BREW­ERS’ SCOOP

Ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Bur­ton’s in-de­mand man­ager Gary Rowett

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Sam El­liott

THE ONE cer­tainty for foot­ball re­porters at this time of year is that man­agers in­sist they are dis­tanc­ing them­selves from the league ta­bles.

It some­times seems they’re al­ler­gic to them. Top or bot­tom, high or low, the peren­nial quotes about how they’ll be avoid­ing the team stand­ings in the morn­ing pa­pers un­til things have ‘set­tled down’ never take long to be wheeled out.

Gary Rowett has al­ways done things dif­fer­ently. For in­stance, not even want­ing to con­sider an ap­proach from a club two di­vi­sions higher, even if the club in ques­tion were Black­pool, the Foot­ball League’s own ver­sion of Raggy Ar­sed Rovers.

His mood as we were about to dis­cuss the start to Bur­ton Al­bion’s sea­son and his re­cent com­mit­ment to their cause was fore­cast to be frosty, com­ing half an hour after Bur­ton Al­bion had been wal­loped 3-0 by strug­gling AFC Wim­ble­don on Tues­day night.

A per­for­mance more fit­ting for where the club had come from – they were a North­ern Premier League side just over a decade ago – than a dis­play suit­able for where they want to go.

Am­bi­tion

But Rowett was con­tra­dic­tory as ever; charm­ing and in­sist­ing only that I put the in­ter­net on my mo­bile phone to good use by flick­ing through the night’s re­sults and up­dated ta­ble for him.

It re­vealed his team re­mained top of League Two de­spite the Wim­ble­don ham­mer­ing.

“You’ve got to be happy with how the ta­ble is look­ing, I’m not go­ing to pre­tend oth­er­wise,” said the 40-year-old for­mer full-back, a favourite at Birm­ing­ham, Derby County and Le­ices­ter City.

De­flec­tion of pres­sure is a builtin char­ac­ter­is­tic with most mod­ern-day man­agers. Not with Rowett. Any­thing less than League One foot­ball next sea­son isn’t meet­ing stan­dards.

“The am­bi­tion has to be to get pro­mo­tion, it’s as sim­ple as that,” he added. “We’re not so ar­ro­gant as a club not to re­alise that is a big aim for us. We’re not the big­gest club in League Two, not by any means.

“Bud­get wise, I would say we’re around mid-ta­ble so there’s no pres­sure from that point of view to meet our tar­gets.

“We haven’t spent con­sid­er­ably more each year since I have been here. We’ve got a bet­ter crop of young play­ers com­ing through, which has been the key.

“We’re all about mak­ing those con­stant im­prove­ments. We’re try­ing to be pro­gres­sive, but we are also try­ing to do it in steps that are rea­son­able for our club.

“We’ve been down there. There was a time be­fore Nigel Clough came to Bur­ton where they won­dered what di­rec­tion it would take. The new sta­dium re­ally helped but you’ve seen it hap­pen be­fore when clubs over-stretch them­selves.

“Where the chair­man Ben Robin­son is bril­liant is that he knows and un­der­stands foot­ball.

“He’ll be think­ing that if we get pro­moted then fan­tas­tic, if we don’t then it’s no big deal. It’s that level-headed at­ti­tude that typ­i­fies the na­ture and the his­tory of our club. If we can keep push­ing great, but for me it’s just about be­ing the best team we can pos­si­ble be.”

Wem­b­ley last May was a wa­ter­shed mo­ment. In truth, the Brew­ers drooped un­der

the Arch – they didn’t turn up for the play-off fi­nal, a 1-0 de­feat to Fleet­wood Town that was ev­ery­thing Rowett’s side wasn’t.

“We re­ally re­flected on the per­for­mance at Wem­b­ley a lot over the sum­mer,” he added. “It showed us ex­actly what we needed, and where we were short.

“We needed more mo­bil­ity in for­ward ar­eas, we needed to be more flex­i­ble in the way that we played and I think we needed to be more at­trac­tive to watch and cre­at­ing more go­ing for­ward.

“It was an eye opener. So far this sea­son we’ve done all those things. We were semi-fi­nal losers in my first sea­son. Last year ob­vi­ously we fell just short in the play-off fi­nal. So, this sea­son? We’ve got to go one bet­ter re­ally. You have to be mov­ing for­ward in foot­ball or what hap­pens is that you find your­self mov­ing back.

“Just be­cause we are sat top of the league it doesn’t in any way, shape or form mean that we ex­pect to be there. Some­times the hum­ble na­ture about the way we op­er­ate al­lows us to get on with our work qui­etly, and it doesn’t put too much pres­sure on us.”

Rowett’s work hasn’t gone un­no­ticed. Black­pool were brazen enough to think that he would jump ship last week the mo­ment they flut­tered their eye­lashes.

In re­al­ity, walk­ing out on what he has built for Black­pool, who showed such lit­tle de­cency that they ap­proached him while their own man­ager was pre­par­ing for a game, was never likely.

He added: “The key thing for me is that the club wanted to put a state­ment out say­ing I wasn’t leav­ing. I think it was more born out of how pleased the chair­man was that I didn’t want to go!

“I chose to stay at Bur­ton. Yes, I could have fur­thered my ca­reer by step­ping up to the Cham­pi­onship, it is al­ways go­ing to be ap­peal­ing – I’m a pro­fes­sional, and in your pro­fes­sion you al­ways want to progress and test your­self.

“To man­age in the sec­ond tier of English foot­ball would have given me that op­por­tu­nity. Ev­ery­one wants to be bet­ter, don’t they? But I feel we can do that here. I’m work­ing in a very good en­vi­ron­ment, the best.”

In Bur­ton’s favour, of course, is prob­a­bly the best train­ing fa­cil­i­ties in world foot­ball at St George’s Park.

Where nor­mally the men­tion of a League Two train­ing ground con­jures up vi­sions of ramshack­led chang­ing rooms and oc­ca­sional dog mess on pitches, Al­bion get to use the £120m Na­tional Foot­ball Cen­tre that last month housed Barcelona.

Im­mac­u­late

“We’ve been there ever since the pitches first went up,” Rowett added. “Ob­vi­ously it’s in Bur­ton, so a re­la­tion­ship has re­ally de­vel­oped.

“We first moved in when there were no build­ings at all – just a few lights around an im­mac­u­late pitch. We don’t use it ev­ery sin­gle day but when we do, it’s fan­tas­tic.

“We’ve al­ways been there. I ac­tu­ally think they value us, so we’re very for­tu­nate. Some­times they’ll ask us to test pitches out or try some other idea, it’s an amaz­ing place – we’re so lucky.

“It’s prob­a­bly the best train­ing fa­cil­ity in the world at the minute. It’s our USP when we’re look­ing to sign play­ers.

“You take them to St George’s Park, then to the Pirelli Sta­dium and it pro­motes Bur­ton Al­bion to them. When we show them around the club doesn’t take much flog­ging!”

Rowett is cer­tainly sell­ing him­self. The Cham­pi­onship or even higher? Put your money on it.

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

MAN APART: Gary Rowett is do­ing it his way In­set, right: Bur­ton are de­jected at Wem­b­ley after Fleet­wood win. Bot­tom: Barcelona us­ing the Brew­ers’ St George’s Park train­ing pitch

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