- Since reaching the Conference South in 2008, City have made the playoffs 3 out of the last 4 seasons, missing out by only 4 points last year. Do you think this season could be the year we finally make it up and why?
I’d hope that we would give ourselves the very best chance of getting promoted this season. I feel we have one of the best and most competitive squads in the league and we have proved on numerous occasions that we can compete with the better sides both in this league and above.
- With no transfer window (as such) at this level, there is the potential for a squad to change numerous times over the course of a season. Does this make it harder to create and maintain a good team mentality amongst the players?
I don’t think so as we are all of the same mentality and want the same thing. It’s a case of the individuals gelling together with the rest of the squad. If you look at our squad the majority of the players have been here since the start of the season. I feel we are in a better position as we have the nucleus of last year’s team still together. Continuity is key when you look at success moving forward, but adding to a core of players is needed to freshen things up at key times in the season.
- As with many clubs at this level, players such as yourself are part time. Is it difficult to create a good balance between day jobs and football, especially in instances like midweek games?
No because most players at this level now are from a higher level background or are players that have aspirations of moving higher. A lot of players will have jobs that will allow them time to train and play both midweek and weekends. With the modern game now, at all levels becoming more demanding and physical it’s important that players also undertake extra fitness sessions in their own spare time. As a pro you are in to train from 9.30/10 am but don’t just partake in sessions on the pitch. They will have go through what’s known as prehab, core and strength and conditioning sessions as well as having specific dietary requirements to help maintain a certain level of fitness. Obviously part time players have to juggle this to an extent and lower capacity with work and fit it in when they can. There are some players out there that rely on part time finances but these are generally the younger ones that may not have the financial commitments and need to seek employment and have these concerns.
- I know a lot of players have various superstitions or pre-match rituals, do you have any?
I have to eat the same before games and wear the same underwear, washed and clean obviously. There are players do have a lot worse. So long as I go through the same routine I can focus my mind on the game in hand.
- Having had experience playing at a professional level with teams such as MK Dons, you presumably faced some tough opponents in your time. Who is the best player you’ve played against?
Tough question, as I have been fortunate to have had a decent career both at this level and higher. I’d of liked to have played a few more game in the football league but when you get there decisions are far more professional and based on both mental and technical aspects. I feel that I have learnt so much from the opportunities that I have had higher up the ladder that it aids in my development as a player. As for the best player I’ve played with or against, the list can be endless because there are internationals that are known and looked up to worldwide that would be included. I have had a few nemesis in the non league game over the years that always seem to get the better of me when I play against them. As with everyone they have their favoured and least favoured grounds to play and players to play against.
- In 2007 you moved from Basingstoke to Chelsea. Whilst I understand this was not primarily to compete for a first team position, the changes between facilities and the levels of coaching (amongst other things) must have huge. What was it like and what were the main differences?
It was, but I was already working for the club as a coach. The opportunity came around to take on a dual role within the academy and reserves, and of course the opportunity was far too great for me to turn down, to learn from top coaches at one of the best facilities in the country/Europe/world. At first i was taking on a role that was training and being back up to Rhys Taylor and developing my coaching skills, but when Rhys got injured i got my chance to show what i could do, and live a dream. When you get put in a position to train with some of the best players in the world you either sink or swim and i feel that i am of the right mind set that i could raise my game and hold my own in training sessions. You learn very quickly. The biggest thing i learnt there was professionalism and while i always knew that i would never make it to the top i could better myself by listening and watching to what coaches/medical staff/sports scientists/dieticians had to say and the things that they would do to aid a top pros daily training programme. Id like to think that what i took on board helped me when i moved on and is still aiding me now.
- Have you worked with any players in your time (either as a player or coach) who you instantly knew were destined to make it big?
I’ve been in environments that i have seen players develop from as young as 8 and 9 that you think may make it big time but even at the very top you need to have a stroke of luck and work for it. As there are some that i thought would make it and haven’t. Clubs at the top will do everything to aid the best talent in the right direction but the players themselves have to have the hunger, desire and attitude to make it to the top.
- You’ve clearly had a good career and have been at some top clubs in your time. What are your plans when you decide to hang up your gloves?
Football is my life, from the moment i signed my first YTS scholarship i wanted to succeed in one area or another of the game. Id like to think that when i do call it a day as a player that i will have the skills and knowledge to coach or manage somewhere in the world.
- What attracted you to sign for City after leaving MK Dons in 2011?
I was kinda stuck without a club after failing to agree a new contract at MK. I went on trial to Barnet and hoped to gain a contract there but after completing the best part of the pre season it wasn’t to be and I was left calling people I knew and searching the internet. It was reading the non league daily that led me to contact City and the gaffer. I already knew that City were a big club at this level and when I’d read that Nicky Eyre had left the club I tried my luck. I met the gaffer at a pre season friendly and spoke to him after the game. The impression and hunger to move the club forward he left on me was such that I was very keen to join. I had several other offers from clubs in the Conference but chose City and after nearly 2 seasons here I’m glad I did as I’ve met some fantastic people and have some amazing memories.
- Do you have any tips for young goalkeepers out there? As a keeper myself I’ve always struggled with claiming crosses.
I’d say that you need to find a good coach to listen to and aid in development regularly, as well as have a good attitude to listen, learn want to aspire to be the very best you can be.
We’d like to thank Stuart for taking the time to answer these question’s and appreciate him doing so. Please let us know below if you like the interview as we’ll be looking to do more. Who should we talk to? What should we ask?