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Neal on Bradford clash

15 February 2013

Full interview with Wimbledon boss

Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley spoke enthusiastically about the squad’s preparations for tomorrow’s match against Bradford City in an interview for Dons Player at our New Malden training ground.

For those supporters who have not seen the interview, we this afternoon publish in full what Neal had to say with our Q & A below:

How has the week gone since the disappointment of last Saturday?

“It has been a good week,” he said. “Everyone is emotional after a game and we had a bit of a debate with the players after last Saturday’s performance. But I challenged myself afterwards too. Am I taking pressure off the lads and letting them play with the freedom to go and get results? Maybe not and now we have to change a few things and get more positivity into the camp.

“Win, lose or draw on Saturday that positive focus has to remain as there is still almost a third of the season to go. Maybe fear has crept in because of the pressure of our situation. Though we still have to do our jobs and know everything about the opposition, we have to play with no fear. We cannot panic in our performances. It is part of my football philosophy that players should play with no fear. It is up to me to take the pressure off the players.

If you look at one of your early home games in charge when Wimbledon beat Bristol Rovers, the players certainly played with freedom on that night. What has gone wrong?

Mentality is a big thing in football and maybe the milestone since then that we regularly lose or draw games at home has affected us. We have just not been able to see it through when we have had a lead. One game with a good performance and a win might change all that and set us up for another win to get our home form going. When you look at the home games we played in January; did we do enough to win those games, did we produce good performances in all three games and were we better than the opposition? I would say ‘yes’ to all three questions. What we have to do is cut out the errors so that we are no punished for every mistake that we make. If we do that then we will have a great chance.

Has perhaps instilling confidence in the players and reminding them how well they done in January been a big part of the week?

I have not really gone on about January too much as I believe in looking forward and not backwards. We have focused on getting the players to be better at what they are good at and telling them how good they can be. It has been really positive and the players have joined in. It cannot just come from the staff as the players have to tell each other what is required. While the players have to feel good about themselves, there is a balance and they have to do their jobs properly. I am confident that in the coming months we can go out and play with no fear.

Is it vitally important that everyone at the club rallies around now to help Wimbledon get out of this situation?

If we are playing well, then the supporters should enjoy the game, but it is during sticky spells in a game when we really need them. During adversity we really need the fans to rally around and pull us through it. The fans have been fantastic and we know they will do that, but we also have to give them something to shout about.

You watched Bradford win at Wycombe in midweek. I guess from that performance (3-0 win at Adams Park) that you are under no illusions about how tough the match will be?

Phil Parkinson is a very good manager and he has done a great job and we wish Bradford well in their final against Swansea. Bradford were very professional on Tuesday night and we have to make sure that we are at the top of our game against them. Every player has to play without fear, work hard and play with high energy. If we do that and get a slice of luck then we can win the match.

You have seen enough of Youssef Bamba to reward him with a professional contract so he obviously has a lot of potential?

Youssef came in on my first day and he was looking for a trial. Mark Robinson has done really well with him and gave him a chance. Since then he has got fitter and stronger and I watched him score two goals against Cheltenham Town in the FA Youth Cup. He put on a very good performance that night and Mark has been very impressed by him. He was not on a contract and we just felt it was a no-brainer to sign him up and see how he develops.”


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