Bloor: Chances are missed and not taken in every game

This week I caught up with Eastbourne Borough boss Danny Bloor after his side’s FA Cup tie with Blackpool and a league game against Ebbsfleet on Tuesday night:

TK: How pleased were you with the players performance on Sunday?

DB: I thought they were a credit to the club and themselves against a Blackpool side who I am sure will be pushing for promotion to the Championship under Neil Critchley and Colin Calderwood.

TK: For you yourself, the experience of pitting your tactics against Football League opposition must have been something you relished doing?

DB: 100%! It was a great experience and something the whole management enjoyed throughout the afternoon.

TK: Had the early Greg Luer effort gone in, how much of a different game would that have made it?

DB: Who knows, chances are missed or not taken in every game so difficult to judge how much of an impact it would have had.

TK: Turning attention to Tuesday just 48 hours after the cup exit, was it beneficial to play so quickly after Sunday, almost with no time to reflect on the result?

DB: We were all really concerned about playing one of the favourites for the league in Ebbsfleet so soon after the cup game, especially as they hadn’t played a competitive game for ten days. We felt both physically and mentally that it could have been hard, however we asked the boys to dig deep and we were extremely pleased to get a much deserved point from the game.

TK: It looked like it took a little while for the players to get tuned into the game as Ebbsfleet hit the ground running.

DB: I’m not sure I agree with that, we had our game plan and I felt it worked perfectly, it was obvious Ebbsfleet would have been fresher than us with the extra rest.

TK: It’s still very early in the season in terms of games played, are you quite pleased with how results have gone so far?

DB: We are delighted so far, we have lost only one league in six played and have picked up eleven points, the solitary defeat coming against Dorking Wanderers who I’m sure will go very close to winning the league with the squad Marc White has assembled.

TK: Are you hopeful that in the not too distant future we finally see some movement on getting fans back into Priory Lane?

DB: Let’s hope so, we need them, they need us.

McKimm: Bradford were excellent on the day

This week I caught up with Tonbridge Angels boss Steve McKimm after his side’s FA Cup exit to League Two Bradford City at the weekend:

TK: Looking back to the FA Cup tie on Saturday, were you a little disappointed or frustrated maybe that the boys couldn’t quite get to grips with Bradford?

SM: No, not really. I knew it would be a tough game and they would have had to have 4 or 5 players having an off day and we would have needed everyone to have a stormer. Bradford were excellent on the day but my lads never gave up.

TK: Did you see it as a compliment to yourselves that they felt they needed to field a full strength team to ensure they progressed to the next round?

SM: Most definitely, they made a host of changes against Oldham on Tuesday night and lost so maybe if they hadn’t had gone so strong on Saturday we may have had a better chance. That will always be a question that can’t be answered unfortunately.

TK: It certainly wasn’t as if Tonbridge didn’t have their chances to score at crucial times in the game, did you feel you had to go for it a bit at times which opened you up at the back?

SM: We had a couple yeah. The free kick which led to their 3rd goal, if that was given to us as it should have been right on the stroke of half time we’d have loaded the penalty area and possibly had a decent chance from that.

That was the goal which really killed off the tie for us and it seemed from then every time we went forward we left ourselves exposed and they punished us for it.

TK: A great occasion for the club, yourself and the players live on TV, but unable to have spectators inside Longmead to watch first-hand, are you hoping that after lockdown we see some progress towards their return?

SM: I hope so for everyone’s sake, supporters need their football. The players and the clubs need them back too, we want to see this happen.

TK: A mention for Bantams fan Jonnie Carrington, a fantastic gesture to set up a JustGiving page which has raised in excess of £6000 at the time of writing for your club, it just goes to show the strength of the football family.

SM: It’s something we didn’t ask for or were expecting to happen, but an unbelievable thing to do that we are grateful for. I’ve spoken to Jonnie a couple of times, he’s an absolute diamond and welcome to Longmead Stadium any time.

TK: How pleased were you to go to Chelmsford 48 hours later and return to Kent with three points give the short turnaround between games?

SM: It was great to get a positive result on Monday night and pleasing that we had a game straight away so the lads didn’t have any time to dwell on Saturday’s result, very pleased.

TK: With a lot of football still to be played this season especially midweek, do you think it’ll be a while until the league table settles down a bit?

SM: After the first ten games are done it starts to give you a bit of reflection in the way things might turn out, but with squads being stretched with a lot of games on top of each other it might take a little longer this time around.

McKimm: Let’s just say we’ll be doing our homework on them

This week I caught up with Tonbridge Angels boss Steve McKimm ahead of the visit of Bradford City this coming weekend in the FA Cup:

TK: A bit of a mixed bag of results so far this season, are you reasonably satisfied with how things have gone so far?

SM: Yes I think so, 1st Round of the FA Cup and more points out of our first three league games than last season so it’s an improvement for sure.

TK: How have you and the players found not having fun inside to watch games?

SM: Different. I’m pleased to be playing obviously but you always love the banter, grief, and support you get from the terraces, so it does seem very strange at times. #LetFansIn

TK: I managed to get to watch you and the team in action at Chichester in one of the earlier rounds where there were fans, was that a bit surreal in a way?

SM: Most definitely it was a bit, it’s what we all love though, watching a game and we want fans back close to the action ASAP as it’s not the same without them there.

TK: How pleased were you to get the club through to the 1st Round for the first time since 1972, a long time to wait?

SM: Very proud! It’s something that myself and other managers/players have tried to do in the past and it’s finally happened. I’m so pleased for everyone involved in the club from the chairman to the board members, supporters, volunteers, absolutely everyone.

TK: And now selected for the BBC live game as well announced as we chat, do you hope the players rise to the occasion and show the watching public what Tonbridge Angels are all about?

SM: I do, but it’s all on the day. I hope and believe the players will not freeze on the occasion but we will be right up for it.

TK: Has there been a ban on any FA Cup talk until league games are out of the way?

SM: The game is actually our next one as because of less numbers in the National League South this Saturday falls as our week off so it’s worked out quite nicely.

TK: With the current restrictions have you managed to get out and scout Bradford City?

SM: Let’s just say we’ll be doing our homework on them.

TK: As a club have you felt having to play in empty stadiums that’s it’s brought you, your staff, and the players closer together?

SM: Not really, I always make sure we have a changing room that sticks together, hopefully you will see that this coming weekend. With our recruitment of new players they have to fit in with what we’re about on and off the pitch.

TK: Has the chairman promised a trip to anywhere not on the government’s quarantine list should you win?

SM: Haha! No he hasn’t, but a mate of mine, Paul, who sponsored a board around our ground this season (tables or businesses) said he’d take all the players and staff to Vegas if we get to the semi-finals!

Bloor: It’s a fantastic tie for the whole football club

I caught up with Eastbourne Borough manager Danny Bloor this week ahead of their FA Cup tie against Blackpool:

TK: Four league games into the season so far, how pleased are you with the start to the season?

DB: Yes, I’m satisfied and particularly pleased with the team spirit but there is plenty to work and improve upon as the season goes on.

TK: And the goal scoring form of Chris Whelpdale is impressive so far, was that something you tried to encourage to take the burden off the strikers?

DB: Not particularly, but of course it’s a major bonus when goals come from all over the pitch and not just one or two players.

TK: How easy or difficult is it to get the players mentally prepared to play in empty stadiums?

DB: It’s not been easy at all but it has meant really getting the boys fired up in the changing room. We have had to make our own atmosphere which so far seems to have worked.

TK: Do you feel that it has created a real togetherness amongst you, your staff, and the players?

DB: 100% as a whole group

TK: Turning attentions to the FA Cup, what was your initial reaction when Blackpool were drawn out of the hat to come to Priory Lane?

DB: It’s a fantastic tie for the whole football club and we are delighted to host a club with such an outstanding FA Cup pedigree.

TK: Is it tempered with a slight disappointment that spectators won’t be close to the action on the pitch?

DB: It’s the way the world is now in all aspects of our lives, we just have to get on with it but I know our supporters, the best in Sussex, will be supporting us from a distance.

TK: Bearing in mind the restrictions currently, is there a plan to scout the opposition before the tie?

DB: We had them watched on Tuesday night at AFC Wimbledon and we will watch them again at Burton on Saturday, I may go myself to watch them at home to Wigan on Tuesday night.

TK: Are you confident you can spring a surprise and take the club into the Second Round for the first time ever?

DB: How can you be confident, they’re a football league side! What we can be is very well prepared and committed to trying to cause a shock result. The pressure is all on Neil (Critchley) and his Blackpool team, they will be massive favourites to progress but in every round there are one or two upsets.

TK: Have the players been fairly grounded despite this big tie looming on the horizon?

DB: Honestly, before our win at Hampton on Tuesday night I banned all talk of the Blackpool game until after 5pm this Saturday following our game at home to Welling.

TK: What would it mean to the club as a whole to have a good cup run this year?

DB: Well I think we have already had a very good cup run so far this season but now we want more, we want the icing on the cake.

*Since speaking to Danny on Thursday afternoon Borough’s game has been selected for TV coverage on Sun 8th November ko 2.30pm live on BT Sport 1.

Are you PNLP?

Last week saw the beginning of a new venture for me, the Premier Non-League Podcast. Before the pandemic started I was looking at something like this to be my next venture, after all if you stand still things pass you by and the opportunity is gone. Of course, that plan like life itself was put on hold!

However, as one door closes another one opens and a few weeks back when the #LetFansIn campaign was at its height I was invited onto a special Rebel Yell podcast run by Worthing FC fans James Easton and Peter Vale and also joined by the voice of Bognor Regis FC’s Rocks Radio host Lee Roberts.

Subsequently, James mentioned to Lee and me about a new podcast he was putting together and asked if we were interested. Needless to say, we both accepted and along with Horsham fans Jonny Kenworthy and Iain Budgen the PNLP was born.

On first glance you might be thinking ‘well this is going to be an Isthmian League podcast’ given the teams these guys support (my allegiance is also to Worthing at this level) but not at all.

Our aim is to cover Steps 1-6 and even Step 7 if the material is there, premier to me means the best, we want to give the game the best coverage we can. We’re very keen to get clubs and fans involved, it’s your podcast what do you want to listen to?

However, we do have a structure so it’s not hours of endless rambling from the six of us, we plan on an interview from a top non-league player whose made it in the professional game depending on how forthcoming they will be, failing that between us we have enough contacts to get you a view from a different level of the game and we welcome any club chairman or manager that would like to get themselves on air.

The show will be pre-recorded and out for your ears before the end of the week on a fortnightly basis to begin with and if we can raise the listener profile quickly there is a good chance it will become a weekly feature.

We are looking for a sponsor to come forward to cover the costs of our hosting platform, these aren’t a huge amount but we’d like to get some coverage out there for someone’s business, you will appear all over our branding across social media and linked into the voiceover’s for use on the show. Please get in touch via our channels below if this is of interest.

We are looking for some help from those of you with links to the Midlands clubs, just a bit of content is all we’re asking for but a chance for someone to get themselves some exposure, again please get in touch via the channels below.

We have our own Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ThePNLP, our Twitter handle is @ThePNLP and you can email us thepnlp@hotmail.com, we want to hear from you so please get in touch. All that’s left to say is give us a listen and see what you think, comment good or bad and get us trending! #AreYouPNLP……….

Styles: The local community and our fans will be extremely vital

Late last week, I caught up with Tunbridge Wells FC boss Richard Styles to find out what had been happening for him over the last three months and a look ahead to a new season:

TK: I think it’s fair to say before football was suspended in March Tunbridge Wells were enjoying their best season for many a year?

RS: Yes, last season had a lot of positives. I think if I had been offered the way the season had unfolded before it stopped, I would’ve been happy with that for a first year at a new club and a new set-up. We were ultimately disappointed when the season came to an end because we felt we would finish the season strong and still had lots to play for in both the league and cup competitions.

TK: How did you view the lockdown period, a chance to reflect or to take stock and plan to improve further?

RS: The lockdown was initially frustrating because the season ended so quickly but understandably so, and safety is always the main concern. We stayed close to the players during the lockdown and had regular sessions delivered over Zoom as well as training plans set to allow the boys to tick over and recover. As staff we had meetings to reflect on the season and to identify ways, we felt we could improve and strengthen to progress when the new season begins. We haven’t stood still since lockdown came in and have very much been proactive.

TK: Now that we are looking at the new season beginning in September, have you been able to step things up a little and start to talk to potential new signings?

RS: Yes, we have been in communication with all the current squad with a view to returning and they are fully aware of our plans going forward.  We have also spoken to several targets to improve on what we already have, and they’ve been very positive talks so far.

TK: Given the financial struggles most clubs have suffered with during the pandemic how vital is it to get the local community fully behind what you want to achieve as a club?

RS: It’s huge! The local community and our fans will be extremely vital in us getting back into it ahead of next season. Every club has been hit hard by this and we’re all in the same boat. We have a real good community behind us and a close relationship with the supporters here and we’re now looking for that more than ever to continue once we’re able to get back on the pitch once again.

TK: Is this the perfect time for football to maybe take a look at itself and work out a way to live within its means a little more?

RS: There is an argument for that for sure, a lot of clubs will struggle and will have been hit very hard by whats happened and some will be unable to commit to the playing budgets they had previously. Players will have missed not being able to complete the season and as a manager you can get a feel of a player’s value in terms of playing and see whats important to them.

I don’t think that will happen next season personally because I think there will always be several clubs willing to have a bigger budget in chasing success.

TK: Are you expecting a similar competitive league once we begin?

RS: Yes, I’m expecting it to be as tough as last season. There are a number of teams who will feel they have some unfinished business, there are a lot of teams who will look to strengthen further and a there will be a lot of players dropping down levels as teams higher up go with small squads. Some big budgets and aspirations will also be out there too.

TK: What will be the expectations from the chairman and the board for Tunbridge Wells this season?

RS: The vision and expectations going into the second season have always been the same. I’ve been in close communication with the chairman ever since the season ended and there’s a clear outlook from both sides. We want to progress each season and push on the best we can, last season we were on course to achieve what we wanted which was to put some stability back into the club, the main objective. We kept ourselves in the top five all season and next year we want to build on that foundation we’ve made and hopefully have a successful season.

TK: And finally, what would be your message to anyone wanting to attend a game next season but nervous about being out in a crowd?

RS: I can fully assure anyone that Tunbridge Wells FC are working currently to put all things in place at the Culverden Stadium to ensure a safe environment and experience for all. By the time the season begins everything will be in line with the government regulations for our level. It will be great to have our crowd and families back to watch us again and I can’t wait to see that!

My thanks to Richard for giving me his time to answer these questions.

Hull: It’s been a challenge

Last week I caught up with Arundel FC boss Simon Hull to gain an insight at how Step 6 clubs have coped with the lockdown period and this is what he had to say:

TK: When football was suspended by the FA back in March Arundel had nearly half a season to play in around six weeks, how much pressure do you think that would have put on the players to manage 3 or even 4 games a week?

SH: It would have been a real challenge and tested the depth of our squad to the limit. Considering our players have full time jobs and aren’t afforded the luxury of rest days it would have been tough undoubtedly.

TK: How did you approach the lockdown period once the season had been marked null and void?

SH: We (the coaching staff and myself) made multiple plans for various start dates, a best guess exercise really. I also kept in regular contact with our players advising them and updating them to the best of our knowledge. It was difficult but everyone has been in the same boat.

TK: Has it been easy or sometimes difficult to keep the players you have close and to approach players you want without a start date in mind?

SH: Our players have been first class, I can’t speak highly enough of them. Almost all have committed to the club for next season too, we have approached a couple of players with a view to adding to the squad and giving us more depth and quality, honesty is the only approach that works in my book. Fortunately, we have been able to offer 1 to 1 sessions and now group work courtesy of my coaching staff. They have been working around the clock to accommodate all the lads and deserve a special mention.

TK: Now that we have a tentative start time as September, is your planning now able to become a bit more through so you are ready to hit the ground running?

SH: Yes, we have things planned for the players which are now ongoing until the season commences, all things being equal let’s hope it is September. We have been training in small groups as per the guidance and also individually for a month now so we’re relatively in a good place.

TK: How do you think the football landscape will look at Step 5 when the season begins?

SH: Purely speculation and opinion, let the powers that be provide guidance and an exact start date ensuring safety is an absolute priority, lives come before football. I expect and hope we mirror last season with the number of promotion places up for grabs and being able to enter the FA Cup and Vase. Whilst I understand there may be time constraints for the Cup there has to be an element of common sense to work around this. Steps 4, 5 and 6 clubs place huge emphasis on being able to compete for prize money and to miss out would be terrible for clubs at the lower end of the pyramid. Whilst be financially important for clubs, it’s a highlight for players and coaches alike. Scrap all replays but don’t devalue the competition by reducing the entry.

TK: Has the club been able to maintain itself over the last three months and be in a position to begin once again in the next couple of months?

SH: It’s been a challenge! We have lost all revenue streams without the bar and clubhouse. Fortunately, sustainability is at the forefront of the Arundel model. It’s an expensive business but we have prudent people  who look after the clubs finances so we should get through it but it’s not easy.

TK: Given the make up of Division One should look the same as it did last season, what are you expecting to happen?

SH: I’m hoping it’s the top 4 being promoted again as was supposedly the case last season for the restructure. Time will tell and we shall see, but I expect to see the same sides challenging again.

TK: Finally, the lockdown period can be viewed as a great time for reflection and for re-set. What things if any have you yourself from a football perspective felt a good time to change?

SH: We have had a slight restructure with regards to the management set-up and introduced a reserve side instead of the Under 23’s alongside our existing Under 18 team. We analysed closely last season what we did well and more importantly areas we felt we could make improvements and have implemented some change we hope is for the better.

My thanks to Simon for his time answering these questions.

McKimm: In life you should always look to better yourself and not stand still.

Earlier this week I got in touch with National League South manager Steve McKimm from Tonbridge Angels to find out how things have been progressing for him and the club over the past couple of months, here’s what he had to say:

TK: Despite an early curtailment to last season, were you pleased with how things were progressing for Tonbridge Angels on the pitch?

SM: Yes definitely. With four wins, four draws and just one defeat in our nine games after losing to Dartford on 28th December it was becoming a very good run.

TK: Do you think it took a little while for yourself and the players to get used to the demands of stepping up a level?

SM: I had watched a lot of games at this level after I left Sutton Utd, so I knew what to expect. In all our games bar Welling Utd away we weren’t out of reach in any of those matches, what the players needed was to erase from their game the silly mistakes as we were getting punished for every single one.

TK: Once it was confirmed the season was to be cancelled, did you then begin to start planning for whenever a new season was to begin?

SM: I had a few weeks off and if I’m honest I didn’t really think about football because we had no idea when we’d be back again. The club were excellent with the furlough for the players and I gradually spoke to them after a few conversations with my chairman. More announcements will hopefully follow over the next few weeks.

TK: We’ve seen a couple already announced as leaving the club and bearing in mind the financial restrictions that we expect to see going forward for many clubs, are you expecting there to be a bigger pool of players to choose from?

SM: I believe so, but it depends on what or how you want to move forward. I have my own ideas after a lot of thought and discussion with other staff members. Sometimes a lot of changes don’t always help but we’ll have to see what we can achieve when we get going again.

TK: How great have the chairman and the board been given the need to raise money for the pitch repairs and balancing that with support for you and your staff?

SM: The chairman and the board are excellent towards us, always helpful and supportive, I’m happy with that.

TK: How is the pitch looking?

SM: Pete and the others there have been working hard on it and it’s looking really good, as good as it did until the Hampton game, which should never have been played on it, that ruined it for us and the season.

TK: How do you think the football landscape will look when the game resumes at non-league level?

SM: It could be interesting times ahead, some clubs will struggle, some will remain the same and some may flourish due to finances. Clubs run correctly will always prosper, not necessarily in terms of trophies but will keep running and be a home for their fans.

TK: Is the aim next season to stabilise the club at this level with a view to pushing on the year after?

SM: Last season the aim was to stay in the league and as a club/manager, staff, players and supporters we achieved that, early finish to the season or not.

In life you should always look to better yourself and not stand still, football is no different so we will be looking to improve on last season and try to make Tonbridge Angels an established club in the National League for years to come.

My thanks to Steve for his time and good luck for when the new season begins.

NB. Since the National League decision on Wednesday to conclude the season with play-offs across all three divisions, I contacted Steve with one final question:

TK: Do you think the right resolution has been found following the National League club’s decision on Wednesday?

SM: If League football are having play-offs taking place then non-league should as well. If they can afford the testing and everyone is safe there’s no reason why not. I feel for clubs below these levels though, it’s as if they’ve been dismissed.

Hinshelwood: I thought this club had so much potential and keeps showing me that

At the back end of last week I caught up with Worthing FC boss Adam Hinshelwood to find out where the club is at planning for the new season and his views on the fantastic Crowdfunder appeal:

TK: How have you found the lockdown period personally, a time to reflect, to look forward or a mixture of both?

AH: Initially I think a lot of reflection and I’ve done a lot of reading and studying and now I’m looking forward and planning for the season ahead.

TK: How early did you start to plan for the new season and how far in advance were u able to plan?

AH: Just meeting this Monday to start planning out pre-season, but its hard with not having a start date to work to at present but we know pre-season will be 6 weeks so we can start getting a guide together of what it will look like from day to day.

TK: Have you had good contact with the squad from last season and how many do you expect to return?

AH: Really positive talks with all the squad from last season so far, they all seem keen and raring to go. We also need to recruit for our youth teams so it’s going to be a busy period over the next few weeks, but I am looking forward to it.

TK: How fantastic was it to see the Crowdfunder appeal reach it’s target so quickly?

AH: It was amazing to see and just highlighted to me what a great community club we are part of, it’s definitely given me a buzz to get back and I’m working hard to make sure we are better than ever when the new season kicks off.

TK: What changes do you see coming for non-league football given the financial struggles for many during this pandemic?

AH: Well, clubs are going to have to call upon their local communities to come together and support their local teams. Clubs are going to have to support local businesses, its going to be a hard time for many but the only way through it is everyone sticking and working together. Hopefully coming to a revamped Crucial Environmental Stadium will go a long way to helping everybody.

TK: Do you expect there to be a bigger pool of players available as clubs higher up the chain cut back on squad sizes?

AH: Possibly, but we like to stick to local players as much as possible and developing our own, I’m excited by the young players we have coming through.

TK: As per last summer, do you think you might lose one or two players to a higher level?

AH: Yes, I expect one for sure will be leaving us for a club a few levels higher in the pyramid, but we are quickly getting a good reputation for giving younger players an opportunity and with that we are getting good young players coming to us. It’s something as a club we are starting to become accustomed to, obviously we want to move up that pyramid ourselves and start to hold on to players instead of them leaving to further themselves.

TK: We can’t finish without mentioning the Away Day Boys, 5 years old now from creation, what do they bring to this club?

AH: It’s a following that is just growing and growing and really are the backbone of the club. There was a game against Moneyfields in the FA Cup a couple of years ago where it felt like we had taken over their ground, like a league club heading to take on a non-league outfit. It was the first time I thought this club had so much potential and it keeps on showing me that.

My thanks to Adam for sparing the time to answer these questions.

Lockdown video interviews

As some of you know I’ve being doing some live video interviews with some Barnet FC legends and all have won a title playing or managing in black and amber.

First up was Martin Allen:

Martin Allen 2

Be warned, this one is 3 hours long!

Next up was Ian Hendon:

Hendo and Graz

And to take us to the end of May is Gary Phillips:

Sumo

Both Ian and Gary’s video’s are over 2 and half hours long, but please enjoy!

Here we are at the beginning of June and the first one in the chair is Guiliano Grazioli, 3 hours long this one so make yourself comfortable!

My 5th live interview on Saturday 20th June featured Lee Harrison, again another 3 hours long, its becoming the norm!

NB Up to 24th June, there have been 6518 views across the five video’s.