No points yet, but no surrender. Jamie Howell takes his new-look Eastbourne Borough side to Hampton and Richmond on Saturday with a ringing promise to supporters that he will not change his principles.
After defeats to Braintree and Havant, the Sports boss faces another big test in south-west London, but he has faith in his players and in how he wants to play. “If I had sat and watched at Havant as a supporter I’d have been disappointed too, and I promise you I feel for our supporters, but I’m sure they understand. We are still going to think positive and play positive.”
“I could be more conservative, get more people behind the ball and play for scraps but I’m not really like that. I woke up on Wednesday morning not as despondent as I could have been, but not in the faintest bit complacent. We’ll get it right – I’ve been in this situation more than once before – last season at Bognor I took one point from the first three games and we won promotion.”
Jamie urgently needs his team to cut out the yellow and red cards. “The desire is there, the commitment is there, the decision-making can be better, no silly goals, no rash tackles. at Havant I’m not saying that we’d have won the game if we’d kept eleven on the pitch but we’d have been in with a shout. These haven’t been bad or nasty tackles and we are not that sort of team, but we have to cut out the silly or unnecessary fouls – we must work on that.”
“I’ve probably learned more from the last two games than from the whole of pre-season – about players, about what we have, what we need to improve on. Remember that players are new to each other, and they need to learn who will do what, who moves where. In due course, much of that becomes second nature instinctive, but it isn’t immediate. We have to look at certain players and positions, and how they ‘gel’ best. But I’ve seen a lot of positives too. Game by game shows us increasingly what we need to do, where we can improve, and we will do so – I’m seeing what individual players can bring to the team, and sometimes even what they cannot do. We take all this on board.”
“Ideally we would want a settled side from match one, but that isn’t the circumstance we are in. You look at Havant, who already have their team bedded in from last season so they were, and are, ahead of us on the curve.”
Jamie will take the same squad to Hampton, but Conor Henderson will not be among them. The midfielder with the wanderlust – signed on non-contract forms – had also played pre-season games at Barrow and is currently trialling in Hungary. “If we do get him back, he’s a quality player and an excellent acquisition for us – it’s a bit of a patience game. It’s frustrating because that is a key area where we’re missing, so if it’s not to be Conor, then we have a little bit in the piggy bank and we’ll be looking to add in that area of the team.”
“What still pleased me at Havant, even in defeat, was the work-rate and the desire, and I told the players that those aspects were first-class – against Braintree I was a little bit disappointed with that aspect, but at Havant we got the intensity back, we gave it a go, we finished the game strongly – those are qualities we need, and we’ll take that forward to Hampton.”
Sounds good, Jamie. We’re in this for the long ride, and we plan to enjoy that ride!
Updated 20:11 - 10 Aug 2017 by Kevin Anderson