The following is a report from the Q&A held with manager Bren Kelly and assistant manager Andy Mason on Tuesday evening.
NOTE: Quotes are from Bren, unless in italics, in which case they are from Andy.
Aspirations for this season? How do you manage the expectation following three promotions?
“In the dressing room, it’s very easy to ignore those comments of expectations. We knew what we were aiming for in July and we’re on track for it.
“The fact were halfway through the season and I’m not scared of any team we’ve come up against says a lot. Our aims are getting a little more far fetched as it goes on but nothing scares us.
“I try to shield it (expectation comments) from the boys as much as I can. The boys are getting tighter. We’re a bunch of teammates that are coming close friends and that’s important.
“It’s great to have those expectations and not ones of being 16th/17th and it’s great to have nights like this (the forum). I want to push on as far as I can.
“There’s nothing to fear. You have to try and evolve as the season progresses. You can’t stand still. It’s a good place to be at the moment.”
Away form better than home form this season… Why?
“Opponents raise their game. It’s a shop window for players, we get scouts here all the time. Some of our lads do go into their shell a bit – some need a rocket up their backside, some need an arm around the shoulder. It varies, but teams do raise their game.
“They send scouts here to watch us and it’s a bit of a game of chess at times but we’re doing okay.”
But home form getting better…
“Cutting out individual errors has been important. Tommy T (Tom Taylor) and Leon (Broadhurst) are forming a great partnership.”
Giving youth a chance
“Absolutely, I want to play young lads. We want to see them coming through and we want to help them. Tom Massey and Nathan Binner are at Boldmere St. Michaels at the moment, but it’s difficult to play them when a lot is riding on these big games.
“Neil Kitching at Boldmere St Michaels is very good for the young lads there.
“We make sure they’re well looked after.”
Andy Mason: “We watch a lot of the U18s. One thing we are going to set out to do is to stop losing the best talent. Whatever route they go will be whatever is best for the club – that’s what they’ll do. We want to give the U18s a platform to progress at the club.”
Plans for creation of another team?
“Ideal situation is to form a side and put them in Midland Combination Division Two – ‘a B team’, that give players the opportunity to come back from injuries, get gametime etc.
“Similar to Church FC (with Alvechurch), which provides the chance to get promoted, unlike in reserve football.”
Latest on certain players?
Lewis Chester: Having some family issues at the moment but he is still with us
Kyle Lincoln: Ankle injury. His work has changed and it’s not as flexible as perhaps we’d like.
Cameron Peters: At Westfields, on a dual registration
Owain Taylor: At Cadbury Athletic getting game time.
Matt Higgins: At Lichfield City getting game time.
“He received a seven day approach after the AFC Rushden & Diamonds game. We told him afterwards that we wanted to keep him and thought this was best club for him.
“We let him talk to Stourbridge and he met them after Boxing Day. He said it was a new challenge and I accepted it.
“He was class last season, a big part of it and a fans favourite. I was disappointed but I’ve no problem with him. Gift Mussa is filling his shoes nicely.”
“Gifty and Spinky (Liam Spink) were both popular players a few years ago amongst many managers. They’ve both got engines in the middle of the park.
“I wanted Mussa before I even became a manager. He’s a brilliant lad, no trouble. Certainly one we want to keep but the hawks are circling, which is something we want to get sorted.”
“He’s had problems with his quad for 2 to 3 weeks, so we may give him a game out.
“I want to sign him – he’s the best right back in the league, both going forward and in defence but we’re in limbo a bit at the moment with Coventry.”
“Best centre back in the league. Between him and Adam Murray at Royston.”
Do you worry about keeping players?
In reference to Leamington replacing Josh March: “Hollers (Paul Holleran, Leamington manager) would do me a favour and leave our players. Mikey (Taylor) is secured here; Paul will get a player from this division I reckon.
“Me and Andy are confident we’ve created an environment people want to be in. Mikey and Gift think they should have joined earlier – both are enjoying football for first time in a long time.”
Opinions on contracts?
“It’s a balancing act; if a player gets a lengthy injury or plenty of suspensions, it puts a dent in the finances.
‘We try and persuade them to stay here and they are well looked after.
“Some don’t want to sign a contract. We will do all we can to keep players that we feel can take us to the next level.”
Andy Mason: “We don’t just stumble on players; we put more hours into this then our own jobs! We set out to buy better players and progress and if we go up, you want to see some of the players we have listed! Next level players!”
Finances/players and board relationship
“There are a lot of reasons to come here bar financial gain. Players are contacting us already – in fact I wouldn’t really need to pick up my phone without sounding arrogant. There is harmony between us and the boardroom. If I need to tighten purse strings, then I will.”
Andy Mason: “We’d like to thank the board for the three overnight stays in Suffolk, as it made a big difference. We wouldn’t be where we are now without those wins.”
Challenges were we to go up for you personally?
“The tactical side of things maybe. A lack of experience, but not knowledge… we would be coming up against some giants like Stockport, Hereford. It would be about adjusting to the level.”
Rising up the leagues; would we be able to cope financially?
“More away support would be coming. Hopefully there are ways we can generate own income. Hopefully local businesspeople could get involved to gain revenue. We could work something out. Big task but it’s a high class problem to have. There is also a reward for getting promoted.”
Is there any danger of you getting nabbed by another club?!
“I’ve still got bucketloads to learn and it’s a good place to learn. I’m happy here, I’m learning my trade and it hasn’t even crossed my mind really.”
Are you grumpy?! (in reference to emotions in post match interviews)
“My standards are ridiculously high. Andy (Mason) or Mike (Burke) might have to cheer me up sometimes. I want to WIN, it annoys me to lose.
“If you think you’ve arrived and hit the jackpot, you’re going to struggle.
“We could’ve played better Saturday but maybe I should try and crack some more smiles! I have high standards but at times, maybe too high. Mason tells me to enjoy it more and I am trying – I have cracked a few smiles lately!”
How much is money a factor with players?
“Not that much at our club. Rich Gregory had a bigger offer from Mickleover Sports, with bonuses, but he wants to see out his career here. We had words whilst he was out of the team but he’s proved he can be a big player for us – he’s chucked it back in my face and good on him!”
Tommy T (Tom Taylor), Shaq (McDonald), Jack Wilson, Leon (Broadhurst), Mikey (Taylor) and Millsy (Greg Mills) all have been offered more at other places.
Breeds (Tony Breeden) had a ridiculous offer which he couldn’t turn down.
“Players are well looked after here, you can’t chase money if you want to be here. Not good for the club having people who just want money.”
“He needs to kick on now. If he got his stats out, it shows he is top scorer for them (Stevenage) and they haven’t lost many, if at all, when he’s played.
“His injury in the summer didn’t help him. He is in a position where he has to take his half chances because they aren’t playing well and aren’t creating much for him.”
Andy Mason: “Really want to thank the away support. Sometimes four hour journeys, in the cold. We love our home support but our away support is something else.”
Balance between having too much of a reliance on players?
“We knew we had to replace Jase (Cowley). Millsy was top scorer last season, and we knew Mikey would score goals.
“We struggled in the summer because we hadn’t secured Richie (Gregory), Shaquille (McDonald) was up in the air and Jase had left.
“We got Pezza (Kyle Perry) in and Cameron re-signed and Shaq, who will be like a new signing coming back from injury.
“Shozza (Will Shorrock) and Charlie (Dowd) could perhaps chip in with more goals but they get assists.”