Assistant Head Coach Steven Whittaker spoke to the press on Thursday afternoon ahead of Fleetwood Town’s trip to face Lincoln City at Sincil Bank for their latest Sky Bet League One fixture.
Whittaker, alongside Scott Brown, has guided their side to a good start to the campaign as Town have managed two consecutive clean sheets in the league, and put in a good showing against Premier League side Everton in the last outing at Highbury on Tuesday evening.
Here’s what Steven had to say in his pre-match interview:
On what the Cods expect from Lincoln at the weekend…
“We’ve done a bit of work on this; Lincoln have had the same results as us and try to play – they’re a good side. Getting points on the road is something we want to do so it’s a game we want to go into with confidence, especially from what we’ve done in the early part of the season and just try to build on it.
“There are no easy games. I’ve watched English football and have played in it as well so I’m aware that if you're not at it, and aren’t ready for any specific game, regardless of where they are in the league, then you put yourself up to lose that game.
“We’re expecting a tough game, they play in a similar style to us, so if we can match them in terms of intensity or be in front of them in the intensity, we will give ourselves a good foothold in the game. The gaffer has gone on about mentality and we are going into each game looking to win it, so we need to make sure we are prepared and ready to go.”
On the importance of the clean sheets in the last couple of weeks…
“It’s massive; it’s one of the things we assessed in the squad and the results from last year and it’s something we needed to improve on. It was a big take on our pre-season, on how we wanted to be fit, defensively structured, and be composed and create chances on the other end as well when we have the ball.
“We feel like we’ve done well in that aspect of keeping clean sheets and not conceding too many chances. If shots are coming our way, we are finding a way to get the blocks in, so we know we are putting ourselves in the right positions. Now, it’s all about being a bit more creative and look after the ball a bit in the final thirds, finding that bit of quality.
“We want to turn a few of these draws into wins. It’s good to have a structure to go from as you know that if you aren’t conceding, you always have a chance so that was the first thing we had to put right. The guys have bought into that and know their roles for when we haven’t got the ball. We are always working on the training ground to solve problems and get that ball up the pitch.”
On the inclusion of players from the Academy this season…
“We’re constantly keeping an eye on the Academy, with a lot of their players coming up to train with us as we like to train in bigger numbers when we can. If we are picking up a few injuries, we bring some of the younger ones in and see how they handle it and make sure they know that, when they step up and are asked to play, they know the job that will be asked of them on the pitch.
“Anyone who has been asked the question of whether they have the ability to step up a level has been great. We’ve got a big Academy so we’ll constantly try to evolve that the best we can. Me and Scott [Brown] came through academies when we were younger, so we know what it’s like to go through, progress, and know the kinds of questions that are asked of you.
“Fans like to see that we are producing our own players. Drew Baker was fantastic the other night at centre-back, it was good to see him play at the level that we felt he was capable of doing, but it’s down to the individual to go out there and show that. That’s just one example, there are plenty of others who are coming off the bench and doing their bit for the squad as well”
On the squad and the injuries within…
“We would like everyone to be fit and available to choose from, but these things happen, and we have just had to adapt the best we can, whoever has been asked to put the jersey on at the moment has been brilliant. We’ve got a group that we can trust, and we will select from who is available.
“There are a few players that are getting closer, but none of them have been on the grass with the group so far. We’re still assessing that and will see how they are tomorrow and will make our selections for the weekend from there. The games are coming thick and fast, so we won’t want to risk anyone if they aren’t quite ready.
“I’ve played in England and have seen that a two-week injury could take you out of four games as the fixture schedule is pretty relentless. As a player, I enjoyed it as it’s more about playing games rather than training, so you just recover and play. It can be good for clubs as when you grab a bit of momentum and some good results to go with that, it’s a good place to be.”