NCM EXCLUSIVE! 'Thommo' Interview number 3.

1. The first time I interviewed you, just before the season started, you said you weren't targeting promotion. The second time I interviewed you, just after the Peterborough match, you played down promotion talk. How about now?

Obviously the expectation level has risen. When I first got the job everyone looked at the players, and nobody knew what they would do, and obviously the fact that we've got off to a good start, and we've beaten (Crystal) Palace and Middlesbrough, as I've said to the players, the bar has been raised. If you like we've done it off our own backs, but I haven't come to Notts not to be successful, and I repeatedly say to the players “if you want to come where I want to go, and where the supporters want to go, then jump on board, but if you don't then jump off the ship!” So obviously what will happen is if we are in the top six come Christmas I will be saying to the Boards of Directors, “can we strengthen the squad?” If we can challenge for promotion then so be it. We've played I think five out of the top seven, and we've seen nothing to frighten us. I keep saying to the players, “this is what we are hoping to do.” I don't know whether I've told you this before, but we give the players a block of six games and they make an objective points target.

Do the players set the targets themselves or do you set them?

I give them the fixtures, say, “look at the next six league games, be objective, don't be blasé or flippant, give me a realistic total of points that you think we can get.”

Do they ever predict a defeat?

Well that's “in-house”. The last batch of six games they actually got every one right. They said three points here, one point there! I said to Alan White, “I want your lottery numbers!”

White... Give me your lottery numbers!

2. What do you think has been the basis of the long unbeaten run?

I think it's the work ethic, the team spirit, the togetherness, the desire, the commitment and they've bought into what myself and John Gannon have put into them. When I recruited these players I didn't recruit them “willy-nilly.” I knew the backgrounds, I knew what kind of players they were and I wanted winners. And we've got a squad that is full of winners.

3. We all know the division is tough. Is it tougher than you expected it to be?

I thought it would be a lot stronger this year than last year. As you know I did the commentary for all the games in League 2 last year (as a summariser for BBC Radio Lincolnshire), and I thought with Swindon and Hartlepool coming down, and there's always one Conference club that does well, and I thought there's some clubs equipped with money now, Peterborough have got money, Shrewsbury have from selling the ground, Swindon and Milton Keynes have multi-millionaire's, and we all know that money can buy players but whether it can assemble a squad, and a squad with desire, I don't know. But, what happens usually is by Christmas if you keep everything on the straight and narrow, then that's where you might finish, and that's the objective to get into the top six.

4. Nobody is running away with it are they?

Well, I was disappointed not to win the ‘Manager of the Month to be fair, and not for my ego but for the players and the supporters. I don't think it was took into consideration that we went from Torquay to Chester to Barnet to Middlesbrough, and I wanted the players to win it because if I had won it, I'd have gone on the pitch with all the players, the ground staff, the backroom staff, because this is a combined effort.

Yeh because it's not really a Manager of the Month, its more a Team of the Month isn't it?

Its not an individual award it's a team award, and I'm disappointed for the players, they deserve a reward as well. It's about getting results and we are in that industry, and I'm trying. I want to get more in the ground. The away support has been absolutely terrific. Torquay we took 450, and they were right behind me, and Mansfield on Saturday!! I'm just pleased we clawed our way back in and got a point.

5. It was a poor first half at Mansfield. What do you think went wrong?

I don't know. You get these blips. Arsenal, Chelsea Man Utd, they all get these blips. It was probably the first local derby a lot of these lads have played in, and the fact we took 2000 supporters and Mansfield were well up for the game. I think they were more up for the first, certainly 30 minutes than we were. It took some strong words at half-time and some changes but our lads showed great character.

6. Andy Parkinson has been getting some criticism, things being said include “He's not getting in the game enough, he's not as good as he was before” what do you think about that?

Parkinson... Wil turn it around, says 'Thommo'
The first thing I'll say is that Andy Parkinson is one of the best Professionals I've worked with. He knows that when he's on the ball he probably hasn't done as well as he can do. But one thing Andy Parkinson gives you, and David Pipe for that matter, they give you 110% work rate and commitment, and ‘Parky' will come good. There's a saying in football that form is temporary, class is permanent, and at this level, or the next level, Andy is a class player. He's bought into the work ethic, we play 4-4-2 as you know, and its only a matter of time before he comes good. I've no qualms about Andy. It's never entered my mind to leave Andy out in any way shape or form. No one beats himself up more in training, and he'll come good.

Is he getting the service?

I think in the pre-season games when we played Blackburn and Sheffield United and so on, he had more time on the ball and in our division they are on you quick and they know Andy is a dangerous player so they jump on him and he's closed down very quickly and they see him as a key player. The thing about Andy is he can play centre forward as well and that's coming into consideration because at the moment I've got ‘Big Jase' (Jason Lee) as a target man, and although Lawrie's (Lawrie Dudfield) scoring a few goals, and Junior's (Junior Mendes) scoring a few goals, I need some consistency up the front. Just going back to Andy he's a superb professional and after Alan White and Jason Lee he was the first player I brought.

7. You've got a few selection headaches now haven't you? Dan Gleeson/Gary Silk, Stephen Hunt is playing well…

Well as I've said to you since we did our first couple of interviews I've tried to get it so that we have at least two players for every position. Stephen Hunt has done magnificent. He gives us height, strength, pace and he's a great lad as well. As you said Silky, Silky started the season, and you know these lads are 21. What I've tried to do is build a squad, not just for this year but for the coming years. I don't want to be here today, gone tomorrow. I want to be here and be successful for Notts. I think that Notts have changed their managers like changing their socks. Now hopefully they've selected the right one. Its took me some time to win the supporters over but I think they can now see what I'm about, and I want to build a young vibrant squad but also with experienced professionals and this is my ambition, to get Notts, whether it be this year, next year or whenever, on the ladder to being a vibrant football cub again.

7. NCM recently voted Austin McCann your best signing, do you agree with that?

‘Aussie' is terrific, and I don't know if people think I stuck a pin in to come up with these signings, but I saw a lot of Aussie at Boston, once again a great professional, and shortly in the next month or so I will be talking to players(regarding contracts), we don't want like last year where we have only three players on contracts. I've got to be talking to the Gleeson's, the McCann's, to other certain players. I will be asking for assurances from the Board that they see me as a long-term manager, and that they will allow me to build a squad and a team that makes it a vibrant football club again.

8. Finally, if you were promised a home tie with Chelsea were you to beat Southampton in the Cup, would you rather that or three points on Saturday against Bristol Rovers?

It's great isn't it? When we went to Palace, everyone was saying “well we'll go to Palace, we'll enjoy the game, if we lose it don't matter”. So we beat Palace, then we went to Middlesbrough and everyone was saying, “it don't matter if we lose”. Now people are saying we'll beat Southampton and get Chelsea! Let's be realistic. We aren't going to win the Carling Cup, we are enjoying the ride, but if you said to me would I swap beating Middlesbrough for a top three or six spot then I'd say it don't matter about Southampton, but my players won't accept that. So we'll play Southampton, use a system with the players, and whatever comes our way, comes our way!”