Let’s talk about the deals you did get done; squad wise it took you until the end of it all. How happy are you with what you’ve got now?
When the window closes, I think it’s always a good time for the building. It just allows you to settle, you know who’s going to be in and who’s going to be out based on the business you’ve done and as a manager you’re always thinking, ‘was there anymore value in the marketplace? Could you have done better?’
I think if I’m honest there’s only one player I possibly would’ve taken if I had the time again. There’s one player early on in the window, I think I’d have made a bigger player just because of the type and then what we ended up looking for at the back-end of the window.
We ended up with one slot that we felt like we needed to fill, as it was, we’ve decided we couldn’t have a player of Zain Westbrooke’s calibre missing out on being registered. He’s been a great lad Zain; he’s done everything right.
We both felt, us and him included, that a move might be best to freshen him up and because we were going to have a lot of competition in that area.
For one reason or another, he didn’t manage to secure that move and then my thing is that we can’t have that type of money sitting in the stands not being registered to be active on a matchday.
So, we made the decision to not take that last spot up and to put Zain back in, he’s got a lot of scrapping to do in terms of getting up the pecking order but that’s kind of over to him.
I look at the group now and the balance we’ve got. I’ve got competition for places everywhere. I’ve got a nice blend of youth and experience, so I’m really happy.
As I say, probably just one player I would’ve taken if I had my time again, but that was it. Everyone else, we took them off the board and I think value for money and what will get once the team beds in.
I think it gives us a real chance of achieving the aim this season which is getting out of the division.
Some of the new signings have obviously been with you for a couple of weeks, fitness wise are they ready to check in if you choose to play them at the weekend?
We’ve got a few guys in a mini pre-season at this moment, it would’ve been nice to get them registered to play on Tuesday, but sometimes you just don’t get the paperwork through.
We didn’t manage to get it through in time for them to get minutes under the belt on Tuesday night. So, we’ve probably got to schedule a couple of in-house games to get them up to speed.
But we’ve still got a large body of lads who have either been in and done a full pre-season or lads who’ve been in the last couple of weeks trying to get up to speed.
It’s not ideal, because the one good thing about those mid-week cup competitions is the fact that you can get minutes into guys and we did that on Tuesday. But it would’ve been nice to get as many as we could and possibly those minutes as well.
We’ll get there in the next few weeks and months, but I’m really happy with where the squad is at. Now I’ve just got to nip them together, build those relationships and get the lads minutes and fitness.
Some of the others who haven’t had much of any opportunity did they do enough to put their hand up on Tuesday and get themselves into your thoughts for the weekend?
Yeah, for sure, I spoke to the guys and Tuesday night was a cup competition. Obviously, the priority for us is the league, but we’re at the point where we’ve been predominantly a losing culture since I’ve been at the club and we need to change that.
You can’t go from losing culture to a winning culture straight away, you have to be a hard to beat culture. At Barrow, we didn’t play at our best. They went down to 10. We possibly should’ve taken maximum points, but also, we managed to take a point on the road which hasn’t been the norm.
We then followed that up with what I felt was a really good performance on Tuesday and it is key to getting and keeping momentum that we follow that up with another performance in the league on Saturday at home against Crawley.
For me it wasn’t a rotation, it was lads who have been chomping at the bit for opportunities, getting those.
Obviously getting some minutes into Jed Ward, as a young keeper we felt he’s earned the right to do that. Obviously Anssi having a bit of a niggle at the minute, makes that decision relatively straightforward.
Jed’s a huge prospect for us going forward and I think the cup competition is ideal for him. But then again you don’t want a massively young team in front of that because he gets a false experience, whereas as it is, he gets almost like a first team experience and I thought he was superb in the game.
He kept a clean sheet and Tuesday night we had a real young side out there. They were young, hungry and full of legs which is what we want our team to be.
I thought it was a really good performance, a lot better than probably the 2-0 suggests. Certainly first period, we controlled lots of aspects of it.
We know they made a few changes as well but they’re a League One side and they won this division last year and we’ve got to use that momentum Saturday to move into the game.
I don’t think there’ll be a whole host of changes for Saturday. I think the lads have shown, certainly Tuesday night, how cup competitions can be a springboard to get into the starting 11 for the league campaign.
So, we’ll see how they train this morning (Friday) and then we’ve got competition for places which is what every manager wants.
Tony Craig will be coming back this weekend with Crawley, a lot of people at this club and fans will feel that when he left, he wasn’t replaced …
I’d echo that 100%. I played against Rovers a few times when Craigy was there, whether it was Lockyer or Alfie Kilgour next to him, and he’s one of those centre halves that whoever plays next to him, plays better, which is usually the sign of a good centre-half.
In our second year at Fleetwood, we signed Peter Clarke who’s still cracking on at Tranmere and he’s in that mould, someone who’s been a great player, had a really good career and every club he’s been at, he’s been the terrace hero because of the way he goes about his business.
I’m sure he’ll get a great reception because when you speak to people around the club, not only was he a good player but a good man and a good professional around the place.
So, he’s somebody who I would have liked to inherit when I came here as opposed to some of the players in those positions I inherited.
And if he’d have been here when we came here, he would probably one of those more experienced players that we’re looking to build the bedrock of our foundation for the new culture.
So, I’ll probably have a chat with Tony, but hopefully he has a terrible game and we win quite easily and then after that we can go back to the niceties and he’ll get the reception off Gasheads that his performances for the Quarters when he put them on will no doubt have been earned.
Just on Anssi, he’s not going to be fit for the weekend?
A week ago on Monday, he said he’d felt the best he’d ever felt. He missed the Exeter game as a precaution. He felt really good in training and it settled down, he’ll just get a bit inflammation from time to time in his achilles.
Said he’d felt the best he’d ever felt in training but then he just slipped at the back end of training just moving across the goal-line, his back foot slipped and he felt a little twinge.
Obviously, when you’ve had that injury a few times your spider senses start tingling.
The physios have managed to calm that and calm his mind as well which is important.
So, he’s a week maybe ten days away from being back in contention. We said this time though to just take a bit of extra time and make sure it’s absolutely right so that when you come back, you’re not second guessing yourself.
Sign up for our Rovers newsletter
A summer of change is afoot at Bristol Rovers and you won’t miss a beat with our free newsletter.
All the latest news, views, interviews, gossip and analysis concerning the Gas, delivered straight to your inbox, every day at 12:00.
It’s completely free and you can sign up HERE
In the midst of that we had to change his loading programme and stuff like that, because we feel there’s a better way of doing it than maybe how he’s been doing it in the past.
But again, that’s out of my pay grade, that’s why you bring good physios and sports scientists in because they’ve got the experience in that space.
We’ve just got to find the right solution for Anss because he’s somebody that we want to be part of the journey going forward and if we can get him fit, he’s going to be a huge asset to us, but we’ve got to get him fit and keep him fit.
I’m sure all players do it anyway, but is he forcing himself back?
We’ve got competition for places for the first time, Belly (James Belshaw) has come in and done superb. I don’t think he’s had that in the past, I think he’s had people be in there for him when he’s injured.
He hasn’t had competition for places, and obviously young Jed Ward coming up behind that who’s hungry and keen.
For me I don’t really care about age, if you’re good enough and you’re performing well enough, you’ll play.
We’ve all been a young player thrown in at the deep end and it’s sink or swim and I think Jed showed Tuesday night he’s not going to be a million miles away.
He possibly needs a loan if those two, Belly who’s been superb as I’ve said and Anssi who’s a top keeper, if those two come off it for any fraction, I think young Jed shown just what a good young keeper he is and is going to be.
So, I’ve got some nice options in there and that competition for places drives the building, when you look round you go ‘If I don’t play well this guy is coming in to take my jersey off me’.
And I think the group are at the point where we know at some point there’s going to be moments in the season where this team could put a streak of results together. That’s what we expect to happen and if you’re in the jersey when that happens you can ride that wave.
You’re also mindful that if you’re not in the jersey you could spend a lot of time sitting and watching football which no player likes doing.
So, creating that competition is one thing, but then also allowing the frameworks for that to happen, lads go in Tuesday night and play well I think it’s important that they’re rewarded and keep the jersey and it’s the other players job to get those jerseys off them.
Just finally on transfers, you mentioned on Tuesday there might be another one (alongside Glenn Whelan) but that’s not a thing now?
I think it’s 22 or 23 (squad limit) but someone said the EFL have changed that. We’re absolutely certain when it came to certain things, we were absolutely crystal clear on those things because you need to know those squad parameters certainly when you’re managing a group of pros.
The last thing you want to do is have players that aren’t registered because it just wastes their career and their time and the owner’s money.
So, we were managing the squad always in the background and we wanted possibly another player on the frontline to add goals and assists but also, we had to manage the existing personnel we’ve got.
We were going to do one in one out with that last space and as it was, Zain never got out so I didn’t think it was the right thing because Zain has trained and done everything right.
We just both felt a move and a freshen up would probably be the right move for him, that didn’t materialise and we were at the point where we were looking at the options on the board and we realised we’re not going to get better than Westy.
So, we’d literally be swapping someone out for swapping someone out’s sake and I just didn’t think that was the right thing to do. If there’d have been an unbelievable option on the board then we may well have done and Zain would’ve missed out.
But as it is in football, it’s sliding doors moments and Zain gets another opportunity if he does the required work to salvage his Rovers career.
From it looking like it was going to exit the building, to now him being back in with the group and has a chance to fight for his place.
It goes like that again in January once the window opens but that’s football.
It’s a huge turnaround in one window that, and we need now just a settling in process. The volatility of the market being open causes players to panic, now that’s settled and we know what group we’re going to have.
Now we can just drill down into the process, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday is just like nectar for a coach.
So that allows us to really distil the principles at play and as I say hopefully more like the Tuesday night’s at home, because Oldham and obviously this past Tuesday night was more like what we’re looking to do.
Hopefully Saturday we can get in front of our fans again and give a really good performance and get this momentum rolling.