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Gary McCann sat down with Greensnet this evening before training to go through the questions asked by supporters a couple of weeks ago. The questions and answers follow below.
Q1 : How happy are you with the current team and what aims to you have for the season?
I'm happy enough with the squad, but as with all managers, I'm always looking to improve. There's one area, maybe two that I'm looking to strengthen, but that could come from within. This is the most talented squad we've had, but the question that remains is whether it is is the most resilent? In terms of aims this season - at least the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup (said with a smile), and like everyone else in the division, the play offs is the target. If we'd won our last couple of league games, we would be 5th or 6th, certainly no one likes our current league position.
Q2 : Last pre-season felt wrong almost from the start, yet this season's has felt a lot more focused and coherent. Would you agree? If so, why do you think this is?
Coherent, definitely, focused - we're no more focused than last year. We had problem after problem immediately the previous season ended. Last season a difficult start, became a difficult middle and a difficult end. My own personal tragedy has made it both a season to remember and to forget. We all learnt a lot.
Q3 : Our discipline so far this season has been much improved on the start of last season - particularly a reduction of silly bookings. What has changed?
There was a lot of frustration last season which has been addressed in the summer. We need to ensure that any action we take is done under control. We've not become any softer, just more in control and lessons have been learnt.
Q4 : We started this season with 3 at the back but soon reverted to 4. Was this a deliberate tactic, or was it just down to the personnel available at the time?
It's a bit of both, but largely down to the type of players at our disposal. We lost Charlie Goode and Elliot Brathwaite, so we've been lacking an aggressive central defender with height to attack things. We felt we suited three at the back, but in the early games the opposition played one up front and we didn't quite get it right. We only get a couple of hours on a Thursday in training to implement a new system, and the time factor is the big fall down. Players are more familiar with 4 at the back, but we would like to play with 2 up front, which a 3 man defence allows you to do.
Q5 : How do you keep the team spirit there when you can only select 16, and some of the squad may go weeks without a game?
With huge difficulty! Particularly when we have no injuries or suspensions. We conciously ensured we had a squad to pick from this season, rather than the 13 or 14 we had for much of last season, it's a much deeper squad. Clearly players are disappointed when they aren't involved - if they aren't, they're in the wrong place - but that's not an excuse for bad attitude. Everyone is only one injury, one suspension, one bad game away from losing or gaining a spot in the starting XI. The players need to ensure they are ready when needed, and having some out on dual registrations does help keep them match fit.
Q6 : You have commented several times about the number of young players that are on this team. What positives and negatives does this present to you as a manager at this level?
Lack of experience is certainly a factor, players will have dips in form both within a game and throughout a season. We need to make sure they are learning from their mistakes. The big positives are that they have plenty of energy and enthusiasm.
Q7 : It's fair to say that in some of the opening games our midfield has been overrun. Once he is fit again will you play Casey Maclaren in midfield so that we can dominate games more, free up the creative players and take pressure off the defence?
Obviously the question was asked while Casey was injured, but hopefully we've seen exactly that in recent weeks, particularly in the two recent FA Cup ties. Kevin and Casey are the engine room and the rest of the team benefits hugely when they are in the side.
Q8 : How far do you think it is possible (realistically) to progress in the FA Cup this year? How far do you think a team from the same step as Hendon can progress in the FA Cup?
Anything more than the 4th qualifying round will be a bonus. With the way the FA Cup is now formatted, its difficult for clubs at our level to get beyond the second qualifying round due to the exemptions, with Conference North and South coming in that round, and then Conference National in the 4th qualifying round. For clubs at our level to progress the draw has to be kind, as well as putting in the performances.