INTERVIEW: I never thought I'd get to it

Striker Omari Patrick made it eight goals in 18 appearances since his return to the club in January on Saturday afternoon when he stepped across from the left flank to smash home a stunning equaliser during the second half at Prenton Park.

And it was a net bulger that had significance on a personal level as he marked appearance number 100 in the football league with a goal that proved to be extremely important for his team.

Speaking this week about his strike rate with the Blues, he said: “It’s not bad, but I did say in my interview when I first came here that I wanted to improve my numbers, and that’s definitely something I’ve been working on.

“I do feel at the moment that I’m going to get a chance to score in every game. Maybe it’s the change of position, and getting used to being up there in the firing line, I don’t know. It’s good though.”

Manager Paul Simpson revealed in his post-match press conference at the weekend that he’d spent a few minutes with the 25-year-old in the build-up to the game, urging him to be more positive and to utilise his attributes as much as possible in the final third.

“To be honest, even now when I’m doing positive things out on the pitch I feel like I’m holding back a bit,” he told us. “It still feels like I could give more.

“Gav is always talking to me and telling me that sometimes it looks like I’m playing within myself, even though I’m trying to be positive.

“They see me every day, so I think they’re right. That’s why I want to get better and I’ll keep working on giving that extra all the time. It’s about being as confident as I can be.”

The manner of the goal at Prenton Park is becoming something of a trademark, with a burst of pace to take a defender out of the equation followed by an unstoppable drive, and he admitted that it’s something he quite enjoys doing.

“That’s my favourite position for doing that, out on the left wing, and every time I don’t feel the game is going right for me up front, I’ll always kind of drift out to get that safety net back up,” he explained.

“I can get my confidence going that way, so when I go out there it feels very familiar to me, and that’s why I do that most of the time.

“And obviously it was a goal on my hundredth appearance, and it’s crazy that I’ve played that many games in the football league. Even just about four years ago I would never have thought I’d have got to that, so it’s really good.

“Over 50 have been here with Carlisle, and hopefully that gets to a hundred as well. That would be good. I’m happy here and the most important thing is that it still doesn’t feel comfortable.

“I’m still working to make sure I stay in the team every week, so I suppose you could say that I’m comfortable and uncomfortable here at the same time.”

Goals scored often lead to points gained, which has most definitely been the case in recent weeks, and he confirmed that playing a part in the late-season resurrection has meant a lot, with the gap now extended to a much more viewable distance from those bottom two places.

“Like I say, I spoke a lot when I came here about improving my own numbers because I knew that would help the team, and that’s what I wanted to do most,” he commented.

“To be involved in it is so good for me. Mind you, I’ve never been involved in anything like Saturday. I think there were 11 cards, in one game - I’ve only had two in my whole career, so I was happy to stay away from it.

“But the celebrations at the end, it was special watching the fans and it was special watching Dynel as well. He just comes out of nowhere, and being here at the club with someone like him is great.

“You can see the proper connection with the fans and the players and that’s fantastic. Even when I was here previously it wasn’t as much as it is now, even though we’re probably in a worse position. The connection we all have is just brilliant.

“It’s like on Saturday, even out on the pitch and we knew there was so little time to go, I still felt that something would happen. That’s what’s been happening for us lately as well, and it’s all down to the fact we’re not giving up.

“The fans aren’t giving up on us and that keeps us going. When we were 2-1 down and they had 10 men, normally the fans would be on your back and asking you what you’re playing at, kind of thing.

“They didn’t do that, they cheered us and roared us and when you feel that as players you can make things happen.”

Having already spoken about the chats he has with the manager and his assistant, we wondered what it does for a player to know that there are people who are constantly looking and pushing to make him get better.

“It’s definitely refreshing,” he said. “Having a manager that gives you so much freedom to let you do what you can do - I haven’t had that so much in my career, probably just a couple of managers, and Simmo is one of them.

“Coming from Burton, I didn’t have as much freedom as I would like, so to come here and get this, it’s been a big part of me being able to create and score goals with the confidence it gives me.

“And playing beside Denno is good as well. We’ve never even really spoken about anything, we just 'get' each other. We do things without even communicating and it’s a really good fit.

“He watches me and I watch him, and I know that whatever he does I’ll do the opposite, so that we aren’t in each other’s way. It just works really well, we’ve got a great understanding.

“But I don’t think either of us are comfortable because we know there are other strikers who want to be starting. There are boys out there that are desperate to play.

“As team mates you want everybody to do well, but for yourself you want to play in every game. It’s good that we’ve got that competition and we’re still trying to help each other within it as well.

“You want to help, but you want to keep your shirt at the same time, so it’s very healthy and good.”

Stepping into the slightly negative side of it all, it’s fair to say that after the Swindon game there was a collective concern as to where the next point was coming from, with the players feeling that as much as anyone else.

“It’s hard to explain why it’s changed so much since then,” he admitted. “To be honest, I don’t know. Part of it is definitely Simmo, part of it is definitely ourselves as well.

“There were things that were happening away from the football, the fans, everything just came together at once and I don’t think you can point at just one thing.

“You can’t say all of it was Simmo or all of it was us. Little things happened that made everything come together and it was a perfect mix for it to just to click.

“To be fair, we’d been working on it for a while because we knew something had to change. Sometimes as players, when you’re out there and giving your all and it isn’t working for you, it can get really hard.

“You don’t really know what to do but, and like I said earlier, a few little things started to change and with it all coming together it made it the way it is now.”

But with the points gap now at a healthy 13, can we start to talk about safety?

“No, we’re definitely not,” he insisted. “Even when we’re mathematically safe, if we are ever mathematically safe, I still don’t think we’ll allow ourselves to feel that way.

“The feeling we have right now is great, so why not keep it going for the remaining six games. We still want to finish as high as possible.”

Onto his personal life, and with the announcement of a summer baby arrival prompting a ‘ball up the jumper’ style goal celebration, he commented: “When you’re waking up and you’ve got a smile on your face it’s a good way to start.

“If you’re coming into work happy it makes everything ten times better. If you aren’t in that place you might have to rely on others to pick you up, and that drains their energy, so it’s definitely good when your personal life is going well.

“It means you’re looking forward to every game. This Saturday it doesn’t matter who we play, we want to keep everything going and we want to get another win.

“Everybody feels the same. Like Tobi shows, every player is important to what we’re doing. I said to him, it’s incredible man, you’ve got four goals in little minutes, it makes you look even better and if you just keep doing that it’s just amazing to see.

“It makes people like me feel like I need to do more as well. And every time we go out there we all feel like we’ve got the backing of the fans. Even if we go behind, they’re really staying with us.

“Before it was difficult for everybody, it didn’t feel like that, and now that it does feel that way it helps us so much.”

And finishing on his PFA nomination for player of the month, he told us: "It's great to be nominated and it's a reflection of all the hard work the team has done, to be honest.

"We've been on the run we've had together, but thank you to the fans for voting for me. Hopefully we'll keep picking up results and more of us will be involved in things like this."

Click HERE to watch an interview with Omari Patrick 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.

Read Time: 9 mins