In the second part of our interview with new boss Keith Millen he spoke about the need to hit the ground running at the same time as working intelligently to introduce his own standards and practices.
“Without a doubt there’s something here to work with,” he said. “There’s enough quality in the squad. I don’t like to say not just with this squad, but with any squad, that they’re under-achieving. They’re not, because they are where they are after so many games.
“But, there are some talented players in there with very good attitudes. They maybe just need a different voice, a slightly different way of playing, sometimes you don’t always know what makes them tick until you actually work with them.
“There are certain fundamentals that I put in place, and they’re non-negotiable, and within that I then have to work out a way of getting the best out of them.”
And it really is a case of hitting the ground running with his first game in charge at Northampton just three days away.
“It’s not ideal,” he agreed. “Having two days to prepare them for a game is difficult, so on my way up here I was thinking about the fact that I now have to prioritise everything I need to do.
“Too much information in two days and the lads will go out there and they won’t know what’s going on. I need to sit down with Gavin [Skelton] and the staff and see what they’ve done so far this week.
“It might just be a case of tweaking a few things because if we can get some sort of result on Saturday then we’ve got a free week leading up to the cup game which will be a good period where I can really get to work with them.”
Part of that process will be a return to management for an experienced coach who is now looking to stamp his own authority within the role.
“I’ve managed before, and I’ve been very fortunate in my career in that I’ve been in the Premier League, the Championship and League One,” he commented. “One of the reasons I went to Sweden was that I wanted to try a different culture.
“Part of that was wanting to further my education, and I loved it. Going over there allowed me to do things with a clean template because they told me to come in and set up what I wanted to set up.
“I had a way of working and playing and they allowed me to just get on with it. Coming back from Sweden it was a case of – right, now I’ve done that – and I knew that I’d love to get involved with the Football League and get it going again.
“That’s why I’m so excited about this opportunity. Speaking to the chairman, the board and David [Holdsworth] they’ve made it clear that they want me to just get on with the football side of things and that’s what I enjoy, that’s what my strengths are.
“It’s about getting on the grass and working with the players.”
As for doing that work in the northern wilds of Cumbria, with his home base in Surrey, he commented: “That doesn’t matter to me, look, I’ve been to Sweden.
“This is much closer than that. I spoke to my wife and children, and the dynamics of my family has changed. My children are slightly older now and my wife knows I’m only ever really happy when I’m involved in football.
“She understands the game and what it means to me, so I will be up here and when I’m here I will be here, if you get what I mean. I’m not one of these who will get back to London at every opportunity, I’m here to work and I’m committed to the job.
“This is a great chance for me to not so much get my career going again, but I feel that with everything I’ve done and the experience I have I’ll be wasting all of that if I don’t get to a football club where I can go and put them in place. That’s hopefully what will happen here.”
“With the way that these appointments go it is difficult to break into what you might call the manager merry-go-round,” he explained. “One of the reasons I went to Sweden was that I felt that if I went there and I was successful, all of a sudden on your CV you come back to England and you’re off and running again.
“What I’ve found is that it’s out of sight out of mind. If you go out of the country for a few years you come back and you find you’re forgotten a little bit.
“That’s what I’ve found difficult over the last six months or so. I’ve stayed in the game, I’ve been working with the FA doing some coaching, which I’ve really enjoyed, and I’ll continue to do that if it fits with what’s needed here.
“That side of things has helped me to look at it from a more educational point of view, but it is tough to break in. You want to be successful but sometimes you have to gauge what success is.
“It’s difficult for some people to understand the intricacies, because the simple gauge is that you have to win football matches. But at certain clubs you might have a way of playing that develops players and the club then makes money on selling them.
“Some clubs don’t necessarily think about promotion, but this club is one that wants to be successful. I want the young players to come through and help with that, and I’m a big believer in getting the youth team close to the first team.
“When I was at Halmstad we got five young players into the first team and the following year two of them were sold for a lot of money. That’s the business, certainly at this level. Young players tend to be sold.
“You also have to look at where we are and when is the right sort of time to feed them in. Having been through my career I know I’m ready for whatever this challenge is.
“The experiences I’ve had at different levels are all good and tough experiences. They are what they are and you’re a fool if you don’t learn by them. I always reflect on managers I’ve worked with, and on clubs I’ve managed, and I think about what will work well and what won’t.
“My knowledge of that, for me, is second to none and now I have to put it in place at this football club. Standards and discipline are big things for me, and it doesn’t matter what level you’re at, you can still drive them.
“It’s not all about how much money you’ve got or how big your staff is, there are always things you can try to improve, so I’ll have a good look at the club and see where we are.
“My main focus is obviously on the playing squad. I’ve got to get them playing as close as they can to their potential, and we have 10 games now until the January window.
“That gives me a great chance to look at the squad and it gives them a chance to say this is me, this is how good I am. Hopefully come January we’re in a good place and if we are bringing people in it’s to enhance what is already here, and that’s certainly how it should be.”
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