INTERVIEW: Dare to dream

There aren’t many people who can say they’ve scored with their first touch in any game, but that’s exactly what happened for Tobi Sho-Silva when he latched onto a perfect through ball from Brennan Dickenson on Saturday afternoon.

Such was the weight of the pass it meant that once he’d shrugged his way past the defender it was all about finishing it off, and a clean strike and calm finish ensured that the desired outcome was achieved.

Taking his tally to three for the season, he popped our balloon of excitement when he revealed that finding the back of the net with his first touch in a game is something he’d actually done before.

“I think I have you know, a couple of years ago,” he said. “It did come off my shoulder though, but I suppose they all count.

“This one was a nice one. I felt like Bren put it on a plate for me, to be fair. I didn’t need to take another touch, the pass was perfect.

“I saw the corner of the goal and I said to myself - stick it in there Tobi. Thankfully I managed to do that.

“Then the reaction of from the fans was awesome. I actually had a couple of people come to the game and there was a young fan who asked during the warm-up if he could have my shirt.

“I love all that, this is what football is all about where you can allow young people to dream and feel part of something. I keep saying this, but I’m just delighted that I’m contributing.”

A third goal in seven games suggests that he’s a striker full of confidence, which of his finishes being important for their own reasons.

“It’s a good return, but football is about winning and it’s a team game, so I’m just happy to be doing my part of it,” he insisted. “It’s brilliant that we’re giving the fans something to cheer about.

“All of the goals have been important for different reasons, Rochdale was my first league goal, for example. But if it wasn’t for the boys at the back and Mark Howard saving penalties, or the defenders keeping clean sheets and the midfield creating chances, then we wouldn’t be talking about any of this.

“As much as it’s good to score it’s all about the team. We talk about the importance of the team and it’s not just the starters. Boys that might be injured or not in the squad, or on the bench, everyone’s got to be ready to play their part.

“It’s not good individuals that win stuff, it’s good teams. I couldn’t do what Mark does in goal, but he probably could do what I do up front!

“We all want to do our best for each other, I was just delighted the chance fell to me and I was composed enough to put it away.”

Enjoyed by every footballer is the interaction with the supporters who, in this case, have taken a real shine to their new forward.

“It’s been unbelievable,” he agreed. “I think goals are what football is about. When you’re a kid, you dream about scoring in front of fans and for the team, and about doing it together.

“If we were more focused on being individuals we’d have gone and played tennis or badminton, but being part of a team and community is what this sport is all about.

“I’m a football fan myself, I support Liverpool, so I’m a big believer that you should acknowledge the supporters as much as you can. When I see my team score I know how I feel, so it’s all about the fans.

“They’re the ones that work hard during the week and pay to come to watch us, and support the club, so what we have to do is make sure we work hard for the team.

“When I score, or something like that, I’m like wow, I’m shocked myself, and that’s why it’s brilliant to be able to celebrate with the fans and the other players. It’s all amazing.”

“I am a football fan myself so I know what it’s like,” he continued. “I’ve watched many games in the stands and I’ve had many conversations around the communities, and all they want to see is someone working hard for the shirt.

“If I get the opportunity to do that, be it 10 minutes or 90, I’ll always give them my all. Hopefully they can go away and have great weeks because football is such an integral part of the British culture.

“I understand that, so as much as I can I want to do what I can to bringing the happiness and joy that comes from the beautiful game we love to play.

“Getting over 8,000 on Saturday was superb, and hopefully if they back it up on Tuesday, that would be great.

“I think it’s probably underestimated how important it is to have fans that support and back you, because not every part of every game’s going to go smoothly. When you’ve got that twelfth man it makes a massive difference.

“The noise, the roar, getting behind the team, it means so much from all the fans. People told me before I came here that it’s a huge club with a massive history, so as much as we can we want to get this stadium to be as full as it can be, so that we can create history again.”

The current run appeared to be sparked by the positivity surrounding the arrival of the new manager, with the players responding to what must have been a difficult week in the best possible way.

“In football all you can do is look at the next game, and whatever it throws at you has to be dealt with,” he commented. “In the dressing room all we could do was pull together after Keith left, and once we all knew it was Simmo we said that we were going to back the manager and do everything we could for the club for the rest of the games.

“We knew his stature in the game, and what he meant to this club, and we had to feed off that. Since he came in the boys have been lifted and it’s just been amazing to get four on the bounce. After the run of games we’d been through it’s been like a miracle.

“The job we need to do isn’t done yet, we know that completely, and there are still 11 games to go. That means we have to take every day as it comes.

“In the gym, on the training field, work hard, and be as ready as we can be for game day. We need to keep winning until we’ve made sure we’re safe and that we’re keeping this club in the league.”

A chance to add three more points to that cause came when a late penalty was awarded against Northampton, so did he fancy it?

“I did, but Gibbo was holding onto that ball quite tightly and he looked very confident,” he explained. “I left him to it. I just had complete confidence that he was going to score.

“Especially with the run we’re on things kind of fall your way, and I had no doubt in my mind even going into the game that we were going to win.

“I said it to some of the boys before kick-off, why don’t we believe. Dare to dream, as we all used to say, so let’s hope we can keep this going.

“We always talk about the fact that goals change games, but if you can put the nail in the coffin to secure a win, like for the Rochdale game, it’s such a great feeling.

“That game got us the points against a team that was near us so it’s exciting when these things happen. Winning games and scoring goals is what we’re all here for.

“Like I say, if I’m contributing for a full game, or part of it, I just want to be as professional as I can be. Sometimes things are out of your hands in terms of how much you want to play, but you can only control what you can control.

“That’s what you do from Monday to Friday, and if you get the chance to play on Saturday and give it your all. It’s nothing personal, I want to play every minute of every game, but it’s the manager who makes that decision and it falls on his shoulders, on his team selection.

“All I can do is be ready and give 100 per cent for the fans and the club that I’m part of and that have brought me in.”

A number of fans have spotted a pre-match ritual that includes a walk towards each of the corner flags and a moment of reflection in the centre circle carried out not long after arrival at the ground.

“My belief in Jesus Christ is everything to me,” he confirmed. It helps me through the highs and some of the lows that football can throw at you sometimes.

“He’s the anchor to my soul. He gives me purpose, identity and the privilege to play football. That’s been everything to me, not just since I’ve come to this club, but for many years.

“I’ve been walking faithfully with the Lord and it’s really helped me, massively. I’d love to ever have a conversation with anybody about it, because I think a lot of people have misconceptions about what it means to be a Christian.

“It is all just about a relationship with Jesus Christ and fortunately I’ve entered into one. If anyone else is exploring or looking at it, I’m more than happy to talk about my journey and help them out.

“The goal celebration is part of that. For me it’s just an appreciation that the Lord is there with me. If I sat down and shared my journey you would understand that a little bit more. That’s just a snippet of thanks for being able to do what I do, because it’s a blessing, it really is.

“And it’s so friendly in Carlisle. Normally when I move I get settled into a church, I’ve just found a church up here in the heart of town which has given me a good support and base for my faith.

“And the people … some have put on Twitter you’re a Cumbrian hero or something like that. They’re already giving me some sort of titles. It’s nice to be in a different part of the world and it is a beautiful part of the world. 

“Mind you, I haven’t got used to the accent yet. Sometimes I offend people by calling them Irish Scottish or Scottish Irish, but I’m slowly getting there. I need to learn a few of the local words so I can throw them into my sentences.”

And he spoke about another important part of his pre-match prep, a phone call with his mentor.

“First of all I’m always on the phone to my mentor, who’s been with me since I was 17,” he said. “We always talk about games, and training, and he prays for me before a game.

“I’ve been doing that since I met him. It’s not something I have to do, it’s something that focuses me. I do something which I call I smell the grass, which is trying to be present.

“There can be so much going on in the week that you forget you’ve got a 90-minute game to play. For 90 minutes you’ve got to block all of that out and be present. I do a bit of visualisation - if I come on, this is what it’s going to look like, these are the distances.

“If the pitch is a bit bigger, you might be able to stretch it, or it might be smaller and you might need to hook it on, things like that. Or if it’s raining, it might be a bit boggy so it’s going to slow down there, there’s so many different things, just having a walk around.

“I call it the calm before the storm, where you focus on exactly where you’re going to be and what you’re going to be doing for the next 90 minutes.”

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Read Time: 11 mins