The competition for places in and around the front three is such that three mistakes in a row could well be costly, especially with unknown quantity Remi Howarth knocking on the door for a first-team place too.
“When Remi signed it was so refreshing to see someone who just signed a deal so happy and delighted to be given a chance. Listen, I’m not here just to give someone a chance for the sake of it though. Remi has earned his chance, through his performances in pre-season and again, we will benefit from having him around. He can play left side, right side, up top on his own, even as one of the two eights.”
Michael went on to describe how a player appearing for Cefn Druids in Wales came to be at the EPC on trial in August.
“I know his agent well; I’ve signed a couple of players from him before. His agent said ‘have a look on YouTube, see what you think. We got the videos up, we quite liked what we saw, so we invited him in for a couple of weeks. He came into the group and everyone thought he was a great lad straight away.
“It’s alright being a great lad, but if you don’t do the business it’s no good. He did, he’s done well and he’s very direct in the final third, which I like. He’s got his chance and I think we’ll see more and more of him. We’re bound to, we have a small group and lots of games, injuries and suspensions will happen, so we’ll use plenty of the squad.”
Whilst the squad looks strong and fleshed out, Michael admitted that budget-wise, Covid has had an impact, but that he respects how the board have dealt with the issues they face.
“Look, it’s well known the budget has been reduced this year, but what I like about the club is they’ve been straight with me the whole time. I’ve been in situations before where the budget was cut but you’re still expected to get promoted, but I like the fact the board have been upfront.”
Even with a depleted budget, there is a feeling from many quarters that this is the most complete Imps squad for a while, even if that comes from several players being able to operate in several positions. It’s no secret Michael wants to bring in a ten and, as we discussed earlier if he does it will give us further flexibility in the approach we take.
I did chat in further depth to Michael about players and the squad and may even squeeze another article out of it tomorrow or over the weekend. However, that concludes the bulk of the conversation and what has really struck me is how the squad really does feel like Michael’s now. As I said before, he spoke to me about then as if he were describing his kids at times, especially some of the younger lads, and I can see why he is an attraction for those types of players.
Let us not make any bones about this; Michael is brutally honest and whilst he is able to create the environment he feels will allow the players to succeed, it is down to them to do so. They make the decisions on the field, they live their life the way they choose of it and in the manager’s eyes if they now fail to perform, it will not be the fault of the club. Again, it was honest and direct, something I have already come to expect from the manager.
I’d like to obviously thank him for his time; this wasn’t something handed to me by the media team, I can’t even claim I pushed for the interview. Michael contacted me, I think he’s all-too aware of the fact many of these faces are new to fans, players that right now we may not identify with. After the strong start that is beginning to change, but Michael seems enormously proud of what he has achieved over the summer, in conjunction with the recruitment team. It isn’t ‘Magnificent Seven’ bluster, an over-the-top proclamation of his own power at attracting players. Instead, there is a gentle and reserved pride in the squad, obviously with that caveat around the budget.
That’s why I imagine he wanted to talk at length about them because he knows that the club have made giant leaps over the summer and in his way, he wants to show them off. He will never do that by making unkeepable promises, or by building players up to be knocked down; that’s not his way. Instead, he wants them to do the talking on the field, but in these odd times, fans might not immediately gel with players they have only seen on TV,
That is, of course, to the detriment of a talented squad and a sound recruitment policy, but it is also my good fortune as I had the pleasure of Michael’s company for a good hour. Let’s hope that tomorrow, those relationships can continue to build with another Imps win.