fans talking when they see the players and staff do things like that, but it does show that the lads are all pulling for each other in a good way,” he said.

“You could see that everybody was delighted for him, they all sprinted after him, and he then did that thing with Ross.

“It does show the togetherness you need when things haven’t been going your way. I’ve said it before but you really do have a chance when you’ve got that feeling that everybody wants everybody to do well.

“That’s what we have and it’s good for the fans that they get to see that. We have a really good, nice group of lads and they just need to remember how to win football matches. The more games we can win the more belief there will be.”

On the subject of togetherness, it was all hands to the pump (or, more aptly, to the snow shovels) this morning when the club staff were out in force to prepare the training surface for an early afternoon session.

“The staff were out there this morning to clear a square so we could do a decent session,” he told us. “We didn’t really want to go on astroturf the day before the game so we were looking at what we could do.

“The staff went out and cleared an area big enough for us to train on. That’s where we have to be as a club.

“You aren’t just a manager or coach, there’s lots of other things you have to do around the place. The work the staff put in was brilliant and I made sure the players appreciated it.”


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