Well, I’m delighted to welcome back to the Toolstation Western League podcast, Tom Smith, the manager of Welton Rovers. Tom, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us.
Ian Nockolds: I know, historically, we’ve talked about, one of the challenges with the travel has been that player availability can suffer. When you look at your squad this season and compare it to what you came up with, has availability been a factor for you?
Tom Smith: Yeah, massively and also player retention as well. I mean, Welton it isn’t a club with massive finances. So, you know, there’s always teams in the league below and league above that can offer the players a little bit more. When there’s less travelling in the league above and below, you know, sometimes it’s hard to retain. So players in and out, there’s been a lot of it, you know, players that can’t make the long trip. That’s due to family commitments, etc. work commitments, etc. It does make it difficult, our player turnover has been bigger this year than what it ever has before. I think when you get promoted from Division One into the Prem, I think, I don’t like to call it a honeymoon period, but you get that season where it’s new for everyone. New grounds, new teams, the excitements still there for those players that gained promotion, and I think in the second season is more challenging. I think from a manager’s point of view and a club point of view, you know, we’re a year more experienced, and that’s priceless for us. But in regards to players, it is challenging, but you know, we’re fielding full teams every week. And we’ve got to make sure we’re busy on the phones getting the players in. But as long as the players are up to the quality, which you know, we had four debutants on Saturday, and each one of the four was exceptional. It’s just a case of us working hard and making sure we can put out as good a team as we possibly can.
Ian Nockolds: Is that why you’re feeling so optimistic? Because the quality of the players that you’re bringing in now are more consistent with what you would want for Welton Rovers?
Tom Smith: Yeah, definitely. And I think the lads that we’ve brought in are slightly younger as well. And I’ve intentionally tried to make the squad younger. I feel like the younger players, the travelling isn’t quite as big a hurdle for them without the families and the jobs maybe some of them. So yeah, the fact that they can commit to everything and the hunger and the desire and you know, we’ve got players now that will undoubtedly play higher than this level. But they need to play at this level for a consistent amount of time to be able to do so. So getting those boys in just creates that stability in regards to availability again, and we’ve got three lads on loan from Yeovil Town that have come to us, that were exceptional made their debuts. Josiah Makayle as well, he was at Bridgwater at the start of the season, and then went on a little loan spell to Hallan. He was excellent, got his goal on Saturday as well. And these boys live and breathe football. And that’s what we need, you know, players that are unsure on availability and unsure how much they can commit is counterproductive for us at this point. So players that live and breathe football, and generally that is the younger ones, that’s what we’re after. So we had five from the successful Under 18’s team last year that won the double, there now with us as well. So as a case of consolidating, and if we can keep this team together, push them forward to next year when these guys are another year more experienced, we’re going to find ourselves in a really strong position. So yeah, the goalposts have moved. But that’s football, the goalposts always move in football, and it’s just the case to adapt that and try to put the team and the club in as strong a position as possible.
Ian Nockolds: You and I have spoken about the merger with the Southwest Peninsula League and the impact that not creating that second step five division has had and obviously you’ve referenced the travel in this interview again. I mean, but it sounds to me like you’re putting in place measures that mean that Welton, even under current geography are going to be competitive. So does that mean that whether things change or not, you think you can cope?
Tom Smith: Yeah, definitely. And you’re dead right, what we are, what we’re putting in place now is to secure Prem football for Welton no matter what the circumstances may be. If the merger have happened, I feel like our targets would have been very different. But now, the merger has not happened and it doesn’t look like it’s going to. I don’t think there’s any talks of it at the moment, as far as I’m aware. It’s a case of making sure that we could be a stable Prem team. And that was always my ambition when I took the manager’s role at Welton was I want well, and to be a premier team. We’ve got the foundations to do that now. It’s just a case of just tweaking what we had in place before to make sure that we can do that for the foreseeable future. And as it stands, it is going exceptionally well. Like I said, I think a few people would have expected us to be a little bit higher after doing quite well last year. But it’s just about surviving in this league, making sure the club’s stable, making sure everyone’s enjoying the football, making sure we’re playing good football for the fans to see every week. And at the minute we’re ticking a lot of the boxes. Yes, a few more wins and a few more points would be much appreciated by a lot. But that will come no doubt at all. So its baby steps at the minute but we’re heading in the right direction for sure.
Ian Nockolds: Well, you’ve got a huge challenge on Saturday, haven’t you. Falmouth away of course one of the best avoided clubs in the Toolstation Western League. The weather notwithstanding, that’s going to be a huge challenge, Tom.
Tom Smith: Yeah, of course it is. And like I mentioned earlier to you Ian, it’s a massive challenge especially whenever you travel to these Cornwall clubs, you know, there isn’t there isn’t a bad one there. So you know you’re going down and not massive expectations. Sometimes that can be helpful. You know, these young lads as well, Falmouth have got a lovely ground, big ground, well supported. It’s a massive occasion for some of these boys, especially some of the young lads we have. And I’ve got no doubt at all that their ability will match up and create a really good game. And I think you know, with the added adrenaline that they’re going to get with the the amount of fans and the nice ground they’re going to be playing in, it’s going to be a hell of a spectacle. Will we need to be more clinical than we were against Millbrook? Yes 100%. But the foundations were there and if we can put in place what we think we could put in place, hopefully it will be a really competitive game and who knows if we could come away with a with a point, maybe three, that’ll be an exceptional weekend.
Ian Nockolds: Because after that, it’s back to back home games, isn’t it? You’ve got Ilfracombe and you’ve got Shepton Mallet, of course, local rivals. I mean, how important is it to you to get a good support from Midsomer Norton coming into Welton on a match day?
How important is that factor in getting you over the line in games?
Tom Smith: It’s massive. It does fluctuate a bit as I’m sure it does every club, but we haven’t been at home for a little bit.
I think the Shepton ones are given, I think we’re gonna have a massive crowd against Shepton. Obviously with myself and Aaron Seviour in charge as well, both involved with Welton over the over the last few years. I’ve got no doubt at all we’ll get a massive crowd for that one.
Ilfracombe we had them first day of last season last year, got a one all draw. They gave us a bit of a dump in three nil down at there place a few weeks ago, so there’s a bit of spice added to that one as well.
So I’m excited about them coming and I’m sure we could put on a show and we were unlucky against Shepton and we played them once already this season and conceded a very soft goal right near the end of the game to lose the points two one. So I think you know, we’ll be well in contention to get some points in those games and if the boys can perform then there’s no doubt at all that we will.