Manger's Monday reflections.
Off the back of a 3-0 win and a triumphant display against AFC Wimbledon at the weekend, John Ward spoke of his side’s unity and the promise it possess.
He said: “The younger players have grown up quickly, it’s really pleasing when you look at the ages of the guys that started and came on, the 18 that we had was a very young group of people.
"The senior boys really showed the way too, such as Matt Harrold, David Clarkson and my goalkeeper; they are really strong characters. They didn’t look at that and think ‘we’re out with the kids again’, they led by example.
"There’s a collective work rate that we have demanded from the team that’s there a little bit more often now.”
Given the current upturn in form, the manager is looking forward to the forthcoming FA Cup tie with Crawley Town.
He said: “It’s nice to go into a cup tie on the back of a good performance, particularly a good performance at home. Although it has not shot us up the league table because other people have got points as well.
"There’s a tight knit group of teams on 3 or 4 points around us and in catchable positions. There’s a positive view about what we’re trying to do.
“We put that to one side now, as we have a week concentrating on the FA cup, to see if we can beat a team in a league higher than us. We start as underdogs, which is fine by me, they come as a team in League 1 and we hadn’t won at home since August, so we are the underdogs. But the form we have shown recently puts us in good stead to create a bit of a surprise.”
But with a new manager on the horizon, Ward knows Crawley could be a rejuvenated side.
“Crawley may have a new manager by the weekend and that tends to give players a lift, but we’re the home side and because of the league positions we’re the underdogs, but we’re a good side and the last game is a good reminder of that. If there is a new face coming in that does tend to lift players, so all in all there’s a good game in prospect here.”
It’s still quite a while before the Bristol Rovers squad will be replenished with a clean bill of health, but John does have things to look forward to.
He said: “The injured lads have got to get themselves fit first of all; we’ve got to get them back on the training ground. There’s a similar feel as to 3 or 4 weeks after I came in last year when it seemed we were on the ropes, to say the least, and we’ve been there again this year.
"But we came back and we fought our way through, it’s not something we can’t do, it’s something the players have got knowledge of and are capable of doing so we need to get those guys fit and pushing for places.
"The nice thing after the cup tie is we’ll have Beardsley and O’Toole back from suspension, but we’re still a little bit away from getting people like Mark McChrystal back into the side or into first team reckoning.”
Some players are closer to return than others, as John explains.
He said: “Jim Patterson and Danny Woodards are practically on the same path, it’s a pity for Jim as we thought he would be back quicker and earlier. They’re both good trainers, really good professional boys and have pushed each other along.
"We’re now getting them back into football work, which is great for their morale as well and their wellbeing. It is non-contact stuff for now, but in another 3-4 weeks those two will not be far away from being considered for some football games.
“Alefe Santos wants to train today but we’re going to monitor him, and he’s going to be under Phil Kite and Mark Hammond today. He’s 18-years-old, and he has never had a hamstring problem before and doesn’t know the consequences of it, and I like to think Phil, Mark and I do.
"We know he could be fit for Saturday but I also know if we overstep the mark today, tomorrow or Wednesday he could be out for 5-6 weeks and we’ve got enough people in that situation.”
Written by Lucas Swain.
For the full interview visit Gas Player.