COUNTY TEST HAS MADE ME A PROPER MAN

The Football League Paper - - GRAHAM WESTLEY -

I’VE writ­ten be­fore in this col­umn that when the call came ask­ing me to con­sider the job at New­port, I was hes­i­tant. Bot­tom of the League, one win in 13 games, out of the EFL Tro­phy and EFL Cup and a closed trans­fer win­dow! I knew things were not go­ing to be easy. I chose to join be­cause I love foot­ball and hate not be­ing in­volved, be­cause the peo­ple on the board were gen­uinely nice guys, be­cause it was a com­pli­ment to be wanted and be­cause I knew that tak­ing the chal­lenge would re-af­firm I have char­ac­ter and guts. Crack­ing it would also pro­mote my lead­er­ship and man­age­rial abil­ity. The chal­lenge is tougher than I had imag­ined be­cause the is­sues are club is­sues and not just foot­ball is­sues. For a start, we share a rugby pitch. It is dif­fer­ent to, say, Wy­combe who shared their foot­ball pitch with Wasps. We have a rugby pitch, with rugby drainage. We get ac­cess only on match days and we lose games to the weather eas­ily. The play­ers can get de­spon­dent about their ‘home’. On the face of it we have a great train­ing fa­cil­ity at the In­ter­na­tional Sports Vil­lage. In re­al­ity, ac­cess is lim­ited and pitch ar­range­ments are poor. We have a very lim­ited full- time staff. Cur­rently, a di­rec­tor plays a part time role as in­terim sec­re­tary and we then have a two-man team on fi­nance and com­mer­cial run­ning EV­ERY­THING else, with help from vol­un­teers. It makes an or­gan­ised ex­is­tence very awk­ward. So, you can see that there are lots of ex­cuses to cling to at New­port. The key to our five wins, three draws and five losses in 13 games, a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment, has been to fo­cus on the strengths in our squad and cre­ate a way of play­ing and work­ing that the best of our squad be­lieve in. And also to fo­cus on what we have got, not on what we haven’t got. I have learned enor­mously. For in­stance, I have re­alised we need to build sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent game philoso­phies at home and away be­cause of pitch con­di­tions. Our in­tense phi­los­o­phy, that has served us well in play­ing dev­as­tat­ing foot­ball in re­cent away wins, has not al­ways helped us at home and we have be­gun to de­velop se­lec­tion and ap­proach ac­cord­ingly. My start­ing 11 last week­end fi­nally had Mar­lon Jack­son and Joss Labadie in it. With those two join­ing ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers like Joe Day, Dar­ren Jones, Scot Bennett, Jenn Myrie Wil­liams and Ben Tozer in our team, we have hun­dreds of FL starts to call on now. Very pos­i­tive. Sup­ple­ment­ing that with the youth of Josh Shee­han, Jazzi Bar­num Bobb, Tom Owen-Evans and Josh O’Han­lon cre­ates a team with a bril­liant blend of youth and ex­pe­ri­ence. We have Sean Rigg to come back in, too, which will stiffen us, while the ex­pe­ri­enced Abdu Meite has shown his in­ter­na­tional class in per­for­mance but, more im­por­tantly, in at­ti­tude. Those two are among our back-up, which we will no doubt strengthen in Jan­uary. I’ve al­lowed four play­ers to move on to cre­ate some room to bol­ster our strength. The fans are get­ting be­hind us, and the spirit of com­mon pur­pose around the club is both in­tense and ex­cit­ing. New­port County is enor­mously chal­leng­ing, but it makes a proper man of you. And the feel­ing of achieve­ment from ev­ery win is even stronger be­cause of what it takes to de­liver it.

PIC­TURE: ProS­ports

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