With pre-season fast approaching and the Sky Bet League Two fixtures about to be confirmed, Robins TV sat down with manager Gary Johnson to speak about his hopes for the new campaign and the lessons learnt from last term...
Q. The season is fast approaching? How excited are you about going again and what can be achieved over the next 12 months?
A. You always get excited with the expectation of a new season. But you get even more excited when you feel the quality of player and the experience of player that we are bringing in is good.
We know we have only got to fill in two or three spots, depending on whether we lose anyone or not, but have worked hard to get what we feel is a winning group together and the right people on our bus.
When you get that, and you get that consistency, then your supporters get right behind it, people become aware that we have got a good group here and you hit the ground running.
If we can do that then we will get that wave of enthusiasm and that wave of expectancy, where everybody wants to win football matches and tries to have a good push for promotion.
Q. Reflecting on last season, how much do you look back at the last few months with disappointment and what important lessons do you learn from that spell?
A. When you are in the heat of the battle and you’re the manager of a football club you try and be honest, but there are some things you can’t say and some you can.
Of course, towards the end of the season it was disappointing. We were pretty safe before the last month of the season. Although we had the Morecambe game when we won at home, there were some poor results.
Forest Green was a poor result because of the nature of that game, Colchester was a poor result and we didn’t exactly finish on a high. But it helps you as a manager make your mind up, who you need to move on, what you need to bring in and whether you need a different calibre of player. That is what we decided to do.
In a way, it’s made us make decisions that if we had won the last three games then maybe we might not have made.
We thank the ones who have left. It’s always hard to move people on and not offer contracts to those that are nice people. Decent players who have to find pastures new and their family has to think about what they are going to do next.
It’s not an easy job to do, but you have to do right by the club and the club wants to be successful. You have to make those difficult decisions sometimes.
Q. You talk about difficult conversations, but how much is it looking at the bigger picture and how you are trying to formulate a new-look squad at Whaddon Road?
A. We are not ones to standstill as a management team. Myself and Pete (Johnson) are looking at players all through the season and you look even harder at the end of the season when you know you’ve got to improve.
You make inroads, if you like, to what you want and that dictates who has got to go. There is no use getting rid of everyone and not finding any better to bring in. You try and get that balance right and get that timing right.
Q. I’m sure you can understand the frustration at the end of last season from the supporters. How important is it now that the fans get behind a new-look team and squad?
A. I think it’s very, very important. They are the ones that we have to perform for and the ones that we work for every day on the training ground with the players for.
We get very frustrated, exactly the same as them, but sometimes we have to try and keep the lads positive. When supporters are disappointed, rest assured that I will be saying everything that they would have liked to have said if they got the opportunity. I know some people say I never blame myself but I do.
Every Friday we look at the opposition and how we are going to play, things we have worked on in the week and set plays. Then, on the Monday, we review it after the game to see if we did what we said we were going to do.
The players have their individual games sent to them every Monday so that when they come to the meeting at the start of the week they will have seen what they did or didn’t do – so that there is not much of an argument. That is when you pull people out and tell them they need to do more.
Then by the Tuesday there is a full stop and you are ready for the next game. Players know what is expected of them and then it is just down to their mental state and physical state. All of us are doing it for the football club and trying to make sure that we entertain.
There have been many games when we have entertained, the likes of Oxford and Colchester and both Luton games. Crawley and Swindon away, there were good performances. But we need to have more of them to be successful.
Q. Pre-season is fast approaching and I’m sure you are looking forward to getting into the boys and seeing how they come back. You have two big home pre-season games with Birmingham City and Walsall, so how pleased are you with the programme put together?
A. It’s a very good programme but the best game for me that we have arranged is on July 3 against West Bromwich Albion behind closed doors at their training ground against their Under-23s. It’s not a million miles away, we can keep an eye on some of their up and coming players and it means that my boys have to come back fit.
Magaluf or Dubai, wherever they are, they are going to have to do some work. July 3 will only be three or four days into coming back so they know they will have to keep to their schedule that we have given them for the summer. If they come back and they are not ready, then they will not play and will be doing extra work. Hopefully they will all come back ready and we will hit the ground running.
Q. Finally, how much are you looking forward to the new season and working with the new squad? How excited is Gary Johnson about what’s to come?
A. I might not look it, but I am very excited! I am very happy and looking forward to the new season because I’ve met all the players, I’ve talked to them and know where they are coming from and why they have come here. I know why I have brought them here and that is exciting.
We all know what we are looking for so all they have to do is turn up and produce. And I have got to produce as well. I think people are going to enjoy watching the new group and I’m sure their personalities will endear them to our supporters.