Wood gaffer Luke Garrard took time away from a family break to speak with BWFC media and communications manager Grant Morris, about his first senior managerial appointment. He gives us his thoughts on staying up last season and the players that he’s released or lost since then.
He also speaks about the squad he’s putting together and what his first pre season as manager of Boreham Wood actually feels like.
GM: Firstly Luke, congratulations on behalf of myself, the club and all the Wood Army on securing our survival last season. It was of course your first senior managerial position, you obviously inherited a very difficult situation and so it must of felt like some achievement by you and the boys in keeping us up??
LG: It was as you said my first senior managers job and it did feel like a huge achievement to stay up, especially after starting the campaign with 8 defeats in the first 11 games. The gulf between the National Premier and National South is massive and as a club we learnt a lot over the course of the year and in the end, belief, hard work, lady luck and committed players gave us enough to survive..
GM: What were your feelings when Ian Allinson resigned? Were you confident that you could keep us up, especially when in some people’s eyes you were surprisingly given the job at such a young age??
LG: Bitter sweet really. I was gutted that Ian was leaving, especially after the relationship I had and still have with him. We’d been together for a long time whether that was as a player or alongside him in the dugout. But I wanted the job when he went and when the Chairman offered me the opportunity I didn’t hesitate. I was confident in myself, I honestly felt we would have enough in the dressing room with 3 or 4 additions and the players showed in the run in, exactly what they were about.
GM: What do you think were the main factors, when you now look back on your first season as manager in keeping us up? I mean surely nobody not even yourself, could of expected us to win our final three games of the season??
LG: Our defence was massive for us and our away record was immense in us maintaining our National Status. As a new manager I always for some reason felt more comfortable travelling away and In fairness we tried all year to gain back to back victories but we never managed it due to our poor home form until it really mattered.
I do though looking back, feel that our game away to Aldershot was a huge catalyst in our survival. We got the rub of the green that day with the penalty decision but we were also immense from the very first minute as were the travelling fans and we deserved any luck that came our way that day.
GM: By my reckoning with the six loan players from last season returning to their parent clubs. With the three BWFC players we had out on loan in Macdonald, Hill and Whichelow all being released and with nine others being released or not accepting their deals or re engagement terms. That’s 18 players who have gone and only six have been kept. Do you see this pre season as a total rebuild and see it as the end of the Ian Allinson influence??
LG: We are definitely looking to kick on from last year, as who wants a relegation scrap but no it’s not a total rebuild. The six players we have retained are important players for us, they were secured early and that was huge for me. I feel they would of learnt a lot about the club, myself and my staff and that’s important as we build on last season…
You look at both Joe Devera and Dave Stephens, we only got them in October and November last year. So I’m expecting after a good pre season, for both of them to be even more influential this year. Ben Nunn after his Loan spell at St Albans come back a different player with a different mindset and again I fully expect him to be ready for the challenge.
Woody, Shakesy, Conor Clifford, will also be coaching with me and the academy next season. They have fully bought into what we do here and they will I hope, now go from strength to strength…
GM: The five players you’ve brought in so far in this pre season Luke, are all very well known at National Premier League level. They all have a real pedigree as their cv’s show and they have experience at this level. Was experience an important ingredient to you when you were looking to bring them to Meadow Park??
LG: Massively, I spoke with the Chairman early on and we discussed potential targets and I wanted the first five or six signings to all have a similar criteria. I was looking for experience, leaders, characters and players that have achieved at this level.
When you look at the make up of those five they all fit that bill. That said I’m not afraid of signing young and you’ll probably see some young hungry players arrive here in pre season and I also want a bit more pace within the group, so watch this space.
GM: The new players all seem very happy to be here, which must be important in getting the dressing room to gel and for team spirit? I can tell you, the signings have really excited the Wood Army but what are your thoughts on the squad size at present with just eleven players signed or announced to date??
LG: Very happy with the signings and I’ll be honest it was a pleasure dealing with them all. I made sure they came to the club to meet me, as I truly believe our facilities are now a selling point for us. Every meeting I’ve had, I felt they left excited by what they saw and what we had to offer.
They all bring a different balance to the squad, there are some real leaders amongst them and with Bruno & Adriano we also have some real talent out wide. I can’t stress how important it is for them to integrate with the current players, and I know they will all get on. We already have a loyal group and with the new additions, I can see a great togetherness developing.
GM: It’s clear from what you’ve said, that you are going for proven quality next season. But in terms of the size of the squad, Is that going to be smaller than last season? If so, is that a conscious decision by you or is that purely down to the budget constraints at the club??
LG: The budget is competitive this year and the Chairman has again backed me. We carried 22 players last year for the run in and I don’t feel we need to do that again. Especially with the new rule change regarding the scrapping of the two transfer windows at our level.
So I’ll be running with a 16/17 man squad and looking to bolster that with the Academy’s elite boys and some real quality loans when needed.. In the likes of Matt Paine, Mark Ricketts, Ricky Shakes and Joe Devera we have players that can play in more then one position, so that allows me more flexibility when it comes to a budget.
GM: So with your first pre season training camp nearly upon you and with some pretty exciting pre season friendlies to look forward too. Are you where you hoped to be at this stage of pre season or are you worried that we are still a little bit light squad wise??
LG: Very happy currently, we still have a week or so before we even get back into training, so I’m in no rush. Of course if the right player comes along, then I’ll look to move on him but there is still lots of time to work that out. The pre season is always exciting at any club and it will be very interesting going into it as a manager for the first time. I always enjoyed them as a player or coach and hopefully I can now enjoy it even more as a National League Manager.
GM: The Chairman often writes in his programme notes, about the improvement behind the scenes regarding the clubs facilities and them now being ready for this level of football.
It must surely help you and the staff, to have the analysis suites, the 3G Training facilities and the gymnasium onsite and available? With the introduction of a daytime training programme and with us now creating a new daytime catering department that must also help? Can you tell us how different this pre season will feel, compared to last seasons, when we were very much a part time club who trained in the evening??
LG: It will be a huge improvement in our preparation and in the time spent with the players.. Just to train in the day and have the luxury of the boys arriving and having a bite to eat together before and after training is important.. The whole site is gearing up for success on and off the pitch. Whether that’s the analyst suite’s for pre match or post match de-briefs, whether it’s the gym for rehab or to do a training session, whether it’s the 3G pitches, our caterers, our medical staff or our kit managers.. it’s all just a lot more professional compared to where we were last year.
Grant, the site and our ambitions are forever improving and the club prides itself on that. That’s why I believe we have managed to sign the majority of our targets this year. That’s due I believe to what we can now offer our players and staff behind the scenes. We are striving to be as professional as we can, and we aim to give the players and staff the right environment for them to thrive and enjoy their football.
GM: The Chairman is often quoted as saying our success as a club, is very much down to our old supporters patience as he built the club from the bottom up. He’s also quoted as saying our success in recent years is very much down to his loyal day to day staff and his policy of promoting staff to senior positions from within. That would definitely describe your journey with the club??
You like others have obviously believed in his work ethic over the last decade.. You have come through the ranks and you now know the club, the fans and the Chairman inside out. Can we even with the obvious off field improvements, really maintain this level of football and is it inconceivable for us to dream of going even further??
LG: I said when we got promoted from the Ryman to the National South, that we could after a period of understanding the level go further.. Remember we really struggled in our first season at Conference South level and very few thought we would ever be promoted into the National.
We did though make small positive steps year on year and were where we are on merit.. I’ve been with this club for 10 years now and I’ve seen the improvement almost on a daily basis. I’ve learnt a lot about how we’re run ourselves and have huge respect for all the staff within our set up.
We all have the same mindset and we’re a young workforce with real energy and drive. We all have the club close to our hearts and we want to progress further as a group. So we will quietly continue to work hard to make that happen and see where it takes us??
GM: Finally Luke, you now have a sizeable back room team of your own at your disposal. How important are your back room staff going to be, in what you hope to achieve in the next couple of years and how does a club of our size and support base, even try to compete with the bigger clubs on a National level??
LG: My Back room staff are massive for me.. As much as I learnt about myself last season, I also learnt loads about Goody, Junior, Cameron Mawer and Megan Reid. They bring a wealth of experience, and have a real understanding of what I’m trying to achieve. We all have previous with each other and we get on really well, which helps.
I’ve also added Glen Johnson to my back room staff. Glen was the goalkeeping coach at Braintree and I see him as a great addition to the dressing room. It will definitely be very tough again mixing it with the likes of Tranmere, Wrexham etc, but as a club a lot has been learnt and hopefully we can draw upon those experiences to improve ourselves from where we were last season.
GM: Thank you Luke for giving up your time, when I know your away with the family at present. Good luck with pre season and hopefully we can catch up again soon??
LG: My pleasure Grant, any time pal.