On Monday I had a reporter friend of mine spend the day with me.
The first thing that hit him at the training ground was the atmosphere. He has been around plenty of football clubs yet he commented about the players all getting on together, there being no cliques. And he was impressed that the jovial stuff stopped when training started and the professionalism set in.
It’s a big plus for me that we have a group of players that all get on and it’s something we have all been trying to build since I came in here.
This isn’t something that happens overnight but it isn’t the most complicated thing to achieve either.
I like to give the players some freedom – as long as they don’t overstep the mark. It’s something that is built on trust and discipline.
One thing I do is allow the players to manage their own fines system. We’ve recently redone our fines list for the training ground and matchdays.
What tends to happen is I let them deal with their own fines and if there’s any contention in it, they have to come and see me. That doesn’t happen very often because they’re all cowards and they don’t like coming to me.
Usually, right throughout football, the fines finish at Christmas and the players get the money back for the Christmas party. So they don’t really mind paying up before Christmas because they know they’ll be getting it back.
You have the trouble then from January onwards because they know there’s no party. But we’ve nailed them on it this year.
I know as a player there’s nothing better sometimes than stitching your team mate up whether it’s looking at if they’ve no got their flip-flops on in the shower or if they’ve parked in a staff spot. That makes letting them manage their own fines so much easier.
I can’t always be on top of whether someone is late, trying to sneak in around the back. But I’ll know if someone does that because all the players will nail them for it.
It creates a good atmosphere around the place but puts the discipline in there as well. Because they manage it themselves, they want to do it properly.
As well as giving them freedom and responsibility, I like to look after the lads regardless of the circumstances.
Things will happen to players and they will come and see me. It could be anything, something little and stupid right up to a serious family matter. If they know I’ll bend over backwards to help them out, they’re going to help create the right atmosphere as well.
I’m really proud with what we have managed to create here and long may it continue.