Tooting and Mitcham United have had a rather mixed start to the season since promotion. They had to wait six matches for a victory in any competition, and eleven league matches before they notched up a win in the league- and also seemed to be struggling to keep eleven players on the field on occasions. However the last two league matches have earned the Terrors six points, three at home and three away, and manager Frank Wilson spoke to isthmian.co.uk about learning the lessons, moving forward, and hopefully finding someone to coach his goalkeepers!
Back in the summer you talked about the challenges ahead, but did you ever think there would be this many?
I'm not sure we ever imagined quite how difficult it would be to step up a level. We weren't going in blind- we did our homework and we knew that there were a large number of very good teams in the division- but you can never really be sure just how difficult something is going to be until you do it. The positive thing about it is that it's woken us up very quickly, given us a clear insight into what we need to be doing to be competitive. We had quite a lot to correct, and we've done that in recent weeks, which perhaps is why the performances and the results have improved. I'm not going to say we've turned the corner, but we're making good progress.
So what changed over the last two matches?
Tooting & Mitcham Utd
The squad has a better balance now. We've been a bit unlucky, perhaps, although to some extent you have to make your own luck- but we've had a number of injuries and in five matches we've had players sent off. At this level it's difficult to win matches with eleven players, trying to do it with ten is just a step too far. You're going to think I'm giving you a sob story, and I understand that. I also understand it's the same for many clubs- Dorking Wanderers have recently had a large number of injuries, for example- but for us, having come up to this level we hoped to continue with our usual system but injuries meant we had to change the way we played at the start of the season, change our shape. That affected our rhythm somewhat, and we didn't start the way we'd hoped. We've been playing catch up ever since.
All of those red cards- what happened? Your side isn't usually ill-disciplined.
Five incidents, none of which were malicious challenges. I'm not saying that to challenge the decisions, the officials have a difficult job to do; but the players felt a little aggrieved. Second yellows for fairly nondescript challenges, red cards for last man, that sort of thing. We had one revoked, for the keeper who got sent off at Burgess Hill- but when you play five matches with ten men and lose them all then it leaves you playing catch-up. You can't play at this level with ten men. We've had to explain to the players what they can risk and what they can't, that they have to be a lot more mindful of the decisions that have happened so far and react accordingly.
Over the last couple of games I've been much happier. We've got more of our squad fit, played the way we expected to play, and the points tally has obviously improved.
Did you have to change your system to accommodate the signing of Omar Folkes from Worthing?
No. Whilst we've had to make changes to accommodate injuries, we try to sign players who can fit in to the way we want to play, and we knew that Omar could do that. I'd seen him play many times and we knew he could do a job for us. He's a strong player, holds the ball up well, and is quick for a big fellow. He looks to bring other players into the game, act as a playmaker, and we've other talented players who benefit from having him there. He's made an immediate impact, with four goals. We're pleased, but we knew he would be the right fit, and he's working hard.
That said, the entire team is working hard. If you slacken off in this division you end up with nothing. Over the last two games we've really demonstrated that- hopefully the team understand now what they need to do as a bare minimum.
Back in the summer you were touting for a new goalkeeping coach. Now you need another! Are you losing them down the back of the sofa?
We've been really unlucky! We've had a couple of coaches come in who then had to leave due to changing circumstances. But it's really important to me that we find someone soon. We've got great training facilities, a fantastic stadium, the football package we can offer is excellent. We've got a great coaching team here but there's a gap in it and I really want to fill that with the right person.
If there's anybody suitable out there, please tell them to get in touch!
If that someone suitable is you, Frank would appreciate it if you could drop him a line, but he'd like you to have a coaching qualification- preferably goalkeeping- and some experience of a similar role at Step 5 or above. He's on email@example.com