Manager Interview with Chris Swailes.
In this interview Dunston UTS FC Manager Chris Swailes speaks candidly about the clubs season so far, his sides recent form and what he's doing to get this season back on track.
Given the clubs current run of form, is this one of the most challenging periods in your time as Dunston manager?
I didn’t expect that when we got promotion it would all be a bed of roses, however I did expect us to be doing better than what we are, but then at the same time, I didn’t expect the League to be as tough as what it is.
When the league changed and the likes of Clitheroe, Colne, Marine, Ramsbottom and Workington moved to The West Division, I think we expected this league to be a lot easier, but we’ve not found this League easy.
It’s surprised us and it’s surprised a lot of people. We’ve gone from being in the play-off places, 4 points ahead of the teams below, and now to find ourselves 10 points out of the play-offs, it’s really disappointing, especially with the turn of the year coming.
When we won 6 games off the spin during September and October, I expected us to cement our play-off position, but in recent weeks, and with Sado leaving, our form’s coincided with that. I’m not saying that that’s the main reason, but it has stemmed from there, so at the moment it is very disappointing.
At the start of the season you’d set objectives of being in the play-offs come the end of the season. How has the teams recent run of form impacted on the season's objectives?
It’s had a massive impact and it makes you look the fool if I’m being totally honest. I never want to make predictions of where you’re going to be at the end of the season, but with the squad that we had at the start we felt confident for the season ahead.
In the last few weeks, defensively as a team, I really think we’ve been exposed. We always look like scoring and I think that shows; we’ve scored in 17 games on the spin, but we cannot keep a clean sheet and we’re being punished for mistakes.
Looking at the table, there’s a lot of work to do. We’ve got to roll our sleeves up, hopefully we can get a few more signings in and look towards getting back into the play-off places.
With half of the season still to be played, do you think that those objectives are still achievable?
Yes I definitely do, we’re turning this situation around. We’ve got a difficult game on Saturday, then we’ve got the teams to play the second time round and hopefully we do better in the games ahead. There’s a lot of points to be played for. Nothing changes, I still want us to, and I still expect us to get in there.
You mentioned about bringing players into the club to improve things. As a management team, how challenging is it at the moment to bring the right players into the club?
People might think you just go from game to game, but in between training sessions, I’m constantly on the phone speaking to other Manager’s trying to get players in and it’s hard. We want players from a level above who are going to improve the side and it’s not easy getting those players in. We’re then having to look at players who are either playing at the same level as us, or are playing below our level, but are capable of playing at this level, and nobody wants to release these types of players.
I speak to the club's surrounding us and sometimes you’re banging your head against a brick wall, but we’re doing all we can to get players in. I’m in talks with a player this week so hopefully we can that one over the line, but it’s a lot harder than you think. Some people might think that if you like a player you can just go out and get him, but there’ll be a lot of clubs looking at the same player. Some might not want to drop down a level; often players in The Northern League don’t want to travel, and when you’re bringing players in from levels below, you’ve got to be looking for players who have ambition, who want to challenge themselves and who can commit.
You brought players in and added to your backroom staff way ahead of the season starting. As a team you were set up strongly before a ball was kicked. Now as the season’s gone on you’ve had players ask for transfers, or who’ve decided to not continue playing, so you’ve had to re-adjust as the season's developed. How has that impacted upon your initial plans?
Sado went because he wanted to play at a higher level, he was unwilling to sign a contract at Dunston in the first place. He done brilliantly well for us in the time he was here, but he’s not getting a look in at Blyth Spartans currently.
Scott Heslop had asked for a transfer, I couldn’t guarantee him games because Sado was doing that well at the time. You can’t drop a player who has scored 8 goals in 10 games as we were flying at the time. For me to have dropped Sado would’ve been stupid. When opportunities come for players to play, that player has to make the most of those chances.
No one wanted Scott or Sado to leave the club and the best efforts were made to convince them to stay, but if a player is not on contract and he insists on leaving the club, for whatever reason, the club is powerless in retaining that player.
We’re still working hard trying improve things all over the pitch and I’m fully aware of where those improvements need to be made.
This season has seen impressive increase in attendances, we’re averaging three hundred plus every game. Our Supporters have turned out in numbers at away games and the support the team have received this season has been tremendous. What message do you have for Dunston’s Supporters?
It’s a close run club and we know all the supporters individually, we massively appreciate the fans coming in and giving their support, especially when things aren’t going well. We need them on board and we’re going to turn things around, we just need their support and hopefully with the support we get, it goes hand in hand with results. Keep on supporting us because things will hopefully change for the better.