Assistant Manager Andy Crosby has thoroughly enjoyed his time so far at Reading, and has given an insight into why manager Nigel Adkins gets the best from his players and staff.
Andy spoke in-depth to the local press at the very end of the season, and covered a wide range of topics as we look to keep building for the future.
So you’ve had a little while to get your feet under the table here at Reading, how’s it been – has it been much as you envisaged?
I think it’s been a great experience. I think the way the players have bought into the ideas that we’ve got as a management staff has been a credit to them. I think they were playing in a certain way which they had success with. But obviously the manager has got a different philosophy of how he wants the game played, and I think it’s all credit to the players that we’ve seen a progression, certainly over the last three or four weeks, to where we are now. We had good spells in games and we’re trying to play and control games in a different manner.
It’s a great job to have, clearly, but in some ways I didn’t envy you when you took over because I think Brian McDermott’s team were a very popular management team – so you must have had to tread quite a careful line, instilling your new ideas of course, but at the same time being careful about the previous era. Is that a fair balance?
I think it’s a great point. Knowing what a good job Brian and Nigel did at this club was at the forefront of our minds coming in here. If you haven’t got a good group of management staff and good players you don’t have the success that this club has had previously. So, certainly respectful towards those two, but again it was important that we tried to get our views across straight away. People have got different philosophies on how they want the game played, ours is slightly different – and as I say it’s credit to the players as to what we’ve done so far.
Immediately there’s a bit more consistency in selection, you had the same back five for five or six games on the bounce, an unchanged team for the Man City game, so that must be something you’re striving for, that consistency so everyone knows where they stand.
I think you’ll always find that players pick teams. Not managers. If you perform on a Saturday, you generally play the next week, if you don’t perform on the Saturday you’ll perhaps find your place under threat. So looking forward from the Fulham to the Man City game, we played really well at Fulham and the players deserved to keep the shirt for the game against Manchester City. If you were consistent in your performance on a Saturday and then Monday to Friday, you’ll keep your shirt – and then it’s up to the players who aren’t in the team at the moment to train well and when the opportunity arises, you’ve got to take it.
It is a bit of a chicken and egg thing though isn’t it, what comes first a good performance, therefore you can keep the same side, or does the manager stick with an eleven and let them develop as an eleven, to produce a performance.
It’s a good point. I think you try and put players into positions where you want your philosophy to try and run, and put those individuals where you think you need them in that position. The lads played quite regularly in the last couple of weeks and I think you’ve seen the progression on the pitch. That doesn’t mean the players who haven’t been playing have got no idea how to step into the team because they’re doing the same work. It’s just that they are the ones to be fortunate to have the shirt and they have performed.
Tell us a bit about your role specifically – every assistant has a different role with regard to how they work and complement the manager. We see you in your tracksuit, drenched but still barking out the orders on the touchline on matchday, but on a day-to-day basis on the training ground are you someone who is very actively coaching the first team?
I think my primary role right now is coaching. It’s something I’ve grown with over the last few years. I’ve played the game a long time and was lucky enough to be given the opportunity with Nigel at Scunthorpe when he took over as manager. And I’ve certainly developed myself over the last few years. And it’s something I love doing. I think you get asked the question when you finish playing ‘do you miss it?’ and I can honestly say no I don’t. I love this side of it now. It’s totally different to playing, at the start it certainly took me by surprise the difference between playing and coaching and being on the other side of the fence. I’m taking the players from a coaching point of view, but it’s important that I also build up relationships with them. As you say, Nigel and Brian were popular people here and we were not wanting to change too much too soon, but again try to get my ideas across as well as how I am as a person, what I want from them and how they approach training.
When I talk to ex-footballers, some like yourself are still in the game, some unfortunate souls have to work with me in the media. They have different roles and do different things after playing. You must feel extremely grateful to still be at the sharp end of the game – it’s a great position for an ex-footballer to be in isn’t it?
I felt grateful that I managed to play the game for 20 years, the vast majority of my career was spent in the lower leagues – and to play 700-plus games, I find myself fortunate to have done that. And then obviously someone saw something in me to give me that opportunity and let’s see how he develops at Scunthorpe. And I’ve been part of a successful management team so far. And long may that continue.
Nigel Adkins, we know him through interviews and seeing him on the touchline and his results which speak for themselves over the last few years, what’s he like as a bloke?
He’s probably changed me as a person, from a good point of view. He’s made me a lot calmer, a lot more logical in my thinking…he’s a top bloke, he really is a good bloke. And I think he could go and manage any group of people in any given environment. I think he’s got that knack of getting the best out of people, as his record shows.
We were talking about that in the office actually, discussing how transferrable those skills were and we were saying exactly that – he comes across as a guy who could walk into a retail park or an industry, because he knows management as much as he knows football.
I remember being at a barbecue a couple of years ago – I don’t know why it stuck in my mind – but I was asked that similar question, what’s Nigel like etc. And this guy was working for a bank – and I said he could manage your group, because he knows how to treat people and he gets the best out of them.
What are your ambitions for next season – because that’s what it’s all about now, the start of 2013-14. Reading historically have started seasons quite slowly in the last three or four years, but you’ll be looking to hit the ground running?
I think the ultimate aim, obviously, is to bounce straight back. And that’s the only message we’ll be sending out to the players, to the supporters, to everyone connected with Reading – is to bounce straight back. How do we do that? It’s going to be a long slog – to go from the back end of June all the way through to the start of May is a long time, it’s about developing a philosophy, and we’ve had this past eight weeks to start doing things. Pre-season will be tough for the players, but enjoyable, and it’s important that we hit the ground running. We can’t be waiting til we’re 10 or 12 games in to start collecting points, we need to hit the ground and get points. We want to be top after the first game and top after the last one. That’s the aim.
And just one about pre-season, what are we going to see?
I think, having spoken individually to the players over the last few weeks, they were delighted to hear that there won’t be any running sessions. We’re a little bit past that stage now I think, there’ll be a lot of enjoyment within the sessions. Hard work….
They’ll just be disguised running sessions I assume, not shuttle runs and cross country but they’ll still be doing plenty of running?...
You don’t see a footballer on a football pitch without the ball do you? The ball generally comes to them now and again! So I think it’s important that the balls will be out in the first session and the players will enjoy it. But it will be hard graft. It’s important that we use that five week period to back up what we’ve done already, to incorporate new players, so when that first game arrives we’re ready to go.