Read Head Coach Graham Westley’s full interview prior to tomorrow’s Sky Bet League Tow match at The Hive London against Notts County.
You said when you arrived at the club you wanted to raise fitness levels, looking at the last two matches, there have been late rallies from your side, how pleased are you with that?
“There is always a number of objectives that you have and improvements that you look for from your players, the main reason why fitness was one of the goals was because there were so many lads that were coming back from long-term injury.
“Irrespective of anything else, those lads are in the early stages of their own pre-season. I had to make sure I was pulling them along.
“It’s correct to observe that in the last couple of games there have been late rallies, there has been a noticeable improvement in general fitness which is good. The players feel it themselves and the team is showing a little bit more strength.
“It’s not just the ability to cover the ground that counts, if you look at last Saturday’s game, albeit the result was disappointing, we made over 470 passes. One of the reasons they did this was because they’ve got more mobility now, they’ve got more energy about them. They’re able to give each other better passing options.
“There were positive signs against a top end and expensively assembled side and they were always going to be tough to play away. To make that many passes, have 52% possession, to have 16 shots from that possession is a mark of real improvement and shows the direction we’re going.”
Notts County are the visitors tomorrow, they suffered a heavy defeat midweek in the FA Cup, are you worried about any potential resurgence?
“It doesn’t do anybody any good to suffer a defeat like that. Whichever way you want to look at it, however you portray the opposition, it doesn’t do anyone any good. Confidence does get dented, there’s no question about that.
“But any team that’s at a top end of a league will be good at putting themselves back together again after any failing. A top end side is able to suffer adversity and react in a positive way.
“The most important thing tomorrow is not their reaction, it’s our reaction to our circumstances. We are where we are in the league and we know we’ve got a lot of work to do.
“We had a positive performance but difficult result last weekend and we’ve got show that our character is strong enough to take the positives from that, to learn and improve in areas we know we can be better.
“My focus this week has been in generating the right reaction for ourselves, if we get the right reaction, we’re capable of winning the game tomorrow. It’s a nice feeling to have, it’s a good mood to be in but of course it won’t be easy.
“Notts County are where they are for a reason but we’ve got a lot of capability in our side and if we put that capability together in the right way now that other things are starting to come together, like fitness of key players, we’re more than a match for anybody.
How important is it to turn The Hive into a place teams don’t want to come to?
“It will become that, I’ve always been able to turn my home ground into a fortress. I want to turn The Hive into a place where sides feel a sting, to be really corny! There is something in football called home advantage and you’ve got to know how to use it.
“As a Head Coach, it’s your job to find the little intricacies of your home ground that give you the advantages and make sure that your side knows how to use them. We intend to become a very strong home side and we want to make teams not want to come here because of the football we can offer. We have got more than enough assets within our playing squad to give sides those problems.
How important do you believe unity is at a time like this? Not just amongst those in the dressing room but also with those in the stands.
“Unity is critical in any football club, at any stage if you want to have any degree of success. It’s vital that our fans get well and truly behind our players, trust in them and believe in them. Trust in my voice, because when I say that these are a good group of lads who are willing learners, wanting to get better and have genuinely got the clubs interest at heart, I don’t say that lightly.
I have been in this league for two full seasons in my career, I’ve hit the playoffs in both of my two full seasons and got promoted in one of them. I know how to win at this level. I’m not going to tell our fans any lies, when I say this is a good group of lads, I mean it.
“There is a lot of youth, youth have to learn, youth makes mistakes. But making mistakes is no reason not to believe in the players. We have got to trust in what they are, trust in their determination.
“If the fans stay with the players in the same way that I will, I’ll be moving from game to training to training to game with every intention of making them better. I’ll be using every ounce of sweat and blood in my body to help those boys to become better, day after day, week after week.
“We’re all sticking together, from the Chairman to the staff, together with the fans, together with the players and the youth teams. There genuinely is a good feel around the club, you wouldn’t think it’s a place that’s struggling, there is a great feel and every member of staff is trying to help us produce our very best.
“Whether it’s the groundsman who has been brilliant in giving us access to playing pitches alongside his team who have been tolerating us, working out in the rain to piece things back together for us. Whether it’s the restaurant staff who were cooking lunch for us this afternoon, everybody is doing their bit to get the club in the right place.
“That bodes really well for me, in a situation of difficulty, pulling in the right direction, we’ve all got a common goal. It won’t surprise me when the first win comes, that it’s backed up by a series of wins.
“We’ve got three games this week, two home and one away, if we bank three wins this week, there will be a really positive feeling around The Hive London, and that’s our goal – of course, we have to look one game at a time, but let’s get out there, get the winning momentum and let’s start driving this club towards the future that we all dream of and can all make possible.”