“A top-ten finish would be great, and of course it would be a bonus if the team could hover near the play-offs”
TT conducted their 1st opposition supporter Q&A for 19-20, as Steven Pye discusses his team Boreham Wood:
TT – Hi Steven, nice to speak with you again – before we discuss your team, tell us a bit about your sports writing?
SP – Hi Dominic. Nice to hear from you again. Sadly, due to the hectic nature of my day job in the last year, I’ve not been able to do as much writing as I would have liked to recently. But I’m still producing the odd piece for the Guardian Sport Network on sport in the 1980s and have also had blogs published on the These Football Times site. I recently had an article on Jo Durie reaching the 1983 French Open semi-finals in the printed version of the Guardian, which was very exciting, and I’m starting to consider writing a few more pieces that are not based on sporting events in the 1980s.
After getting close to promotion in 2018, BW struggled last season – what do you think were the main reasons for the downturn in form?
The two previous play-off runners-up had bounced back to achieve promotion to League Two in the following year, but right from the off, there was no chance of this happening at the Wood. Losing goalkeeper Grant Smith, defenders Kane Smith (season long injury), Jamie Turley (loan not extended), and the firepower of Bruno Andrade and Morgan Ferrier before the start of the season stripped the club of so much quality. Then Angelo Balanta left for Dagenham and another piece of the jigsaw had been removed.
Last season saw a few loan players come in, and there never really seemed to be any consistency. I have to say, I never expected the Wood to get in the top half of the table, but I certainly didn’t expect them to flirt with relegation. It was a bit of a wake-up call that expectations at the club had swelled, and realistically staying in the division is an achievement enough, based on the average home attendances and resources available.
Has the pre-season gone well for Boreham and have you made any notable signings?
This time last year I was fearful of the season ahead. Arsenal brought a lot of their first team to Meadow Park and won 8-0, which was hardly a surprise, but the 3-0 defeat against Slough set alarm bells ringing. I know pre-season friendlies are not always accurate in predicting the season ahead, but you could see the following campaign was going to be tricky.
There seems to be a different feeling this year, although that may just be me being optimistic for once. A decent 3-3 against an Arsenal XI, and a win over QPR are encouraging, and the new signings look like they’re bedding in well. David Gregory has arrived to provide competition to Ryan Huddart. Jordan Thompson (defender) has come in on loan from Coventry, midfielders Adam McDonnell and Piero Mingoia looked decent in the Arsenal match, and Tyrone Marsh, Justin Shaibu and Kabongo Tshimanga will hopefully provide a cutting edge up front.
What are your expectations for 19-20, where do you think you’ll realistically finish in the NL?
This is a difficult one. I’m not expecting a repeat of 2017/18, but I would be very surprised if the team struggle like they did last season. A top-ten finish would be great, and of course it would be a bonus if the team could hover near the play-offs. But, as I hinted at earlier, maybe we should try and make sure that safety is secured a lot more comfortably than last season before looking too high in the table.
Which BW players should we look out for this Saturday and why?
I’m a big admirer of midfielder Keiran Murtagh. He was superb in the play-off season, and although he struggled along with the rest of the team last season, he’s still a quality player, with so much time on the ball. Skipper Mark Ricketts is crucial, especially away from home, as his defensive midfield skills play a big part in screening the defence.
I’ll be interested in seeing how Kabongo Tshimanga performs this season. He scored 37 goals for Oxford City in all competitions last season, so if he can make the step-up from National League South successfully, hopefully there will be plenty of goals from him.
Have you got the right man in charge and what sort of tactics does he employ?
Luke Garrard has done a superb job at Boreham Wood, keeping the club up in their first season at this level in 2015/16, and coming one game away from promotion to the Football League. Last season was a testing one for him, but you have to hope he will come out of that experience a bit better for it.
Garrard likes to play three at the back and wing-backs like Kane Smith and Femi Ilesanmi provide the width. The team really missed Smith last season – he got injured in the play-off match against Fylde, and only came back for a few games at the end of the campaign – so having him back will be a big boost.
What’s Boreham’s away following like and will you bring many down to Plainmoor?
I’m not sure the Wood will take that many to Plainmoor. There are a loyal band of supporters who follow the club home and away, but it’s difficult to attract big numbers for the longer away trips to places like Torquay and Gateshead. But maybe a trip to Devon in August will see a few more of the Wood Army make a weekend of it?
Which teams are you expecting to challenge for promotion this season and why?
I’m not normally very good at making predictions, although last year I did fancy both Leyton Orient and Salford from the start. There are some relatively big clubs in the National League, such as Wrexham and Chesterfield, and I think they will go close. Fylde have reached the play-offs in the last couple of seasons, so I would expect them to be challenging. With my abysmal betting record though, I wouldn’t wager your house on any of my tips.
How would you rate the quality of the National League and do you think TUFC have a chance of contending for a place back in the league?
The National League is extremely competitive; some weeks you turn up expecting an easy three points and you leave wondering how a team struggling down at the bottom have turned you over. Beware of some of the officiating, though. If you watch Premier League matches and think some of the refereeing is bad, then think again.
Without knowing the strengths and weaknesses of Torquay’s squad, it is hard to say whether you can compete at the top end of the table. What I do know is that you have a fine manager and you impressed me in the FA Trophy last season, especially as you went down to nine men. I guess if you can build on the momentum of last season then a top-ten finish is a definite possibility.
And finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?
I’ll sit on the fence with this one; your performance against the Wood in the FA Trophy last season, coupled with the Wood’s pre-season form makes me lean towards a 2-2 draw. As we’re on holiday for the match, my son and I will keep an eye on the events from Plainmoor from a distance. I wish you good luck for the season ahead, but not on August 3rd!