With the Football Associations decision to null and void the season thus expunging all the results, I caught up with Co-Manager Paul Bowyer to discuss his time at 1874 so far, reflecting back on the season that never was and the transition between playing and management.
At 1874 we believe it’s crucial that we create a family like atmosphere not just within our club, but also the wider community, and Paul recognised the link between the players and fans plays a key part of this. He said, “The link between the fans, players and staff and the level of support is something that makes this club stand out. The way everyone at the club buys into the whole ethos and the sense of community and togetherness is brilliant. There’s been lots of examples of this during the season, from the move to Barnton to the flags that have been purchased. When Matt Russell walked out to see the flag the fans have had made for him was special.”
When discussing the transition of becoming a manager, Paul told me it was always something interested him. “Ian had a chat with me and offered me the opportunity to get involved and I felt I needed to work alongside someone with more experience so it suited us both. I learnt a hell of a lot and enjoyed my time and when Ian decided it was time for him to move on, I really wanted to stay at the club. The timing probably helped a bit as there were maybe 10 or so games left of the season and after a chat with Wayne, we both fancied it and the board said they were happy for us to take charge.”
Paul also paid tribute to the efforts put in from the players from last June right to the early close of last season. He continued, “We scored so many important late goals during the season that it wasn’t a fluke. It was down to determination and belief and this all began in June when we returned to preseason training. The players all listened and remained calm throughout. I think there were a few games that made us believe even more – such as the win at Ashton with 10 men. The two of us had plenty of discussions during the season about how consistent the players performances were and it’s really hard to remember anyone having a bad game.”
He also believed that the way the players prepared themselves for the season not only had an impact on the superb performances, but it also brought them closer together. “The players were determined to come back fitter and stronger than ever last June and to their credit that’s what they did. We’re lucky that the majority of lads look after themselves and do extra work in the gym. We spoke to a few of the players we thought needed to do a bit more in the ‘off season’ and they listened. Although there’s a real togetherness in the squad there’s been a massive sense of competition between the players to push each other on this is something we’ve really benefited from.”
Paul also revealed that the key so far to his managerial career alongside Wayne has been due to the style of football they’ve established. Bowyer added, “I think the key to it so far has been to establish a way of wanting to play that the players are capable of. The quality of players we’ve got at the club mean we can play football ‘in the right way’. The fact we’ve had a relatively settled squad for the past 18 months or so means the players understand each other’s game and have got better collectively. In terms of how we work together, Wayne’s a very good coach and is excellent at getting across the tactical side of the game and coaching players to be in the right area. I’m not always as calm as Wayne and probably get on at the lads a bit more so I guess you could say we’re quite balanced in many ways.”
Finally, Paul rounded off the interview with a strong rallying call expressing that “Everyone at the club needs to improve.” Paul continued, “We’ve said it for the past couple of seasons now but standards need to be raised and we’ve all got to look to improve. There can be no complacency around the club that things will just happen for us and it’s our job to make sure this doesn’t happen. Whatever the frustrations and disappointment that we’re all feeling at the moment, these will need to be forgotten about over time and we need to get back to performances on the pitch. We know it will be tougher than ever now as every club will be more determined to beat us so I’m expecting the biggest challenge we’ve faced at the club to try and do it all again. I wouldn’t mind a little run in the FA Vase too as the one disappointment from last season was losing in this.”