Stevenage FC: Pre-Season Evaluation

Club: Stevenage FC
League: League two
Manager: Darren Sarll

Last season
Stevenage made huge strides in Darren Sarll’s first full season at the helm and looked like genuine contenders for automatic promotion as they approached the home straight on a blistering run of ten wins from 13 matches. However, they ran out of steam and finished with a whimper, taking only two points from the final six matches, leaving Sarll barely able to contain his frustration.
Last season for Stevenage brought a real mix of pride and disappointment,it was a strong mix of both. Disappointment first and foremost because of how close we was to it and then at the last run of games we let ourselves down and to have a chance of the play-offs,well more than a chance we had a complete grip and we had to let it go. Taking the longer view mostly positive, something to be proud of eventually. So many ups and downs, our position don’t tell the full story but all at the club only really felt this was a building block. Good spells shone through.Last season developed a style of play that’s rewarded at this level when executed properly. Sarll was adamant that a lack of stamina and athleticism had been the root cause of their late collapse and that clear focus should serve them well. If they can impose themselves sooner and sustain it for longer, they will be there or thereabouts.

Expectations
Stevenage is being ridiculously underplayed this year by most. Most have us low mid-table which is nothing short of a joke for me. Sarll, management, players and fans last season would admit last season was just for stability after we just saved the sinking ship remains after teddy. Good recruitment which I will come to, a highly praised manager a squad capable of that run produced in January February and bearing the champions twice. Goal scoring – when we lost 4-3 to Doncaster having really had a go it was much less painful than a 1-0 loss under Teddy where we never looked like scoring or showed any belief. So yes, I think the manner in which you play your football is important even if you lose.We can only build. It’s very dangerous to make predictions or set expectations as a Stevenage supporter. We are of course expecting so many ups and downs as ever as a fan but the general consensus is a play off push is coming. Sarll has enforced in his staff and his team that we face one game at a time and with us, that is a very good mentality to have. But some have said and not just us fans expect us to be there

Style
DS wants a non-stop high tempo game with everyone working for 90 mins every game. With young players & passing game. It excites him. It’s what he demands. Sarll demands football with results and it is easier to watch us lose a 4-3 than a 1-0. It’s better to watch but he must be careful. We’re in league two, this isn’t the premier league we can’t do a Swansea under Landrup or Rodgers, we will get kicked out simply. We struggled against sides that gave us respect or sat back and we couldn’t break it and they would counter. Things needed tweaking and from the looks of our training sessions they’ve been fixed. Our decision making needs hurrying. But it’s how the fans would like and Sarll knows that and quite rightly Sarll will find players to fit the tactic not vice versa which is the way it should be. Things look exciting which is not what has been linked with Stevenage over the past time. Such a relief

Sarll
DS – fits what we need, young, unproven, but a great attitude and drive. With experience coaching support for Day, Roeder and Shorey he’s shown he can be successful. Be reason this can’t continue longer term. I think his local links and youth team links are valuable too, we’ve seen him trust the academy products more than GW which is important for the club. I have never been as immersed by an individual as I have Sarll. Every time I see him he smiles and shakes my hand and it makes my day.
Stevenage made huge strides in Sarll’s first full season at the helm. He and Stevenage are epitome of a dark horse. There’s an inner focus and determination about him that passes under the radar. . He works to a clear plan that enables him to make snap judgments. He don’t want to be mediocre. He don’t want Stevenage to be mediocre, he want us to be great. But we as a club are going to have to do things a little differently and work a little bit harder. The group takes on a new shape now. Twelve months on, we are miles ahead in terms of our development than he and the supporters expected Sarll was adamant long before the summer break that a lack of stamina and athleticism had been the root cause of their late collapse and that clear focus should serve them well. If they can impose themselves sooner and sustain it for longer, they will be there or thereabouts well should be anyway

Change in personal
The change in personal was necessary, nine so far but I don’t think anyone can complain about how many we have made. All necessary and all very good recruitment for what is still fresh and raw game to Sarll but he takes no rubbish, so it’s to be expected

Alex Samuel- from Swansea- winger/striker- Newports (their fans hate him now)player of the season in their great escape- controlled and classy out on the wing. Position that needed strengthening.

Ferry- from Brentford- central midfield – tall and controlled and string still fresh and raw to first team competitive football a plus point in many ways

Harry Beautyman- Northampton- central midfield-Very energetic and does some great stuff on the ball,and will get some goals if he play’s- good in league one good coup for the club

Danny Newton – Tamworth- striker from Vardy academy, Vardy likened him to himself and he’s nickname is the wasp as he never leaves you alone. Scored for fun last season a risk worth investing in for me personally

Joe Martin- Millwall- left back- massive coup for the club to sign someone who played the majority of games in both Millwall playoff pushes in a higher league. Very controlled and brings the experience we haven’t had in that position for a while

Blair Turgott- Bromley- winger- also from Vardy academy Blair is Lacey and skilfull and brings an element to the team we didn’t have last year and even cost us. If he does anything like he did in national league we are in for a treat.

Joe Fryer- Middlesbrough – goalkeeper- number one place was being searched for and sarll found a gem though he’s links there. Reactions are top it looks like and he speaks well about what he wants. Nice to see a secure keeper at the helm for once

Terence Van Cooten -Reading (free agent)- right back on trial and impressed all I believe attacking wise and defending unlikely to topple Ronnie in Sarll’s eyes but a good choice to have

Chris Whelpdale- Wimbledon,- winger- the return all fans know what he can do has the ability to strip defences to pieces on his day, try find me one unhappy fan about this move I dare you.

This is not the end of the business for Stevenage in this window,sarll reassured fans of this. The spine of the team still needs improving. But not one person can go look at us and say they haven’t done enough or still not good enough to challenge because that is now a well formed squad now with depth just a few more tweaks and maybe some experience. But the fact Charlie Lee, jobi McAnuff, Steve Schumacher and Jamie Jones have gone without uproar is commendable to sarll.

He has truly set us up for battle and rightly sothe business we needed first and foremost is with us. It’s very much bring it on now in the sense both manager and supporters should feel mostly pleased about it so far.

How to do it
Short term we have to continue to unearth younger players who have the right drive and attitude because we don’t have the budget to compete with wages and transfer fees. The academy products are vital too. Long term we need to build the fanbase which the club is working really hard on, with all the junior initiatives etc. That’s a generational project though, not something that will bear fruit short term. Godden was a big part of it last year but Kennedy contributed hugely too. Massively unfair to say it was all godden for Stevenage last year. The team working for one another and believing in each other was key to our successes this season.Darren provides the opposite, clearly passionate and motivating, and will only recruit and play players with the right attitude. Which is what we want.

Last message to the players
I’m proud to call myself a fan of Stevenage football club, we are a club who tries to do things the right way, spending within our means and building for a sustainable future. I’m always proud to watch our team using togetherness and dedication to beat team with bigger budgets, better paid players. You demonstrate what can be achieved with the right attitude and application! Now go enjoy ot, we’re behind you every step of the way.

Sarll is a fan himself of the club and he acts in the best interests he loves the supporters and the support is better than it has been for a long time as we kept some forever memories of last season. Now it’s time to make some new ones which knowing Stevenage we will do in the biggest emotional roller coaster.

Can we do something special this year? Absolutely, it’s there for the taking.

The final words I want to end on is a conversation I had with DS after the end of the season. I simply said thanks for nearly killing me in that rollercoaster of a season and he responded with a smile and said try being the manager.

So we must remember they want it as much as we do. Sarll definitely does. Every emotion were dragged through, they are too. We are all in this together.