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MANAGER: Freedom to go and play

Keith Millen looks ahead to the Northampton game

29 October 2021

United’s new boss Keith Millen takes charge of his first game at the Sixfields Stadium tomorrow afternoon [kick off 2pm] when he takes his team up against high-fliers Northampton Town, who are looking to bounce back from the disappointment of relegation last season.

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Speaking ahead of the game, he said: “I speak to a lot of people involved in clubs at this level and there isn’t a lot between the teams at the top and at the bottom.

“You can have a good run of results then lose a couple of key players and the results drop off. What you usually find is that you don’t have much strength in depth in squads, so you need that bit of luck.

“It happened here last year, Carlisle were flying before Covid hit, there was a few injuries and a fixture backlog and the form suffered.

“That’s difficult to deal with at any club, so you need that little bit of luck and you need your best players to stay fit.”

“Every team will have good spells and bad spells,” he added. “You’ve just got to make sure the bad spells don’t last for very long. Northampton are flying, I’ve watched a couple of videos of them and they’ve got a nice pitch, so it will be a good place to go and play football.

“That’s our challenge within the time we have, I’ve got to work out how much information I can give to the group without them losing track of what they need to be doing. They’ve got to have that freedom to go and play, but hopefully within a structure.

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“I’ve watched a lot of our games recently and I’m here because the manager’s changed, Gavin’s done a great job, I’ve been in his position as a caretaker so I know what it’s like, it’s not an easy position to be in.

“He’s put his stamp on the team, slightly changed the shape. I’ve had discussions with him and the rest of the staff. What can I change in just a few days? Not a lot. Because what I don’t want to do is have the lads going out there on Saturday thinking what does the manager want me to do there, should I do this - they’ve got to have that freedom to go and play.

“But I need to try and get a structure of what I want into them, without overloading that information. Things like organisation, set piece organisation, where you’re just putting people in places, I think that’ quite an easy thing to do and you don’t have to think about it too much.

“What I am aware of is that when the game’s going on, they can’t be thinking about what the manager’s told them, they need to be getting on with playing their game.”

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With the teams currently at opposite ends of the table, he commented: “I’m not ignoring where we are. Definitely not. You can’t ignore that, without a doubt, because it is having an effect on the confidence and belief.

“But you can’t do anything about that, we’re where we are and all we can do is change it going forward. All you can do is concentrate on Saturday. We can’t let it drown us though. We’ve got a lot of games still to play, if it was five games to go, it’s a different conversation.

“Then you know the pressure’s on, when you know you’ve got to win games, it’s a totally different mindset to where we are now. The idea is, it’s a new manager coming in, new ideas, whether we’re third from bottom or third from top, my ideas wouldn’t change.

“So for me, yes, we know where we are, but the process of getting out of that is having this mindset. And it would be the same mindset if we were in the top three, let’s go and win on Saturday. If we don’t, right, what did we not do well, what can we improve, and then we move onto the next game. And then hopefully you get that momentum, and you end up where you end up.”

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And on taking his place in the technical area for the club for the first time, he said: “That’s the bit I’ve really missed because you can’t replicate it. You can do all this with the press, all the training, but it’s that 90 minutes in the technical area, that’s what you build all this for.

“My experiences of dealing with that pressure situation of being in there, I think will help. As it’s going on you need to analyse what’s happening in a game. I’ll have the staff behind me, helping me, and it’s what you say at half-time, what you say at the end of the game, it’s all key. It’s huge.

“I’ve worked with some brilliant people at dealing with situations during the game. I like to think tactically I know a lot about the game, so if things need to change I’ll be able to see that and do it.

“I do like to think people will see an identity to what we’re doing. The better you become, the more you can say, well, this is us. We’re not at that stage yet. But that’s where I want us to be eventually.”

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