Port Vale manager Darrell Clarke met the local media ahead of this weekend’s game at leaders Cheltenham. BBC Radio Stoke’s Phil Bowers and The Sentinel and StokeonTrent Live’s Mike Baggaley asked the questions…
I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT SPECIFIC INJURIES BECAUSE I KNOW THAT’S NOT ALWAYS A GOOD THING PRE-MATCH BUT I’M INTERESTED THAT YOU TALKED ABOUT A PLAN TO TRY TO ADDRESS WHAT’S BEEN THE ISSUE. CAN YOU GIVE ANY DETAIL ABOUT WHAT THAT PLAN ENTAILS?
“It will be addressed. There will be more details coming out over the next couple of weeks. What I will say is I have got what I wanted – the evidence together and the understanding of why so many injuries.
“I have got all the medial reports and all the data of why that will be.
“Normally it’s not just one thing, it is a mixture if things. Then it is getting to the bottom of that and then the actions will be taken. Certainly it has to change, it has been difficult at the minute getting a process. We have been in the building 18 days, four games. As you can all imagine, it has been pretty much a whirlwind.
“All I can say is that things will be changing along the way. When we have the details for that, and when it is the right time to give the details, I will be giving it out Phil, no problem at all.
“But obviously we have to look at everything and I am looking at everything.”
I IMAGINE IT’S BEEN A PRETTY HECTIC COUPLE OF WEEKS FOR YOU BEING DROPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL THIS. HAVE YOU EVEN HAD A CHANCE TO ASSESS WHAT THE CAPABILITY OF THE SQUAD IS? WHAT YOUR BEST SIDE MIGHT BE, THAT TYPE OF THING. HAVE YOU EVEN HAD THAT?
“Our fans aren’t stupid. Listen, we have a situation where we have had one wide player fit for the majority of these four games. We’ve been playing a wing-back system and then the two wing backs have got injured.
“So, the answer is that obviously individually I am assessing a lot of players constantly on the training ground and in matches. But it has been very difficult to get a regular system because of the injuries we have actually had.
“What I would say is that in the four games, yes it has been lacking in quality, no doubt about that, not the quality levels that I want to be producing. Hopefully we are getting one or two back, that will help matters, certainly in the attacking third.
“All four of the games could have gone either way. They haven’t been classics, I don’t think it is going to be classic for the next 14 games. I’m not going to apologise for that. The fans are well aware and know where we are at, we are fighting and scrapping away, trying to keep that confidence into the players as everybody, rightly so, gets that little bit anxious.
“But it is about me controlling that environment, leading the right way and making sure the players are well prepared for each game that comes along very quickly, starting with another tough one on Saturday.”
YOU’VE HAD A CHANCE TO LOOK AT MOST OF THE OUTFIELD PLAYERS NOW. SOME OF WHOM HADN’T BEEN INVOLVED FOR QUITE A WHILE. ARE YOU IN A POSITION TO SAY WHO HAS IMPRESSED YOU, WHO HAS TAKEN THEIR CHANCE?
“Collectively as a group, impressed is the wrong word Phil. There have been some solid defensive performances through the team. You could see that because we have limited the goals going into the back of our net, and defended pretty well.
“But obviously I am looking for more…the forward thinking players. As a team as a well, we defend as a team and attack as a team and I am looking for that bit more quality at times that has been lacking, albeit we have hit the crossbar and post in the four games, we missed a one-on-one.
“So, there have been opportunities where we could be scoring the goals. But certainly the commitment has been good, but that should be a given.
“That is what I work for, that should be a given and obviously I want to be seeing more improvement and quality in the team and obviously looking more dangerous in the final third. But like I said Phil, I think that helps when you get Worrall and Amoo back and you get one or two wide players back into the fold.
“It is unfortunate we lost a couple of attacking full backs. But you deal with the cards you are dealt with. I am responsible for that Phil and trying to get a game plan and trying to win football games.”
HOW DIFFERENT HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU THAN PERHAPS YOU EXPECTED OVER THESE LAST TWO WEEKS OR SO. HAS IT BEEN TOUGHER THAN YOU THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE?
“It has been 18 days and it has been a whirlwind Phil, an absolute whirlwind. There is so much work to do in the end. But I really have that excitement within me, although obviously the pressures that go with winning football games as a manger.
“I have an excitement within me because I know where we will be eventually heading. Like I said there are going to be some serious, I think, speedbumps along those ways until we get where we need to go.
“The players are under no illusions that I want them to be part of the bus, I want them to be on that bandwagon of where we are moving forward and they have got to show that. There are a lot of players out of contract at the end of the season. There is a lot of pressure on the players to make sure they are performing, and on management as always. That doesn’t go anywhere for me, that is always going to be the case.
“But I am excited with the changes that I will be implementing to take this club forward so that we can get fans smiling again. They haven’t smiled for a while now, it has been a real tough, certainly four or five months and then of course over a four, five, six year period for the Port Vale fans.
“But I am really enjoying the job. That might sound a bit crazy when I haven’t won a game yet! But I am enjoying it and I am excited about where we are going to be heading.”
IT SEEMS IN EVERY MATCH YOU HAVE HAD YOU HAVE COME UP AGAINST A TEAM WITH SOMETHING TO PLAY FOR AND SATURDAY IS NO DIFFERENT, YOU ARE PLAYING A TEAM THAT HAS JUST GONE TOP. IS THAT FOR YOU SOMETHING TO RELISH?
“Yes, we have got to look forward to it, relish it. I think Cheltenham for me is one of the better teams in the division if I am honest with you.
“I think it is our toughest test. Why I say that is I think they have different ways and different avenues of scoring goals – long throws, set pieces, a bit of quality, some good individual players, and that is why they are top of the table as things stand at the minute.
“They have been consistent for a period of time now. So, we know it is going to be tough but so were Salford and so were Cambridge. Those games could have gone either way.
“Cambridge won the game with a great strike. With the Salford game, if Devante lets fly with his right foot and it goes in the back of the net….but they go down the other and in 20 seconds score a goal.
“So, we have to make sure we are tough to beat, hard, robust and hopefully one or two things start dropping for us and we are showing a bit more quality in the final third.”
I JUST WANTED TO FOLLOW UP ON SOMETHING YOU SAID AFTER THE SALFORD GAME. YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT INJURIES AND SAID IT MAY ACTUALLY GET WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER. IS THAT BECAUSE YOU HAVE SO LITTLE TIME BETWEEN GAMES TO WORK WITH PLAYERS AT THE MOMENT?
“Yes it is. You obviously have one or two players that you want back as quickly as possible as well to be honest with you.
“Going from recovery days to tactical days, it is so much information that I am trying to get into the lads, or want to get into the lads where I have worked as a manager and had success as a manager. I haven’t been able to implement anywhere near in 18 days the things I want to implement. But that will be keeping as we are moving forward…
“I always say this. Managers should always be judged as they leave the football club shouldn’t they?
“I have been fortunate enough in my personal opinion that I have left every football club that I have managed in a lot better state. My journey here has started, albeit 18 days. The journey hopefully is going to be a long one and a successful one. But it is going to take time to get there Mike.”
YOU ALSO MENTIONED THAT YOU WANT LADS COMING OFF THE BENCH TO MAKE SURE THEY MAKE AN IMPACT. IS THAT A MESSAGE YOU HAVE BEEN GETTING ACROSS AS WELL?
“Yes, they are not there to sit in the stands. They should be watching the game, analysing the game and look where they are going to make a difference when they get on – because some of the players don’t look fit enough to complete the 90 minutes to be honest with you. So, the subs are ready. One positive aspect is we can use five use five subs from now to the end of the season.
“So, they have to be ready and I am demanding they are ready, otherwise they won’t be sat on the bench.”
ONE PLAYER WE HAVEN’T ASKED YOU ABOUT OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS IS DAVID FITZPATRICK. CAN YOU TELL US HOW FAR AWAY HE IS AND WHAT HIS INJURY IS?
“It is light work at the minute, Mike. Light work. David Amoo is light work as well, a bit more, he has stepped up a little bit. Wozzer (Dave Worrall) is hopefully stepping up a little bit. We are hoping to see the clouds disappearing but I was thinking that before Salford and we picked up another two Mike (James Gibbons and Cristian Montano suffered hamstring injuries).
“We are working hard to get these players back as fit and as quickly as possible.”