Preview: Dave Robertson
Dave Robertson sat down with sligorovers.com to preview the 2016 season with an in depth interview.
The new gaffer will take charge of his first game on Saturday when Shamrock Rovers come to The Showgrounds.
Robertson was appointed manager in November and first reflected on how he is enjoying his new life in the west of Ireland.
“I have been settling in very well since I came here and so have my family. When I got here I knew that I had a big task on my hands. The first part was putting together a management team and support staff for the squad. I think in that area we have done some very good work. The second was in assembling our squad of players. There was a lot of work put in over the Christmas period and in the January transfer window to put the squad together.
“I think we have come away with a good that has a very good blend. We have gone for quality rather than quantity with it. I think the fans that have come to see us play against Liverpool under-21 and Derry City will have seen that coming to fruition and seen the vision we have for our style of football.”
Robertson added that it was important to take time in putting his squad to get the mix of youth and experience he has achieved: “It was key to take our time because we didn’t want a squad with all youth or a squad with all experienced players. I think that we need a good blend to make up the squad. We will go through times this year when we will need to draw on the experience of the likes of Gavin Peers, Micheal Schlingermann, Tim Clancy, Mick Leahy and Raff Cretaro. With them we have a really good pedigree for the league.
“We also wanted to recruit younger players to bring pace, flair and creativity to it. We have done that with Jaanai Gordon, Phil Roberts, Craig Roddan, Kieran Sadlier, Jimmy Keohane, Tobi Adebayo-Rowling and Jordan Richards. That has given us a real good blend which we will need when we are trying to grind out results over the course of the season.”
The players have completed six weeks of pre-season training under Robertson and the coaching staff which, together with the four wins from five friendly games played, has left the Englishman happy: “I couldn’t have asked much more from the players in terms of the work they have put in. Monday now is the start us business as usual for us as we focus on preparing for the first of 33 games on Saturday, that is how we need to approach it. I’m satisfied with how we have been gelling and playing together and executing the style we want.
“Now we need to transfer what we have transferred already from the training pitch into the friendly games we now have to transfer that into our league fixtures. That should be a natural progression for us with the work we have done.
“I think that the squad we have will improve as the season progresses. We will grow and improve over the year and in particular in the first six weeks as well. In time as we play more we will naturally get better as we embed our style in and what we want to do. We still have an improving squad and one that has plenty of room to improve. And that makes it very exciting for me.”
The 42 year-old thinks that having signings who are new to the league will be an advantage to his team’s chances: “I think that having players who are not well known to opponents can help us by bringing an unknown quantity. This should be the case for the opener against Shamrock Rovers and we should be a bit of an unknown quantity to a lot of teams in the league. There won’t be many who know about the style we will have.
“But there will be quite a bit of unknown with Shams as well. They have gone away for three weeks so we don’t know how they will come back and how much training they were able to do with the fixtures they had while there. That’s an unknown as well which adds that extra spice to things.”
Robertson has travelled to take in several pre-season games to assess what his team will be up against during the year and he says the standard is as good as he had expected: “It is what I had expected when I came over, the standard here is very good. It is important not to underestimate how strong the league here is and we will never do that. I know how good the teams here are and we will have to learn how to play against different styles.
“There will be teams that will come and sit back against us and play on the counter. Then there will be teams who will come full of belief and take us on. The pre-season games we have had have got us ready for the physical challenges we will face and the different tactical challenges we’ll have.”
Shamrock Rovers are the first opposition in a fixture Robertson has heard plenty about leaving him excited to get going: “I am expecting an excellent atmosphere. I have spoken to the players about what it is like and from a players and a managers point of view it is exactly what you want. We couldn’t have asked for a better opening game. You want to test yourself against the very best and Shamrock Rovers are a team we definitely expect to be up there. With the rivalry there is between the two clubs this should be a great match.
“Making The Showgrounds a fortress will be really important to us. For the opening game of the season we want to start that. If we are to be successful we need to start that right away. We have got to match them in every position and we will need to be attacking and aggressive.”