“And that's something we do want people to know, that we play quite exciting, fast thinking, forward football. We're not going to sit back. We don't mind if they score one or two, we want to score four or five. ”
Potter working with players pre-season (Picture: Tommy McMillan)
With no game at the weekend due to FA Vase first round qualifying we caught up with coach Danny Potter to get his thoughts on how things have been going at the club.
What are your thoughts on a third place finish last season, the success in the FA Vase and that memorable unbeaten run the team had in the league?
I'd like to think it all stems from when Miles, Graham Gee and myself came to club two seasons ago. The club hadn't started so well but we picked up some momentum and got to a cup final. So when we started last season, we already knew we had a good squad. We did add to it last season and yeah, you're right, we went on an unbelievable run. Not losing in so many league games is a huge achievement, particularly at our step of football when you do lose games and miss players through injuries and suspensions and things like family commitments. I think the Vase helped us, we really enjoyed the Vase run and that set us up, probably if I'm being honest, to over-achieve last year finishing third in the league when the club didn't really support us with so much money, and players weren't on that much money in comparison to other clubs in our league. And we understood that. And I think because we over-achieved last season it's put us in a difficult position this year where we are a team that other teams want to beat and I think for us that's something we need to now address and try to work out what we're going to do to make ourselves again as strong as we were last year.
Have you and others involved in the management team targeted a specific place to finish in the league?
Last year we spoke about it as well. We're not going to hide away from it, we would have loved to have finished in the top two and to have had a chance to get promoted, however off the field situations prevented us from putting an application in, which hurt us a little bit. It might have been the case that we might have then brought in another signing to replace Scott Jones when he went traveling. He was so important to us last year and I think that this year we are definitely looking at that we want to finish as high as possible and Chichester City FC deserves to be at Step 4 of non-league football. We're in Step 5, been there for many years against some local rivals. We're fortunate being a city club, we're fortunate being so close to the university, we're fortunate having so many youth team players that have come through and the size of the youth section at Chi City is impressive. We do see ourselves as being a Step 4 club if not higher and that's an aspiration over the next year, two years certainly, of where we want to be.
You talked there about signings and you've brought some players in this season. What sort of things were you looking for in the players that have come into the squad?
We knew we needed a support striker for Scott Jones. Scott was so important to us last year, scoring so many goals. He's again one of our players that we think is actually too good for this level but we've done well to get him to commit to Chichester City again - we're very fortunate for that. And we've always known about Dave Herbert, one of the best local finishers in the league. I've known Dave for quite a few years, seen him play against me many times before. And Miles and Graham wanted Dave two years ago. And finally we got the opportunity to have a chat with him again in the summer. We told him our aspirations and what we wanted to do as a club and Dave bought into it. Dave's a really popular lad amongst the squad now. He's done brilliantly. He's settled in well and scored plenty of goals and got Player of the Month for August.
Also we looked at other positions. We did want to strengthen the centre of the park. We've been fortunate to get Lorenzo Dolcetti to commit to the club again. Lorenzo was playing for Bognor last year and he did pre-season with Bognor. He could arguably go to another club higher than us but Lorenzo is committed to Chichester, which we think is really, really good. And then we've re-signed George Way, another senior player who played a handful of games last year, played a few more games two years ago. This year he's committed and he's been involved in every game so far this season. So with George and Lorenzo playing centrally in the middle, and Dave being another player centrally we then looked at the squad and said we are getting somewhere, this is the squad we want. We then looked at other young players we started to find out about and we've added other young players to the squad like Fuzz, who is starting at the university in September and came to us from United Services in Portsmouth and has done quite well for us. Drew Smith has come to us, Zak Sharp has come to us, both lads that study at university. Again that shows the link between the university and the club and how we can attract students that are at the uni. And we've obviously got Ruben French, back from Pagham at the end of last season. We kept Ruben and I think the message from Chichester wasn't really the amount of players we brought in, it's the amount of players we kept. A lot of our players could have gone to other clubs.
I think every other club in this league would like Josh Clack but Josh is happy at Chichester, he's committed to Chichester and he's played some of the best football he's done in years in the last season or so and I think Josh is now one of those players that looks at Chichester as his club and I think that that's probably the bigger message we're going to send out rather than who we've signed, it's that players want to play for us and when they come to us they stay with us.
And you've brought Rob Hutchings in as well.
Yes sorry, I should have mentioned Rob.
Rob's been utilised in a variety of positions.
Yeah, Rob's been great. A young player we saw play against us twice last year and really impressed us. And the year before when he was at Littlehampton. Rob is a very young, exciting player. He plays on the edge, which is great. He's got a really good attitude to winning. His competitive side is one of a kind in our squad. He was unfortunate because he had a really good game in the first game of the season, the FA Cup game but got sent off. We've had a chat with Rob, he's going to rectify those issues that he's got. But for Rob, I think he's got a really good future in football and I don't think that Step 5 of football is going to be the only step of football he'll ever play. I think he will go on and he will go higher, whether with Chichester or to another club, because I think Rob is that kind of personality that will just improve and improve because he is so young.
You talked about Rob Hutchings' suspension and obviously the season started with Jack Lee suspended. Did that have an impact on those first couple of games?
It did and I think that anyone that watched those games would have seen that we missed a natural leader on the pitch. And that is Jack Lee. He was captain for us last year for many games. He's so inspirational in the changing room as well. He's a very vocal, perhaps the most vocal player that we've got in our team, if not the most vocal player in our league. Other managers always comment on how loud our No5 is. He wears the armband with pride and I think that's what we missed the first three games and we did miss someone that would talk to players, that would enthuse and motivate players, particularly when results weren't quite going our way. So it's no coincidence I think that we did struggle the first couple of games defensively without Jack Lee and since Jack's been back we've been a little bit more solid at the back but certainly we've been more focused on what we want to achieve and that is to win games. And Jack does bring that competitive nature to us and so we're a little bit, yeah, upset that Jack was suspended for a back end of last year thing. It's something that he needs to sort out within his game – he does pick up far too many bookings as well and Jack needs to concentrate on this to make sure he plays every game possible and that's what we want from Jack.
So pre-season gave you an opportunity as a club to bed in new players and try out new formations to find ways that they might all work together. It was quite a challenging schedule that you put together for pre-season. What was the thinking behind the opposition you selected for pre-season?
I think with Miles as our manager he's got so many contacts within non-league and Miles doesn't just know clubs well, he knows managers personally and managers at other clubs want to play us, which is good. We looked at the pre-season schedule back in probably about May time and we started to write down ideas about when we were going to start training, what type of teams we wanted to face, who we wanted to play and it was no coincidence that bigger teams came in that wanted to play Chichester because we had such a strong season last year doing well in the league and the Vase shows we're a competitive club in all the competitions that we were put in last year. And for us it was really nice to know that we could play against some of the bigger sides. Looking back at it now, maybe it was a mistake of ours not to play many Step 5 clubs, because that is our level of football. Maybe we needed to play more Step 5 clubs because we know it is a different game. It's a game where we don't get as much time on the ball because the better clubs normally give you a bit more respect and in pre-season we did look after the ball better in comparison to what we've done in the league this year. So that is one of the things we might address moving forward, even thinking about next season, but it's great to know that we've got big clubs like Bognor, like Salisbury, like Totton that want to play against us in pre-season.
What are your thoughts on August? How do you think the first month has panned out for the club?
I think anyone who has looked at our results and has watched us the last month or so they would know that we're a very, very good team at home and a team that's struggled a little bit away from home. That's something that we are looking to address as well. Speaking about the most recent game, picking up a point away at Crawley, that's psychologically given us something now to work on. It wasn't the best result, it wasn't the best performance but it was important we didn't come away losing that game.
Starting off where we did, Binfield away, we played ok in phases of the game. We lost 4-3 but what we think now looking back on the game is, we probably lost to a team we think we could have beaten if we'd played to our full potential. Had we played to our full potential in earlier league games, particularly Broadbridge Heath away which we lost, I think we would have beaten them. But again credit to both Binfield and Broadbridge Heath for those first two games. Both of them beat us, which is fair. On the day they were the better team and on the day both teams deserved it and we're not going to hide away from the truth, but one thing that we want to work on is looking after our away form as we move forward.
We were pleased then to have a home game against Arundel. A local derby for us and Dave Herbert's old club as well which made it a little more interesting for him. But we were pleased when we won the game, and won it in quite a comfortable fashion in the end. And if you look at some of the results, scoring five at home in pretty much every home game we've had other than the 4-1 win over Selsey, it's quite impressive and that's something we do want people to know, that we play quite exciting, fast thinking, forward football. We're not going to sit back. We don't mind if they score one or two, we want to score four or five. And that's the message that we give our players. And that's what's happened in quite a few games already.
The fact that Oaklands Park has become something of a fortress, is that something to do with your mentality or the way that you set up at home?
It's interesting because I think we've tried to set up the same way. We've worked on the formation and looked at it and, as anyone in football knows, a formation is so fluid, you can't put any formation down and say that's the formation you're playing in the whole game. It changes. But defensively we did look at one or two things early in the season and we rectified these and now we've got a bit more of a balanced defensive unit and for us now, we're thinking that when we do get the ball and we deserve the ball we should retain it and look after it. We've done that in certain games where we are scoring goals because we've got some of the best offensive players in the league. We've got players like Scott Jones and Dave Herbert, two of the best centre forwards in the league. We've got players like Josh Clack on the right hand side who will give any left back a nightmare in this league, and he has done so far. We've got players like Kieran Hartley, like Rob Hutchings, like George Way, like Lorenzo Dolcetti and Dan Hegarty in more central midfield areas that do want the ball, that do want to play forward. So when we start to look at the team we've got, it's quite exciting. We shouldn't be a team that's afraid to look after the ball because we do want it.
I know Miles has talked a bit recently about intensity and inconsistency. Those have been two things perhaps that have impacted in different ways on some of those games. How do you sustain consistency and start every game with the same level of intensity?
Intensity is so important, it's part of the make-up of our club. It's what Miles has wanted for the last couple of years, to work hard on and off the ball. It's Miles' way of play, to want to go and press the ball, to want the ball, to be hungry for the ball. It's really important. To get the consistency of being intensive every game that's the difficulty and I actually think it's down to the attitude of the players and actually having the buy-in from the players because they're the same set of lads that go out most games. It's quite a tight squad and everyone knows the way we like to play, everyone knows what their responsibilities are in the team but it's down to the attitude of the players. We can only take them so far but the minute they get on that pitch sometimes Miles will look at me and he can tell whether it's going to be a good day or a bad day and he knows very, very early in a game. But we've done well, we've got ourselves out of trouble a couple of times this year. We know we've got a bit of character to do that. When we start games well, and I hope when we start all the games well, we will scare a few teams. We will put quite a few goals in in the first half because we do know we finish games strongly and a lot of our goals have come in the second half this year. So that's something to work on.
Updated 18:55 - 10 Nov 2017 by Ian Worden