How do you feel your first season has gone?
When I first met the two Joe's and was offered the job I was immensely impressed with there enthusiasm and drive. I have known Joe Doran a number of years and he has a great knowledge of football at this level and in this area. Joe Johnson is a very successful business man and both love Bootle the club couldn’t be in better hands.
Were you set any targets?
Yes, our initial target was to keep the club in the Evostik league in year one and to make the play-offs in year two.
How achievable are those targets?
The first one was achieved with relative ease as I had inherited a good side, it only needed a tweak here and there to improve results. The first was to improve the fitness of the group and secondly to improve the strength and depth of the group as for two years COVID had not allowed players to complete full seasons and tiredness will always lead to injury. The side was good but the depth wasn’t. The second task will be more difficult as the league will be strong next year with teams who have underachieved coming stronger and Macclesfield, Skelmersdale and Witton Albion adding to the strength of what is a good league.
What is your background in football?
I signed at Blackpool at fourteen years of age and was offered an apprenticeship which in those days was more privileged as only four were offered. I became, however, a product of 'not quite good enough' after high hopes and lost my way before playing the equivalent of step 3 to 4 in today’s levels. I have an empathy with young players who are released from clubs as it’s not pleasant being rejected in football. I went back to school/college and sat examinations and trained to be a PE teacher which was second prize in the raffle behind being a pro footballer.
What advice would you give to players leaving professional football this summer?
For young players 18-20 it’s not too late. Work hard, don’t underestimate non league football, retrain for a job and never lose your enthusiasm for the game. Let your ability take you as high as you can go.
What got you into management?
Complete fluke. I had always run school teams at work and new a lot of players with playing until my mid-thirties managers were always asking me for players the transition was easy.
What do you not like about football?
The people who talk behind your back and haven’t got the honesty to ask you questions up front, but are happy to make judgement without understanding. Everyone in football has an opinion, and whilst historically this was debated in bars now it is rammed down people's throats on social media. They are called keyboard warriors I call them keyboard cowards. As in all aspects of life the minority make most noise but so do empty vessels.
Your rotation policy has its critics, how do you respond to that?
The game has changed so much even at our level. People of my age played with eleven men and one sub, then it became three subs, now it’s five subs with three allowed on. When you make your third sub two heads drop, it is almost pointless really either allow five on or go back to three. Players used to be able to play in a reserve team and stay fit, but now not many clubs have reserve teams so players who don’t play leave and squads become weaker. My philosophy is to have a strong group and hold on to them which means playing them. Anyone watching us in our final two games couldn’t argue with the fact we were fresh and gave the two promoted sides good games.
Tom or Jack. Why rotate?
Tom Peterson and Jack McGowan are both excellent strikers and people and I frustrate the life out of them. I would say they have different strengths and are both assets to the team. When I play them both we either have to change our shape or play Jack out of position which doesn’t help him they both have an excellent goals per game record would they have that if they had played every game one for debate.
What is the situation with Michael Carberry?
Michael has recently been playing at Southport and has played exceptionally well. They are not the only club at a higher level to show interest. He is a fans favourite and I know having spoken to him he wants to go higher. Michael is one of those young lads who didn’t quite make the professional game but his talent is there for all to see. Do we want to lose him definitely not ,would we stand in his way definitely not at this stage we know nothing concrete.
What were your most memorable highs and lows from the season?
The highs were many, there were some excellent performances from the team with great football being played and lots of goals. The low point was Runcorn away which took us away from the play-offs and was followed by our five match slump that disappointed us all. I have never lost that many games as a manager or player and it was hugely disappointing.
What is your relationship with the fans?
From my point of view Bootle is a great club and in my working environment I have never worked with as many positive people. I hope I am respected by the majority of people for obtaining a decent league position but have to accept you can’t please everyone. I think an element of people would like to see an all scouse team, including manager, but football has changed players and managers travel and you can’t pick a team on a post code.
What changes can we expect next season?
We would hope to bring players in to compete for places to get the best out of our current squad. We know play offs is our target and we can hopefully enjoy trying to hit that target.
Finally, what are your long term plans?
At seventy one you don’t make long term plans it’s about health, desire and enjoyment at the moment. All three are there but when I do step away like all clubs I have managed I hope to leave them in a better place. That’s not difficult as Ashton, Daisy Hill, Prescot and Bootle were all bottom when I arrived and from there you can’t go backwards. FC United had been relegated and Skelmersdale had been promoted from the North West Counties. Finally, I would like to thank the loyalty of Steve, Roy and Tony. Three guys I appreciate so much for there commitment and honesty in the time we have been together, none of them are 'yes men' but all men you would want alongside you in a battle. One day football will finish and hopefully I can mentor a manager somewhere. Until then it’s unfinished business at Bootle and looking forward with excitement to next year enjoy your summer.