Get to know the Gaffer!

In an effort to keep supporters entertained and informed, the club’s Media Team is working on a series of feature articles to be published over the next few weeks. The first is an interview with Manager Craig Davies.

Craig was appointed in the summer and has only had 12 competitive matches in charge, nine of which have been away. This, plus the neccesary restrictions caused by COVID-19 has conspired to prevent our fans from chewing the fat after matches with the boss, as they have been able to with his precessors. So, we asked Craig a few questions so that our fans can learn a little more about him.

Although Craig is a young coach, he did play at a good level. He said, “as a kid I played for Whiston Juniors, which is the same grassroots side from which Steven Gerrard came through. It’s a very well known club in the area for winning things, developing players and producing talent. From there, I spent time professional clubs in the youth systems of Liverpool, Everton and Manchester City. I was mainly a centre forward but enjoyed playing out wide too.

“As an Under-18 player, I was on the books at Morecambe. Then like most, I fell into the non league system and played for a number of clubs including Burscough, Vauxhall Motors, Stalybridge Celtic, Droylsden and Warrington Town to name a few. I’d also had a spell in the Welsh Premier League with Connah’s Quay and Newtown AFC. After relocating to London, I also had spells with several Conference South and for Leatherhead, Horsham and Margate in the Isthmian League Premier Division. I’ve even played in USA for New Orleans Jesters in the National Premier Soccer League. Basically, I’ve been around, ha ha!”

However, Craig’s playing career was brought to a premature end, as he told us: “Having suffered two major knee injuries that resulted in two operations in 3 years, I started to take a shine to the other side of the game, coaching. Initially, I started coaching on a few community programmes and local grassroots teams in London while completing my coaching badges.

“As you go up the qualifications ladder, progression is a natural thing to look for. I stepped into my first professional club academy role at AFC Wimbledon and worked with their U13 and U14 teams. After two seasons, I moved on to coach the U13s at West Ham United.”

During this period, Craig combined his work with the Hammers with his first senior management role at Croydon FC of the Step 5 Southern Counties East League. The Trams play at a municipal athletic stadium and are not well supported, but Craig has fond memories of his time at the Croydon Sports Arena, calling the job “a great role for learning the ropes of football management”.

After deciding to relocate back to Merseyside, Craig secured a job at Liverpool FC working with the Acamedy U11 squad, which he combined with working with the First Team and U18s at Widnes, before joining Cables in July.

Most football fans are familiar with the ‘hairdryer’ treatment dished out by some football managers in the past, but Craig indicated that he prefers to work in a different way. “I like to think that my management style is ‘fair but firm’. I’m all about the players and their best interests. I’ll dish out praise when it’s due but likewise, will demand more from the players if I believe they are capable of more.”

Craig also has clear ideas about how he would like Cables to play: “My philosophy is about building out from the back, looking to attack quickly with and without the ball and focuses on positional play. As part of this, I like my players to be fit and be able to have high energy, high pressing qualities. Ultimately it’s also about winning. I have a preferred system but like my players to be tactically astute. As seen in our performances, we have been frightening to play against when we have grasped the ideas. But with any transition to new management, it will take a bit longer to seriously embed how we want to play and the players we will need for my style.”

Of course, it is difficult for any coach to impart their theories when they aren’t allowed to hold training sessions, so we asked Craig whether the regular pauses for lockdowns and COVID-19 related postponements had made his job harder:

“It has been an up and down season, for sure. We’ve enjoyed some excellent highs at the start of the season and equally, some lows in our recent performances. I sympathise with the players when it comes to the circumstances that we are living through at the moment. We have built good momentum in stages then had to start again due to isolating as a squad and the lockdown that took place in November. We have suffered a good number of injuries and suspensions which obviously impacts progress. But equally, we have admitted that in a few games, we have been below par.

“It’s a time for reflection so early on in the season. That is particularly true for me and the management team; we need to go back to what we were effective at, we need to be planning and keep the players motivated for the return to action.”

We closed the interview by asking Craig if he had a message for the club’s supporters:

“From day one the supporters have been absolutely fantastic. I have had nothing but support. I understand their frustration at not being able to watch us that often so far and it’s something we massively miss. The supporters are the backbone of this club. I appreciate they may be frustrated at times with some of the football they have seen but as mentioned earlier, it will take a bit of time to see the best of what we can do as a management tem. Let’s just hope we can return to action soon and with their backing and support next time round. But I have no doubt that when we are able to, Hope Street will be rocking.

“Given the tough times at the moment, me and the other staff members are here for people who may need a chat or support whilst we live through these unprecedented circumstances, as that’s what we do at this club, help and support others. Up the Pesky Bulls!”

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