In May the National Futsal League committee announced that the divisional champions for season 2019/20 would be decided on a points per game basis, calculated from each teams results earlier in the season. Head coach Al Tindall reflects on the Clubs victorious first season after returning to the National scene.
Q. League champions in your first season. How does it feel?
A. It’s a mix of emotions really. I’m delighted for the lads and our fans. Everyone has given their all this year and we’ve invested a lot of time and money into the season so for us to be awarded the title rather than have the season written off was the best outcome for us. That said it wasn’t the way we voted for the season to be concluded. We were desperate to lift the trophy in our final home game in front of our fans, you can imagine the party we would have had, so we asked for the league to be concluded even if that meant eating into next season. We were certain next season would be compromised anyway as a result of the pandemic so it seemed the logical thing to do to us but it wasn’t what the majority voted for and we live in a democracy so whilst the title is slightly tainted we have no issues in accepting it. We were well on course to win the league and deserved it given our performances earlier in the season. Overall, happy to win our first trophy!
Q. Can you pick out one high and one low from the campaign?
Well, parking up the way the season ended as the most obvious low and just focusing on performance of the squad, i would have to say the professionalism shown by the players has been the most pleasing part of the season. As a coaching team we wanted to get the environment right early on. We needed to allow the players, who are all good footballers, to accept that they’ve got lots to learn in Futsal whilst also providing them with the confidence that they can still go and win games. I think most Futsal coaches have been in this position and its not as easy as it sounds. Players as individuals need to feel confident to perform so the learning programme needs to be well thought out. It takes a lot of patience as a coach because you cant change everything or teach everything all at once (despite an overwhelming urge to) or the players confidence in themselves and in you as a coach will disappear and everything will fall apart. I think our experience in the National League between 2013-15 taught us more than we realised in that respect. So my personal high hasn’t been any individual result or performance but in seeing our season plan perfectly embraced and executed by the players.
In terms of a low, its actually difficult to pick one. I think the biggest frustration was in the standard of venues and organisation of some of the teams in our league this season. We are asking our players to give up their entire Sunday to travel hundreds of miles across the country sacrificing time with family and giving up other sporting opportunities. Many could stay locally and get paid to play football part time so for us to attract and retain these players we need every aspect of their Futsal experience to be top notch. This season I think we did everything we could as a Club for our players and visiting teams to achieve that but our efforts weren’t matched by the other Clubs in our league and our National Futsal League away day experience was poor. Playing in a higher division next season should address this as our rivals will be more established Clubs but the NFL has to address the standards in place and how they enforce them if they want to do their part to grow the game. We have fed this back to the NFL committee who are really passionate about getting things right so i’m sure this will be addressed over the coming seasons.
Q. If you could rewind 12 months what would you do differently?
I think because we have had a good season i haven’t done as much reflection as I should have so i’m struggling to think of things I would do differently. Probably the most obvious thing is that I would have recruited in Ryan Studholme, Ellis Monaghan and Mike Mullen sooner. They joined at various stages through the campaign and although its been tough for them picking up the training half way through the season they’ve been fantastic. Every player goes through an initial kind of ‘shock’ period when they join where they’re surprised by the speed of the game and the standard of play and how different it is from football, its the same pattern for every player but they’ve fitted in straight away. It would have been great to have these lads involved from the start as they’ve really strengthened the squad.
Q. What are the plans for next season?
Well on a player recruitment front we have already identified and had agreement from 3 players who will join us once training resumes. That’ll give us a really strong training group of about 20 players which has always been our aim. The way I ask my players to play means we need to make full use of our 12 on a matchday to win games against the best teams. Oxford is a great example of that where we pushed them all the way but we didnt have the experience in the 12 to keep control in that game for the full 40 minutes. All 12 need to be trained in the way we play and be highly competent so its great news to have these lads lined up to join us.
In terms of which league we will be playing in we are really waiting to see what the NFL and NFS offer is. I cant say too much about it publicly as we have an interest in both and dont want to jeopardise our position with either but at the moment but there is lots for us to consider and lots of unanswered questions. Our location plays a big part in our preference for a home and away format although I personally believe the central venue format is an absolute necessity for the very top tier of Futsal right now in order to drive up the standards on and off the court. Having high standards is the only way to build a brand investors want to be associated with and investment is needed to really take Futsal to the next level in England now. I would love to see the NFS 2 move to a home and away format sooner rather than later with some central venue rounds of cup fixtures to test the standards of Clubs. Even better if the NFS and NFL could merge and bring the Futsal family back together under one banner. Time will tell on that one but we want to play at the highest level possible with as many home games as possible so we need to see which league can best offer us that then make a decision.
Q. How will you celebrate the league title?
Easy one this! Party! I would love to get the whole Club involved in some sort of Club party and awards event. It would be the perfect way to finish lockdown and launch the new season. Lets see what we can organise!