This month has been a topsy-turvy one. We started with three straight defeats, which was a completely unfamiliar feeling this season. Results determine the mood of the whole club and, though it is never an unpleasant place to work, we feel a bit less comfortable when defeats kick in. It many ways it’s when the manager, Russell Slade, needs to earn his money most as a “wobble” can soon become a “crisis” if it is managed badly, but thankfully he has turned things around by staying positive and having a slight spring clean.
I was back on poster duty as Russell wanted to freshen up the messaging around the place. He has broken the season down into thirds and the messages for the posters have changed accordingly. The first batch was all about the start of a journey and togetherness, for example “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”, while the second were about keeping up momentum: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just stand still.” I also get commissioned to write the odd topical one, picking out quotes from the opposition manager and suchlike.
As we enter the final furlong, the theme from the posters is “Whatever it takes”. There are also some that ask the players where they want to be next season with images of Championship stadiums full to the rafters juxtaposed with empty grounds from our own division.
Another motivational tool is the pre-match team talk. On a match day the players will have a meeting at 1.30pm for home games where the team is announced and key messaging and tactical statements that have been worked on all week are reiterated, along with set-play routines. Then when the players come in from their warm-up the gaffer has his final word, which is all about motivation.
The changing room right before kick-off is the one area of the club that I’ve never seen, but I have seen the amount of work that goes into preparing it. The gaffer was in late on Thursday in his office and I had popped in to get him to fill in his League One Player of the Year form. He was preparing his team talk and he asked me to sit in on it as I think he wanted another pair of eyes on it.
The gaffer will often use quotes that write us off, from the press or other managers, to get the boys going and this week’s team talk kicked off in similar fashion. Brentford against Wolves at Griffin Park had been billed as a potential “title decider”. The gaffer used that as a starting point as, according to some people, we are destined for the play-offs but he wanted to stress that we are still very much in the title race.
The key technical points are touched upon again briefly before his sheet of paper goes into his folder and back with him to his flat to be learnt before Saturday.
The team talk must have been a success as the lads came flying out of the blocks against Swindon and we grabbed another 2-0 win to return to the summit, albeit only on goals scored. It’s going to be tight up there but all we can do is just keep going.
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