Caretaker boss Gav Skelton confirmed at his Thursday morning press conference that a difficult start to the week had given way to an increase in intensity as the players dusted off and knuckled down to the job at hand.
“It’s always difficult to get news like that,” he said. “I had a good relationship with Chris, it really grew over his time here. He’s an experienced coach and personally I’ve learned things off him.
“We got on well so I’ve spoken to him a couple of times. I’m sure he’ll go on to do good things. He has so much experience and the number of players he’s brought through is testament to that.
“He’ll be better for what he’s done here and I really enjoyed working with him. He showed a lot of respect to me and I’ll always appreciate that.
“For the players, they’re all different in how they handle it. The experienced ones have been through it before, but it was the first time for some of the younger ones, and it is more difficult for them.
“Footballers are footballers and they are resilient, and they do know that they have to get on with it. Monday was quiet, but they trained really well on Tuesday, as they generally do.”
On how things feel when the news is first revealed, he told us: “It is a weird feeling, and you can see that it affected some players in different ways.
“The experienced lads are more resilient, and the younger professionals were perhaps a bit more shocked and wondering what was going on. The older lads helped with that and very quickly the focus was on training and the game coming up.
“It was difficult on Monday, but that’s always the case when this happens. Chris brought most of these players here and he had a good relationship with them. They all really respected him, but they dusted down and got on with it.
“Tuesday it was more a case of them saying they needed to draw a line under it, and it was time to start moving forward. As harsh as that sounds, that’s football, and we have to make sure that there’s an energy in the building that pushes us on.
“They’re in good spirits this morning, but it’s one thing doing it during the week, it’s about doing it when it matters on Saturday. We’re confident that we can put in a good performance and get a good result.
“Chris recruited a lot of the lads and they all have so much respect for him. He’s made them all better players and they potentially have to look at themselves and think that they owe the gaffer one, so it’s an incentive for them to win.”
Having taken the job on a caretaker basis, he subsequently flat batted any further questions about his plans for the immediate future.
“I got a phone call on Sunday to see if I was happy to take training on Monday, and going forward into the game,” he explained. “Obviously I said yes because as a Cumbrian I want the club to do well and I want to help if I can. That’s why all of our focus is on this next game.
“Longer-term, that’s not my domain. For me it’s about Tranmere and being the best caretaker, assistant or coach I can be, whatever it is I’m asked to do. It’s about the football club and about getting three points in the next game we play.
“I’ll be very proud if we get three points, but that’s the same for every game. We want to win, it’s what we pride ourselves on, and I know the fans feel exactly the same way.”
Stepping into the role is the consequence of a tough run of recent results, with a need for goals and a good performance another top priority.
“The squad is good enough, we’ve seen glimpses of it, but we haven’t seen enough of it,” he said. “We have to work hard at that and the players know they have a responsibility to step up and not to hide behind anything.
“We’re in a difficult position but we have enough ability and character in the squad to be doing much better than we are. They’re just words, anybody can say that, so it comes down to performing when it matters.
“But we definitely have the tools to fix this. The frustration is around because we aren’t winning games. That’s the same for any club at every level.
“We know we have players here who can get results, but talk is cheap. It’s about making it happen as far as I’m concerned.
“We have players who have a pedigree of scoring and it’s just trying to help them to rediscover the confidence in doing that. It’s getting used to putting the ball in the back of the net, no matter how it goes in.
“If they’re doing it in training they start to get a feel for it. Once we get that first goal it’ll be amazing, and things will feel different. Whatever sport you play, it’s sometimes just about confidence. If we do get that first goal it will be amazing how much you’ll see the belief come into everything else.”
“I know on Saturday that some people will feel I’ll have to win them over, but I think you always have to do that,” he concluded. “Some won’t like you whatever happens.
“I think even when you’re doing well, 70% of people like you and the rest don’t. If it isn’t going well, it goes the other way. It’s just how it is and all you can do is the best job you can.”
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