To take to the field yesterday was a miracle and an example of what can be achieved when you have got great people pulling together. We had put together a squad over six weeks that could compete for Dunstable Town FC in Step 3 of the football pyramid and of course they needed to fit a certain profile. Young hungry players that want to move their career on and use our club as a pathway to something great. But of course that means the players are learning a lot as we go and they are not coming into training every day. So we don’t have the readymade solutions that other clubs can benefit from. Of course managers at the top clubs and all the way down to our level including our league have the ability to offer players financial packages and when Manchester United, Man City, Chelsea etc need a player in a certain position they go and get the solution. They don’t start the league with their U23’s and look to teach them under the spotlight in competition. Even at our level our competitors yesterday in a ‘pro rata’ relative similar situation are able to replace players with proven players and have the budget to support it. For example Redditch had a centre midfielder that we recalled playing against our coach Kevin Gallen and he shows the experience he has.
We spoke before the game about the significance of what we are achieving against all odds. We spoke about who we are doing this for, maybe family and loved ones. We spoke about where we want to go as a club and individuals and we spoke about why we are doing it. It was a discussion to remember for the whole season and how we then cope with the ups and downs that would come and how we had become a new family.
The game got under way and things didn’t look to bad. Ordinarily we can cope with conceding some pressure as we have incredible pace on counter attacks. Suddenly out of the blue, whack, a penalty. My gut feeling was it looked very harsh and on review of the video I said #@!!$%
Anyway,8 minutes in and were one nil down. This is where experience is so important. We speak about it, we practice it, but reality is only experience helps in the heat of the moment. Nerves quickly set in and we did make a series of mistakes which quickly led to a second goal. 10 minutes gone 2-0 down. Disaster. What happened over the following 20 minutes is pretty much what you expect when young inexperienced players are debuting at the highest level they’ve ever played at against solid experienced paid players. It was the most uncomfortable period of our whole coming together at Dunstable and it came in our first ever competitive game together. They couldn’t cope with the disappointment and doubt and confidence soon came into play. In that period Redditch scored two excellent goals when we afforded them too much time and space. But, let’s be fair, they have some excellent players. 4-0
A tactical switch and some other changes were needed to stop this escalating into an embarrassment. I know these players are good enough so I didn’t want to let this happen to them. Half time we explained the changes and had to have some pretty tough words.
The second half they proved what they can do as they put Redditch on the back foot and we created a number of chances. A special mention perhaps for Brandy and Nimmy. They did everything we asked we also had put on Aaron on who had a couple of really good runs and crosses. When he gets running he’s terrifying. These three players are 18, 17 and 17!
We have a saying the players know…
“In football, when its going good, you find out about players, when its going wrong you find out about people” So they will all learn, they will act differently in future to mid match set backs.
Suddenly we had this team on the back foot and these young raw lads along with the efforts of the rest of the team had showed and proved they are more than capable of coping. As they threw themselves forward we took some risks that exposed us more than usually and urgent defending resulted in some corners from which they scored but overall, what was important was that we had gone out to be in a football match, take the game to our opponent and that will help with the belief and confidence. It might take a while for the lads to believe in themselves as much as we do. That might happen in a few months, it might happen in a few weeks. It might even happen Tuesday. One thing I know, is someone is going to be in for a big shock. Guaranteed.
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