We caught up with the gaffer while he was on his way to the training ground and questioned him on the possibility of signing Juan Mata which he played down, but he was happy to answer the following questions. Enjoy…
It was our first game in 2014 and we were somewhat fortunate to escape with a draw. What did you make of the game?
It was a difficult game against a very good team, they had gone on a great run before the Christmas break so we knew it was never going to be an easy game for us. In the 1st half you could tell we weren’t switched on enough. It could be down to the fact that we were the last team to play after Christmas and they had already had one game, and after a few weeks of not playing a match, you start to notice the difference in pace. Not entirely blaming that, as I thought we were the better team in the 2nd half, we just took longer to adapt to the game. I felt that at times in the 1st half that we looked too nervous on the ball and not hungry enough when we didn’t have it. So to come out in the 2nd half and go for the game like we did is admirable and a testament of the attitude my players have.
We were slow starters yet again and went 1-0 down in the first half, how much are you trying to get rid of the early sluggishness to ensure fast starts?
I believe it’s our biggest weakness at times. It is something we’re working on and looking to get rid of. I’m not sure if it’s nerves or if it’s down to not warming-up properly… whatever it is, we will sort it out. Against Lions Pilots we were lucky not to concede more goals because of it. On another day we might not have been so lucky, so it is something we need work on very hard. Being switched on as soon as the whistle goes. If we can start the game as well as we end it, we would be a much better team in my opinion. The team needs to start believing in themselves a bit more and get at the other team early and before they settle down into the game.
You started with Hamza on the wing much to the fan’s dismay, tell us (without revealing too much tactical info) about your thinking for that.
I felt that we needed an extra man in the middle to help out in defense, so we changed our formation slightly. It was more of a 4-3-3. I thought that playing Hamza closer to the wing would allow him more space to run so he could use his blistering pace and to be able to cut in towards goal. Also, when we play with Seb I feel we have a player there who is great at holding up the ball and bringing others into play, apart from being a great goalscorer too. So the idea was for Seb to play a ‘falso 9’ (or ‘false number 9’ for those not multi-lingual) role in order to allow Hamza and Michael to cut in and have the opportunities we needed. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chances we wanted to playing that formation but it is something to work on.
Your 2nd half team talk seemed to have inspired the lads with a much better performance after the break, we got the goal and looked the more likely team to get the winner. Was the hairdryer out in full force?
It was more of a motivational talk actually and stressing the importance of getting the points if we wanted to stay close at the top of the League. Watching the game, I felt that we could still win it as we weren’t showing the quality we have and were just 1-0 down, and all Boca fans know that this team is experienced at turning results around. Yes, it is stressful supporting Boca at times gaf! So it was a question of getting the players motivated and believing in their ability to play better and to get the goals we needed. We were unlucky not to get more than the one goal in the end but it was a hard earned point and I was happy with my player’s response. It is something to build on and further improve going into the next games.
Moving onto the Cup tie against Sporting, what did you make of that?
I thought we played really well. We created a lot of chances and were so unlucky not to have won the game in normal time. Sporting always proves to be a tough game, so to have played so well throughout the game just shows how far we have come. We tried a completely new formation for us and it seemed to have worked quite well, allowing to play both Hamza and Seb up front together who both had very good games. We just needed that extra bit of luck to put the ball in the back of net. I’m just glad we got through in the end. It would have been devastating for us to have played so well and not get the reward we merited. Now all of us are looking forward to the next round and to show our worth against a Premier team. A giant-killing is what we our calling it. Fingers crossed!
We seemed to have dominated the game with some easy chances being squandered, the lads need to be working harder on putting the ball in the net and making sure they finish their chances. That something you agree with?
I just think we had an off day in front of goal to be honest. Any other day I’m sure we would have scored half of the chances we created. It was just not our day and I was worried we were going to be punished for it. But yet again, our defense played exceptionally well and kept the opposition out. This year we’re lucky to have such a solid back line, boasting one of the better defensive records in the league. Now that needs to be transformed to our attacking players, who I’m sure will grow in confidence and start putting the goals away. It is something we will work in training though, as we always do.
That being said, we dispatched our 4 penalties away with consummate ease, be honest, have you been practising them?
We have been practising. Usually at the end of the session we have a little competition just for fun, but obviously keeping in mind that there is a possibility that we might have a shootout in the Cup… which we did. We have great penalty takers in our team and some strong takers like Neil or Bosh didn’t get the chance to take one, so I was confident we could do well in it. In the end, the quality of the penalties was excellent. Everyone looked confident and we were clear winners. A great relief for me… I really didn’t want it to get to penalties after seeing how many chances we missed.
Rick was introduced quite close to the end for Bosh (who himself is a great taker of a pen). Did you have pens in mind at that stage or just gunning for a win by putting fresh legs on?
The main reason was to go for the win as I was trying to avoid having to go to the shootout, which is why we tried out a more attacking formation. As they were looking tired at the back, I thought Rick would be the perfect player to come off the bench and expose that. Even though I’m sure he would have loved to play more, he did a great job the few minutes he was on. You can always count on him to get stuck in and try and make something out of nothing. I know Bosh was gutted to not have been able to take one of the penalties, so for that I apologise to him. He is indeed one of our better penalty takers so if we do go to penalties this Saturday, he could be one of the takers.
Having won our first ever penalty shootout in Boca history, we have been rewarded with a glamorous tie against College. Simple question, can we do it?
Why can’t we? College are just another team from Gibraltar. Do they even have any fans? They might have invested heavily, bringing players from abroad to be able to fight for the League to get that coveted Champions League Qualifying position… but the Cup is a different ball game and we cannot be underestimated…Plus our Twitter account is cooler, they are yet to respond to any of our tweets, get logging on people to have a laugh! There have been Cup upsets before so why couldn’t this be another one? No one is expecting us to get anything from this game, so the pressure has already been passed on to them. Everyone is expecting them to win and to win easily so the longer we can hold them off, the more frustrated they will get. All I expect from my players is to give a gutsy performance, to enjoy themselves out there and be as confident as they can be and prove that we’re not just a shooting practice session for them. I for one am really excited about the game and can’t for Saturday to come around.
A big day out is expected for the fans, what can we expect in this David v Goliath clash?
The fans, our fans, can expect College to have more control of the ball and to dictate the tempo of the game. We might not see as much of the ball as we would like so when we do get it, we really have to make the most of the few opportunities that we will have. It will be a very physically demanding match, so we will have to be very organised defensively and keep our concentration for the 90 minutes. It might not be the most enjoyable game for our fans to watch, but if we can somehow get a result, it will definitely be the most gratifying and enjoyable. This game will show us exactly how far we have come and where we need to be if we were to get promoted. What can be expected is for our players to give it their all and make the club proud no matter the result. Never a truer word spoken!