HERE is every word from new Stratford Town boss Tommy Wright in an exclusive interview with the Herald where he gave his thoughts on being given the role, the plans for the future, potential signings, giving youth a chance as well as the league campaign ahead.
Your thoughts on being appointed the new Stratford Town manager?
I was delighted. It happened very quickly. I had a couple of chats with Jed (McCrory) and I knew Paul Davis and Steve Walker previously so those phone calls were really assuring from my point of view. The football club itself did really well last year and Thomas Baillie was at the forefront of that and trying to build on that going into this year is my target.
What attracted you to Stratford Town FC?
A couple of reasons really, one I needed a job, but joking aside I think the location was the driving force. I knew the club last year, having spoke to Walks (Steve Walker) throughout the season, was in with a shout of promotion and when they’ve done what they achieved it draws you in. I think I can come in and have some success here. The chats I had with Jed and knowing his background doesn’t make it your normal non-league club because of the clubs he has been involved with so again with that, I think I can tap into his contacts and he can tap into mine and that working relationship works for me. I know this league, having won the equivalent Southern Premier League [with Corby] so I feel I can get my ideas into these lads and add two or three of my players and build on last year.
What will you bring to the club?
I like to think I’ve learnt a lot as a manager since the last time I managed in this league. My only experience of being in this league I won it. I do feel like I sit here a better manager having experienced the last four years in the league above. There are some big clubs and managers in this league and I’m really looking forward going toe-to-toe with them and getting my ideas across to the lads. I can’t wait until the 27th June when I can officially meet them as such and work with them. I think I bring experience and can hit the ground of running.
What kind of football can the fans expect?
I like attacking football. Everyone can sit and say ‘I want to do this’ and ‘I want to do that’, but I genuinely do like playing attacking and passing football. I like to play through the thirds and I like to entertain. When you’ve got a club that wants to progress, it’s in my remit to get people through the gates and generate that interest. When people come through the door they need to be entertained and want to come back and that’s something I’m looking to achieve.
How would you describe your management style? Do you see yourself as a results driven manager like Jose Mourinho, someone who loves football for what it is like Jurgen Klopp, or do you try to turn football into an art like Pep Guardiola?
I think you take bits from everybody. You can’t mimic one individual – I never did as a player either. Even when I got my coaching badges you take what you believe in and create it to be your own. There’s a time and a place to be angry, there’s a time and a place to be really calm. Ultimately managing is a game of emotions.
How do you plan to build on Town’s successful 2018/19 season?
I think last season is the starting point and trying to emulate that. I think the League Cup was the icing on the cake of what was a good season. Obviously there was the disappointment in the end in the play-offs, but I think the lads that will stay and have been involved in that will learn from it and it’ll bode well to make them stronger. There are a lot of lads in that group that have experienced promotion and that will be key this year. We need to bring in as many players that have experienced winning things and being involved in big games and I think there’ll be a lot of them next year.
What would you like to achieve at Town?
Having conversations with the board, I don’t think there’s any specific pressure on this season, but I’ve come to the club because they hit the play-offs last year and I see it as a club that could do something so for me, on a personal level, pushing them play-offs again will at the top of my mind-set and something I’m aiming for. If we’re winning games week in, week out, more fans will come through the door and you get that bit of momentum and that will be something to build from the off and see where it takes us because I’m sure it’ll be a rollercoaster. There will be peaks, there will be drops, but ultimately if we hit our targets throughout we won’t be too far away. Stratford Town is a club that can be built and it’s something I believe I have done at my previous clubs, in terms of I have literally built the clubs and their academies. It’s nice to come into one that has already got an academy in place and I think that we can really go into the community and schools to try and get more interest in Stratford Town Football Club and boost the attendances.
Are you hopeful of retaining the majority of last season’s squad?
Yes and no. A couple are already out of the door. At any club that does well, players are going to be wanted and this club is no different. There are some clubs at the minute throwing crazy money around and I don’t want to get caught up in that tug of war. If a player wants to stay, he will do his utmost to stay, if the club want him to stay, they will replicate that. We know where we can take it and have taken it to that point and can’t take it beyond it. At the minute, there are two or three that have offers, but we are hopeful to retain them. If we don’t then we start to look elsewhere and that’s something every football club will be saying.
All new managers have targets in mind, have you identified any areas for improvement?
Well we’ve lost our centre forward and that’s obvious that it will be addressed. I do think we need to score more goals than what we did in the season just gone. In terms of goals conceded, we had one of the best defences in the league and we will be looking to build on that for this year. There’s the goalkeeper situation, we’ve lost a centre-half and like I say, we’ll have to see what other positions need strengthening. I’m looking to strengthen the team as a whole so if I’m saying I’m happy with my midfield, but a better midfielder becomes available, then we push forward as a football club. I want to try and attract the best footballers to this club.
Have you discussed budget?
I knew the budget previously before I took the job because I knew people in the club already. I knew what I was taking on and it doesn’t frighten me. I think it’s a modest budget for this league. Some clubs will pay more – is that right or wrong? I think that’s up to them to decide. I know where we are at and we will utilise the loan market and bringing lads through the academy system so I still think we’ll be strong.
How do you compete in the player market with those clubs that have bigger budgets?
For us it’s not about getting involved in a tug of war and going out of our financial constraints. If we can’t do it there’s no point promising a player we can do it. We are fully aware our rivals in this league are paying more than what we are, but that’s at every level of football. We know where we are at and know what players we can attract and I’m not going to use money as an excuse. There’s good footballers at this club and I think we can bring good players to this club.
Do you think with so much happening on social media from other clubs that fans think nothing is happening at Stratford Town?
Fans want to see players coming in and so do I. The fans have got to believe in the fact that I’ve got a lot of contacts and so does Jed. There are agreements that have been made and there will be announcements sooner rather than later towards the back end of this week and some lads will start signing. We are being very proactive so the fans need to be patient with it and recognise we are still a few weeks away from pre-season. If I really wanted to I could fill the squad by 5pm tomorrow. A lot of players are out of work at the minute, but we want the best ones. A lot of discussions are being had and agreements have been made. It’s now physically getting the forms signed. Some clubs are being very noisy at the minute, but let’s see whose playing for who come August. From our point of view we will have a lot of trialists from the start of training, but that will get dwindled down and around mid-pre-season the fans will know where we are at.
From what we’ve heard you’re big on promoting youth so can fans expect to see any FC Stratford, Town Youth and/or Town Academy players breaking into the first team?
I think when you’ve got an academy you owe the boys that. If they show enough to warrant that opportunity you have to give them it. I was a young lad that had that opportunity with a manager that believed in me at the age of 17. I think that has planted something in my make-up to create the coach/manager I have been. I always like to reward young lads that have done well. I’ve had success with that and I won’t be deviating away from that as the lads deserve a chance and I’m brave enough to give them that chance.
Will you be going around to see some of the youth sides?
I will make it a priority to get down to the youth games, but also any good manager has even better backroom staff so I have to listen to opinions from people around me because ultimately if I’m going to go off what I see I might miss something. I trust the people around me, we’re all in it for the same reasons as we want to see the best players playing for the football club. If we can push any local lads through I will be just as proud as anybody.
The new season is not really that far away, how important is it to get off to a good start?
The division is certainly tougher than it was last year. People you talk to around this league will say Kettering and King’s Lynn were the two big-hitters last season that are now out the way, but you’ve also added into the fact that Nuneaton have come down and Bromsgrove Sporting have come up. Sporting will bring an army of supporters which not many clubs at this level have got so I think that’s a game I’m really looking forward to on the calendar. Tamworth will be strong and Stourbridge will be up there, Nuneaton seem to be throwing a lot of money around so there’s going to be a lot of competition in this league. A good start is ideal because it builds momentum and it also gets the fans behind you. Is it imperative? No. Can you take the long way around? Of course you can, but the plan will be to have a good start and hit the ground running. The way we will go into pre-season will be how we look to go into the new league season.
Given how well the club performed last season and the fact a new manager brings a change of squad, will fans have to show some patience?
Hopefully not! If things don’t go to plan from the start, the word patience is something I’d like to think the fans would give me, but that’s not the plan. The plan is to get bums on seats and start entertaining and get everything to go all rosy. However, that isn’t football, there’s a lot of hard work to be done from now through to that period. I’m confident going into it and I’m confident I know enough about the level and I’m excited to get started.
So the hard work starts now?
It does! The rebuild is happening, as such, and pre-season plans and fitness regimes are all being produced. I’m not looking to implement massive changes. I’m fully aware of the systems used last year and I know what the players are capable of so I’m not going to just rip it up and think I can change it overnight. I’m looking forward to making the tweaks that I think will make them better players and as a team. Football can be complicated at times and I don’t think it needs to be.