Welcome to the Managers blog for an update on the goings on behind the scenes at Ochilview.
As you will be aware our results are still not consistent enough and that has led to a situation that will take a good deal of physical and mental strength to see us achieve a play off spot and keep our hopes alive.
The question of mental strength is one that has been levelled against my squad on a few occasions this season and, for some, remains to be answered. There is no question in my mind that we have the ability to win football matches, the games that we are about to embark on will determine who has the mental strength and who has not. As a Manager I never stop trying to learn, anything that will help me to help my players prepare is worth the effort. I try and coach them into good habits and work hard at giving as much information as possible on their opponents and then allow them to make their own decisions on the pitch. That is where the mentality of a player comes in to question, does he have the strength to keep trying to get on the ball when things are going wrong? Does he try and encourage others around him when his own game is not up to scratch? Or does he hide and try and get through the game with out taking any risks, hiding, as it is commonly known. I think that we are lucky in that we have plenty of character in the squad and hope it comes to the fore starting on Saturday.
Of course there are always exceptions, and you and I are no different in that we would always pick eleven guys with that mental strength. Unfortunately there are players who ply their trade in the lower divisions for a reason, whether it is lack of athleticism, pace or attitude the answer normally lies in the fact that when the going gets tough they cannot handle it, technique goes out the window, work rate drops and concentration becomes a side issue. I hope that this does not sound too scathing of my own players, it is not meant to be. We have plenty of talent at the Club, the ones I am eluding to have had their chances and failed, thankfully they are in the minority. The secret of a good Manager is when to recognise the signs and take those players out of the equation. I may have just set myself up for a few clever answers to that one and fair enough, as a Manager you know that whatever happens will be laid at your door. I have taken plenty of pats on the back in my time and know that you have to be big enough to handle the flak when it comes.
There is no denying that mistakes are made but there are also times when you are left shaking your head, for example, last weeks win at Albion Rovers was full of good football and gutsy performances culminating in a late winner from Kevin Motion. Roll forward to Saturday, same eleven starting and it’s a case of one forward and two back as we fail to score against Dumbarton when on top in the first half. Each time I feel we have turned a corner we let ourselves down. Physically we are in good condition so again the question of poor mental strength crops up. For me it is all about achieving back to back wins, something that has eluded us for some time but would give us the confidence to banish any self doubt that we can, and should be, competing for the top spots and also allow us to play in a more relaxed manner. I think we require three wins from our run in and one of them has to be against Annan, our next game is away to Montrose and is in the must win category, not one for the faint hearted but certainly one to be relished. The players with strong characters will be counting down the minutes to kick off desperate to help get us back on track. It is my job to get the right team on the park and I can never guarantee a win but will guarantee a team that is not afraid to play, a team that will play with heart as well as head and one that will show a desire to put right much of what has went wrong.
While we are on the subject of team selection I would like to make one thing very clear, supporters should support the team, not just the players they like within that team. I know that there were a number of fans having a go at me for the substitution of Robert Love on Saturday, the truth is that if I had to make that decision again I would, Lovie knows why I took him off and also knew within seconds of coming off that he would start this weeks game. There are no pre conceived times for subs to come on, each game takes its own shape and I felt that we were getting in to some great crossing positions and would benefit from Dalziel and Diack who are better in the air than the wee man, I explained that to him and he has no problem with it, after all we are supposed to be in this together. Too much is made of substitutions, because a player comes off does not mean that they have played badly, the guy coming on must also be feeling what have I done to deserve this! The bottom line is that for me it is better to try and influence the result from the bench when chasing the game rather than sit back and do nothing so you don’t upset anyone. I hope you as fans travel to Montrose in numbers and get behind the boys, we always seem to make plenty of noise at away games and it would be great to see you there for what I hope will be the start of something special.