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MANAGER: The challenge is to take it onto the pitch

Paul Simpson ahead of today's game

14 January 2023

The weather has made it another interesting week for United manager Paul Simpson who found himself with not only suitable training venues to track down, but a flood alert to react to as he became part of a team who helped to move everything from the bottom to the upper floors at the stadium after a flood alert had been received.


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“It’s been a tough week, but I think it’s been the same all over the country,” he said. “With our history I think we’re always on tenterhooks when it rains.

“We had a flood alert which pinged in our staff group on Tuesday night so we were all asked if we could volunteer to come and put the action plan into place.

“I was actually just going up to bed because I couldn’t watch anymore of the rubbish TV that Jacqui had on, but the message came through so we ended up with a team of us down here. Thankfully it was a false alarm but it was an eye opener.”

“It’s obviously made it tricky with training this week and I’m sure everyone living on Warwick Road has been nervous,” he continued. “We got through it, and our main pitch looks immaculate, so we’re just looking forward to getting out there.

“Let’s hope the weather is kind to us over the weekend and we don’t get much more rain.”

With no game last weekend it feels like a very long time since the Blues were back in action.

“Yeah, it does, but it’s been a good ‘age’ and a good couple of weeks that we’ve had,” he insisted. “The players have been able to do some top-up work and we’ve got good fitness work into others.

“The lads have also been able to get some good time with their families and I do think that’s really important. I know supporters probably don’t like to hear that sometimes, but I do think that having time away with family is needed if the circumstances allow it.


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“We have lads up here who don’t often go home because they live too far away, so it’s nice for them.

“I’ve got to say that training has been really good this week. They’ve come back in, they’ve worked hard and the quality has been good. The challenge now is that they go out and take it all onto the pitch against Newport.”

Another huge positive is the fact that the Blues have maintained their lofty league position despite that enforced gap in the fixture list.

“It’s been strange because I was looking at the results coming through at the weekend and at times it looked like we were going to be fifth or sixth, and then on Tuesday we dropped down a position at one stage, so I stopped watching that for a while,” he said.

“A bit later on I got a text from a friend to say that I must be really pleased with the result, and I didn’t actually know that it had been turned around. It’s been a good week, but it’s only a good week if we go carry on doing things properly.

“If we don’t the results going for us counts for nothing. Hopefully that starts on Saturday backed by our supporters who hopefully will be bursting to get out there as well.

“It’s now that we really head into the second half. We’re one game into it with 22 to go. We’ve got to make sure we do it properly and I want us to go better than we have done through the first half.

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“On average over the last six seasons if we repeat what we’ve done so far we’ll just about get into the play-offs, and I think we’ve got more to come from us than that.”

Looking ahead to the visit of Newport, he told us: “It really has been a good week and on one side of it the players look refreshed, and also we’ve had the lift everybody gets from seeing new faces.

“Sometimes that gives a little bit of energy as well, because they are three young lads who are all really keen to impress. They want to be playing and that can only be good for us if they bring that sort of competition to the squad.

“And I actually have a selection headache. I think I’ve got 20 or 21 available so there will be two or three who aren’t going to make the bench. That’s what I want, and I hope the players understand that.

“I won’t be leaving anybody out because it’s a personal issue. I’ve just got to start the right eleven and the right seven to be on the bench for us.

“I want depth to the squad, which we’ve not been able to have on many occasions so far this season, so this is a lovely challenge for me to have. I can assure everybody I won’t like doing it, but I won’t be losing sleep over it. It’s how it is.”

“What we do know that is whoever is picked, it’s not going to be easy,” he added. “Newport are coming to us on the back of four good draws against Crawley, Rochdale, Wimbledon and Orient.

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“It will be a tough game, Graham Coughlan played for me at Shrewsbury when I was manager there and he’s a real captain and strong leader.

“They’ll be organised and disciplined, and they’ll be physical and tough to play against. It’s a brilliant challenge for us. We’ve got to make sure we use the energy we’ve got from the last couple of weeks and make sure we start the game well.

“Like I say, the fans will be bursting for a game and they can play a massive part in us playing well at home. I’d like to think they can see that the board are trying to back us to stay where we are and maybe even go better.

“Hopefully they’ll come in and support us and create a really good environment for everybody to play in. I know the players are looking forward to getting playing again, especially at home, and we’ve just got to go and make the most of it and hope the fans come on the journey with us.”

And another part of that is stay away from the type of behaviour that throws a spotlight on the club in a bad way.

“We just can’t have it,” he insisted. “It’s not acceptable, we’re not in a world where we need to be doing those sorts of things.

“I don’t get it, our supporters have been magnificent since I came back in February so we’ve got to nip it in the bud. We’re better people than that, we don’t need to do it.

“We don’t need to be throwing things or making any sort of offensive comments. Let’s just support the team.

“They come in and pay good money to support us and I totally understand that, but that money they’re bringing in we end up having to use to pay the fines from the FA. It isn’t benefitting anybody.

“We want them to support the team, I don’t even mind them booing and giving a bit of grief to the opposition, that’s part and parcel of football, but let’s be sensible and use our brains. The fans I speak to are more intelligent than those sorts of things, so let’s keep it that way.”

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