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Interviews

INTERVIEW: It's a proud moment

Morgan Feeney on leading the team out and securing an opening day win

1 August 2022

Defender Morgan Feeney led the team out as captain for the opening game of the season on Saturday and he admitted to feeling proud at being given the honour afterwards, particularly with a clean sheet and three points added into the mix.

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“It’s obviously special,” he confirmed. “Individually it’s a really proud thing for me to do, but it goes back to what the gaffer said.

“You need a changing room full of leaders, which we’ve got, and we’re all coming to the forefront now.

“You can see in our performances that we’re getting after each other and we’re leading by example. But personally it’s a really proud moment for me and I’m delighted.

“When Simmo told me I just said, thanks very much. The gaffer said that he’d like me to take it, but again he talked about the fact that he wants to see a group full of leaders.

“I think we’re getting that in the way we go about things. People are really pulling their socks up and performing well. It’s not just shouting, it’s talking in the dressing room to each other.

“The gaffer has trusted me with the responsibility and I’m grateful for that, so I want to repay him. It’s brilliant, it’s something you dream about as a kid. It’s a really proud moment for me.”

As to what type of captain he is, he added: “I like to think I’m vocal. We’ve got a few in the team who are really coming to the forefront as leaders, whether that’s leading by example in performances, or talking more just in the dressing room, pulling each other through it.

“I think it’s a really good dressing room at the minute. It’s about us pulling together, getting each other through it, getting after each other, which we’re doing quite nicely.”

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And on the pitch on Saturday it was a performance that deserved the three points.

“Definitely, you could see how hard we worked, and I think we got the result we deserved,” he agreed. “I thought we probably deserved more than the one goal, but we’ve done what we were asked to do and what we wanted to do.

“We’ve been working on it in training and hopefully the goals will come. All of the lads are buzzing because we’ve done what we had to do.

“We’ve worked on the shape a lot in pre-season, and towards the end of last season, and it is about discipline.

“We got a bit sloppy at times but it’s not really about picking up the negatives today. We won, we did some good things and it’s now about kicking on from here.

“I know some of the other lads have talked about the fact it’s been a really tough pre-season, but we’re getting the benefit now.

“It’s up there with one of the toughest most of us have had. The rewards are there from it now and you can see we’re still running ourselves into the ground.

“We did that for 90 minutes and I think we had plenty more in the tank as well, and that’s good for the games to come. It’s not about staying this fit, it’s now about building on it to get even fitter.

“We want to be at a good level throughout the whole season, but we are in a good place at the minute.”

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Defensively that clean sheet definitely can’t be ignored, with the United target largely untroubled.

“What we say before every game is that we’re looking to get a clean sheet,” he told us. “If you do that you can go on to win the game.

“It’s not just about the defensive unit and Tomas, it’s about what the team does. Everyone is buzzing about the clean sheet and, like I say, if you do keep the back door closed it gives our forwards a chance to win the game for us.

“Some of the rest of us had a few chances to score off set pieces but we do pride ourselves on clean sheets as defenders.”

The tone of the day was set, of course, with that early goal from Kris Dennis, which gave the whole stadium a lift as the team then went on to dominate.

“It’s great to score early and the noise from the crowd was brilliant, when we scored and all the way through the game,” he said. “It’s always nice scoring that early, even better in front of your home fans, but when you do get it that early you have to stay calm as well.

“What it gave us was a cushion to build on for the rest of the game and luckily that was the one that won it in the end.

“You want to get off to a flyer and psychologically it’s a game we’ll remember and look back on. We set the tempo from minute one and that’s how we want to go about things.

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“You can’t win anything from one game but it’s one where we really stamped our authority and it’s something we can learn from and build off.

“And even though we didn’t score as many as we should have we still felt in control. We felt solid as a back unit and in the shape we had as a team. I had a chance, I thought I’d scored but it just hit the keeper, and I bet he says it was a worldie save as well!

“Obviously you’ve seen it before where they get a scruffy chance and all of a sudden they’ve equalised. It didn’t feel like that was going to happen, and I think the other lads felt the same way.

“It actually felt like a matter of time before we got another, and it’s a shame that didn’t come. I think we limited them to a few half chances, I don’t think they had any real scares that they gave us.

“That’s more credit to us because we stopped them doing what they’re effective at and that’s probably why we felt comfortable.

“When the game’s in their half for chunks that we had, we need to stay focused as a defensive unit, locked on and not give them and inch, because they’re good players and good players can punish you.

“We did that well. Throughout the season we want to stay positive like that and on the front foot, keep teams out.”

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Across the back three of Barclay, Mellish and Feeney is a growing trust and understanding, set against a backdrop of competition for places, with the possibility more defensive minded players to be added.

“There could be new signings, we all know that,” he commented. “Whatever the situation, you’ve got to earn the right to play.

“No-one’s guaranteed a place in the team, which is good, it’s a really competitive environment. You’ve got to be on the top of your game to stay in the team. When you create that winning environment it’s only going to bode well on the pitch. 

“We all complement each other in our own ways, bounce off each other, which I think is good. You’ve got a bit of balance across the three which we play, or four, whatever it may be.

“You’re going to bounce off each other nicely and we all get on well off the pitch, that goes for everyone in the team. We’re a really tight knit group, and that matters.

“It’s handy when you’re on the pitch and get on with your mate next to you. We’re all pushing each other to do better and you’ve really got to earn the right to be in the team at the minute.”

With the win under the belt there’s no time to rest, with an extremely busy August now here and upon us.

“Games come thick and fast, but that’s fine,” he said. “We’ve had pre-season, we do important work, but it’s real now. We’re playing for points.

“This is what you want to be doing as a footballer, and we’re prepared and more than ready for it. We’re looking forward to getting on with it.

“We wanted to start with a win here at home and we all felt really confident going into the game. It’s exactly what you want and luckily we’ve been able to execute the things we’ve worked on and set out to do.

“The crowd were right behind us from the first minute. We scored early and they erupted. They were so loud from there on in.

“It just drives you forward, when sometimes you need a goal, and you’re in two minds sometimes, it just drives you forward to go for the jugular.

“It’s important to perform for the home crowd, and we’re really glad that we did. When they get behind us it’s brilliant and we can’t thank them enough.”

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