In part one of a series of interviews ahead of the start of the National League North season, Lincolnshire World speaks with staff at Boston United to discover how they prepare for match days. First up is Pilgrims manager Craig Elliott. ..
I'll set off from Pontefract about 9.30am. I pick up my coaches Rich Lawrence and Lee Stratford along the way. It's good to chat about the game on the way there, it just breaks things up.
I've got my superstitions. I have my lucky coffee at the Kentucky Fried Chicken at Sleaford and stop there for 20 minutes. We get to the ground about 12-ish and I do my superstitious walk on the pitch where I touch both crossbars. That's the first thing I have to do.
Then it's about checking in with Hayden Clifton, the sports rehabilitator, making sure there's no injuries I need to know about. I'll have a chat with secretary Craig Singleton and Jim Portas the groundsman and see how the pitch is.
Then I'll pick the team. From the Thursday night I always have the team I want to play in my head, but I never write down the team for definite until I get to the ground. I've never done that as, from experience, there's all sorts of things that can happen - illness, injuries you're not aware of. It can deflate your confidence if you don't end up picking that team you've written down.
Just after 1pm, when I've decided on the team, I'll give Craig the teamsheet and speak to one or two of the players who are not in because they're carrying a bit of an injury.
The team talk will be about 1.45pm to about 2.05pm. Telling lads they're not in the team isn't something I enjoy. It's always difficult. What I've always tried to do is not pull them aside on match days as it can eat into your time and preparation and there's a lot of emotion involved. I always try to explain my decisions to them after the game or the next day because you're more level headed about it. Players can get emotional before a game and we want to concentrate on the match. I know other managers do it differently and break it to them a lot earlier. I do when I feel it's needed, but as a group we can chat later.
Then 2-3pm is the difficult period really. In the old days I used to do the warm-ups, but now I've got people around me I find that the hardest time is when you're waiting for the game to start. All the emotions kick in.
I'll do a bit of press around that time but then it's a matter of watching lads in the warm-up and making sure they're focussed. Then it's one last rally around 2.50pm. A few quick words then the stress really kicks in.
I'm quite stressed and anxious on matchdays. I'm not always a calm character around the place before a game, I think it's just taking you back to when you were a player. I like to be in the same mindset, full of motivation and aggression and with that competitive edge all the time. As the years go by you do mellow a little but I'm probably at my most intense at that 2pm-3.30pm period.
Then after the game when everything's done it's back in the car with Rich and Strats. It's good to chat after the game and bounce ideas off one another, especially if the game hasn't gone how you want it to. It helps you get things off your chest, but it's probably worse for them as they know how grumpy I can get. But the journeys home when we win are brilliant as well. It's a good place to be if you get a good result.
Friday night's probably the calmest I am in a seven-day week. That's because I feel like we've done all the preparation I can and the squad's picked in my head. Every other night you can start thinking about something you want to do, get an idea or be looking at what other teams are doing. I'm quite calm on a Friday, it's the only night I feel I can't do anything. But then it always starts again on Saturday.
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