Boss Dan Trenkel took time out to speak to Rovers Media Manager, Robert Lilley, to discuss the club since he took over, results, injuries, the reserves and looking towards Saturday's match against Thamesmead.
So the stats appear to show that the team have made vast improvements under your stewardship so far. What do you feel has changed in the team since you took over?
At the time I took over, the whole team had a negative vibe about it , almost like they knew they were going to lose every week – and the main thing I noticed was 52 goals conceded in 19 league games. A lot of people say we don’t score enough goals, but our main ambition from the start was to get things right defensively first . It’s no good having a great attack if your defence is awful, and I think 26 conceded in my 16 league games is , albeit still too many for my liking, but a vast improvement on the first half of the season. We had no clean sheets before I took over and we've now had three so we're moving forwards defensively. Mentally, the side had to change and they have done, and we are starting to forge a close bond between the players, and they all now want to play well for each other as well as the club.
Looking back, the team seemed to turn the corner after the Leiston game where we lost 4-0. Since then we've had one win, four draws and two losses. Would you agree we're harder to beat now? Why?
I think the Leiston game is the only game in my 16 so far where we have been outplayed. Leiston are top for a reason and they showed that, like they have done against virtually every other side this season, so I don’t think that result is anything to be ashamed of. Two defeats in seven is not relegation form, and I think now you are starting to see true performances from players who are willing to roll their sleeves up for the cause. If you have a great team spirit it goes a long way in this division, and we are starting to get that.
What are your thoughts on the side you have at the moment?
We are starting to get nearer the side we want. We have started to build a solid back line which is the basis of any team, and we are just starting to get the players we want, hopefully to start something for next season in this league.
Is there any option on registering Nick Skelton as a Rovers player?
Nick is a Ryman Premier standard player, there is no getting away from that. I am lucky that he decided to turn down a move earlier in the season and has stayed with us. I’d love to say that Nick will be with us next season but it will be down to him. I know he enjoys playing with the lads here, but he needs to do what is best for him. I am not putting any pressure on him, and in a strange way if he does move back to the Ryman Prem I will see that as something positive for me, that I am helping players progress up the ladder. Hopefully I can change that so that players can progress their futures with us as a team rather than have to seek football elsewhere. Whatever happens Nick knows how much I think of him as a player and he has been and will continue to be one of our leaders for this season.
Has the injury list hit you hard?
Injuries are part and parcel of football. I will never hide behind injuries though. There is no doubt that having players like Ash Hawkins, Luca Frankis, Billy Johnson, Ben Hudson and Scott Keys out has hurt us, but the lads who have come in have done really well and I will never use an injury list as an excuse for why we haven’t got a result. It’s an easy way out to blame that.
What are your thoughts on why we can't seem to close out games? Is this something mental?
I think it is 100% mental. Winning is a habit , as is losing , and this team got so used to losing that they forgot how to win. There is no doubt that 5 of our draws should’ve been wins, but for whatever reason we haven’t seen it out. I think players do get a bit nervous when the final minutes are ticking away and when you’re down where we are, it happens. The good sign for me is that we are now coming off the pitch drawing games and being gutted as a team, which says to me the mentality is changing and it has changed dramatically.
What are your thoughts on Lewis Sparrow's performance as Skipper?
I think it was important for Lewis to take on the armband. He has grown up a lot since his early Rovers playing days and being captain was a natural progression for him. Some players find the burden of being captain a lot to take on and their own performance gets affected, but I believe he is starting to thrive on the pressure of it. He is well respected on and off the field and is very popular with players and staff which is important in any captain. But most of all he cares about the club and he cares about the results, which shows in his manner on and off the field. He was always prone to a stupid red card when younger but he has matured well and could well go on to skipper this team for years to come.
What are your thoughts on the Reserve team and they're performances? Can you see some good players coming through?
Steve had a tough job on his hands when he took over the reserves. The reserves mentality again is something that needed changing. There were players just turning up for a game, not caring about their own development, just using the club as they don’t have to pay any match fees like they would do for a Saturday social side. He has done brilliantly and now the squad he has is starting to turn around and now they realise what being a reserve team player is all about. Their aim should be to get into the first team and some of them have started stepping up to the plate. Since Steve has took over we have seen Max Drury, Jack Mochalski and Mike Dean take the step forward and produce good performances for us, and there are 1 or 2 more who might well do before the season is out.
Saturday's game against Thamesmead Town? What are your thoughts?
Thamesmead are a very good side. They have matchwinners in their side, but they also have weaknesses like any other team. Knowing how weve played over the last 6 or 7 games I am really confident we will come back with something to show for our efforts. We have nothing to fear anymore- we know on our day we are capable of beating just about anyone, and the first 25 minutes of the Cheshunt game was the best we have played in a long while. If we can replicate that we know we’ve got the players to come away with a positive result.
Finally, what are your overall thoughts on the club since you took over?
It has been a tough year for the club. What with the implementation of the Alliance teams and the upheaval in managers in both first and reserve sides. It’s been tough as since December we’ve been trying to get things done that should have really been done at the start of the season but we are starting to see progression in all footballing areas. The youth sides are starting to get a clearer picture of their path to senior football and I think it was important to show some sort of progression before the end of this season. Now there is a really solid base being laid for next season and the football teams can now start supporting the club better.