Know your strengths to reach the top

I  invested an hour of my time on Monday last week at a phone in show for BBC 3 Counties Radio. One of the most interesting questions for me involved thinking about the best Stevenage player I had managed.

What a difficult question that proved to be.

At the time, I named four: my current skipper Jon Ashton, Peterborough defender Michael Bostwick, Hull City’s George Boyd, and Millwall’s Steve Morison. Three of those four have now played Premier League football.

As I reflected on the question a little more, I began to build up a team of players that had been under my stewardship at Stevenage or elsewhere.

In goal, Chris Day my current keeper takes some beating. Preston’s Scott Laird is a superb left back and Preston’s Keith Keane was an exceptional right full-back. Down the right I must include Charlton’s Lawrie Wilson, for his pace and athleticism alone. Derby’s Paul Coutts was a very special midfield talent when I had him at Preston before he was sold. As too is QPR’s Michael Doughty. At Rushden I managed Norwich striker Simeon Jackson, a superb Canadian striker. Sim must be in.

Day, Ashton, Boyd, Morison and Jackson have all played Premier League football. Bostwick, Wilson, Keane and Coutts have played Championship football.

Laird and Doughty have their best football ahead of them.

If I look at all of those lads and seek to identify a common trait, I struggle. All are different characters and all have different skillsets.

But there is one thing I did notice: each is very, very good at something particular.

Which leads me to point every young player to concentrate his or her core efforts on a key strength. While most players seem to know their ‘areas for improvement’ which is no bad thing, it is more important than anything to make sure that your strengths are where your true focus lies.


So the word is that Charlton are to become the latest English Club to be acquired by an American sports franchise.

Billionaire investment banker Josh Harris is reported to be in pole position to add Charlton Athletic to his stable which already includes NBA and NHL franchises.

The football landscape is changing irreversibly.

Team colours, club names – no tradition is sacred as the globalisation of the English game continues.

Charlton may be moved to a new site away from the Valley near the O2 Arena.

Philadelphia and New Jersey do not immediately strike you as twins for Charlton. But that is how it will be if things proceed.

Personally, I believe in modernisation. But as I have lived and learned, I have become a much stronger believer that history should be remembered; that the future should be created; and that today should be lived.
I hope that change in our game can be handled in a consultative and considerate way so progress and tradition can exist sympathetically side by side in the evolution of our great sport.


Back in 2009-10, we were affected at Stevenage by the demise of Chester City. During our title run in, we were deducted the six points we had won in two hard games against a strong Chester team.

Luton, with whom we were competing, had dropped points to Chester. So they effectively gained by Chester’s situation.

We felt very hard done by at the time. But the biggest hit to us was that cards taken in the Chester games were to stand. Key players, late in the campaign, could receive bans due to cards taken in games that didn’t count.

This week saw the replay of the abandoned game between Doncaster and Charlton. I can only begin to imagine the difficulty that Donny have in accepting their defeat after leading the original game 3-1.

But the harsher side of that to me is in the fact that Paul Keegan’s sending off still counted as a ban although
yellows in this instance didn’t.

I made my point about this at the time but feel bound to re-iterate it now. Surely that decision cannot be right. If the game didn’t happen then the cards simply shouldn’t count. The end.


What a week for football. The arrests linked to betting have really hit the headlines. Of course, it isn’t the first time that a gambling-related accusation has been made.

I have to say that I have never been approached personally or become aware of an approach to anybody else I know.

To me, it is simply unthinkable that participants in the game we all love would damage the game’s good name through wrong doing of the type alleged.

I may be living in a shell but I don’t think so;  I really don’t believe that the incidents reported are the tip of any iceberg.
I guess temptations will always exist for people, unfortunately.

But I do believe that the emphasis among the enormous majority will continue to be on performing to the very best standards and delivering the very best results. As it ought to be.


This is a football column, not a soap box. But I have to make a small diversion this week.

Football managers spend a lot of time on the road travelling from game to game. And so plenty of time in petrol stations!

Three times in the last week, I have heard members of the general public talk to female assistants in petrol stations in the most rude and abusive way imaginable. Unreasonably.

I want to call on football fans across the country to make sure that we all set the highest standards of decency and respect in the way we treat the people employed to serve us. We may be in a hurry when travelling. Or frustrated after a game.

But let’s remember that wives, mothers and daughters deserve to be treated always with the regard we would give them if they were our own.


It was put to me this week that managers should be given three appeals against any major decisions in a game. A failed appeal should result in a lost substitute.

Apparently in American Football, a system involving loss of a timeout exists in similar circumstances.

From what I hear, we are miles away from anything of that ilk. But I would be an advocate for sure.

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