Kevin Blackwell lays his plan out, looks forward and get on with it
“It’s good to be back and the place has improved in one or two areas. There are plenty of old faces about and it’s very similar to last time. It feels like I haven’t been away, I came in on Thursday morning and the usual abuse was thrown at me. It’s just good. It helps because I knew where we were training, I knew where the balls are kept, and I know where the bibs are. It’s made it very easy for me and it feels like I’ve been here longer than the two hours I have been in.
It’s great to be back in management, it’s what I do and I enjoy it and hopefully I can bring some of the success that I had at Sheffield United and Leeds United here to Gigg Lane. I’ve been out of the game for two years but have been travelling all over the world. I’ve been looking at the standards of coaching and football in general, so I have kept myself busy.
The chairman didn’t have to sell the club to me. I’ve always known this club as a nice football club. They are really decent honest people here, they are football people and they care about their football club. I’ve worked with Sam Ellis for quite a while and he’s always said to me that sometimes it’s not the club you work for, it’s the people. The board of directors impressed me with the fact that they want to move the club forward and they asked with the knowledge that I have, could I bring new techniques to Bury, and I think I can.
My record speaks for itself, even at Luton where we hadn’t been paid for nearly four months, we were unbeaten in 21 games, took Liverpool to a replay, lost to Everton in the quarter finals and even that was terrific. I’ve got a 44% win record, that’s takes some doing and it’s something that I am proud of. I want to maintain that as much as I can here at Bury.
I have a passion and a desire to get promoted at whatever club I have been at. I’ve been at clubs where we have been very close to that. Things were tight at some of those clubs. Leeds went bust, and Bury is a club that runs on a very tight shoe string, but there is no pretension about Bury. We don’t say that we are going to be competing with Manchester United or Manchester City in two years. We are realistic about where we are and we want to make this club as good as we can. The directors all want that and I was impressed about how they came across.
My immediate aim is to arrest this slide, short term it’s to get out of the bottom four. Let’s make no bones about this, we have to get out of the bottom four and we have to do that as quickly as possible, then we can build from where we are.
I know some of the players; I brought David Healy to Leeds from Preston. I know Sodje and a few of the other lads, but this is still a learning curve for me with them, and for them with me. We’ve had the first training session and they were all enthusiastic, but if you’re a manager and you turn up for the first training session and they were not like that, then you would be disappointed. They did everything that I asked them to do. We know we have to work hard, I have and they have, to improve Bury Football Club.
We are conceding goals at one end and not scoring goals at the other end. That’s a recipe for disaster. If you’re not scoring and leaking goals, then the end result is that you will keep losing. We have to arrest it. The board are aware of that and they are going to try and help me to do as much as I can if we need to bring players in. I know a few people, over the years you build up good contacts within the game and I do have some good mates in the game and I will be looking to call a few favours in.
Since my appointment here, my phone has been red hot from Leeds fans and Sheffield United fans, the support I have had from them has been incredible. You don’t realise how much people think of you until this sort of situation happens. A lot of the Leeds fans are saying if they can’t go and watch Leeds, they will come across to Bury, so I’ve told them to bring another 20,000 with them.
The one thing that has surprised me and it makes you feel really good is the amount of people that have supported me and wished me all the best, that’s from supporters, not just people in the game. I’ve never lost the hunger, its great to be back in the game and to be back on the training ground working with players. It’s what I think I do best.
Somebody I have worked a lot with in the past is Sam Ellis, he’s at Stoke now with Tony Pullis. He’s nowhere near ready to retire, but he is on the end of a phone if I need him. He is a stalwart of the game; he’s got a great eye for the game. I brought him in because I was a young manager when I started and I brought him alongside me. I learnt so much form him and I can’t thank him enough for that, but he’s always on the end of the phone so if I need his advice, he will be there. He’s a good judge of a player, although sometimes I do question him.
Peter Shirtliff and Ben Futcher will work with me, I know both of them and they will stay with the club. Nothing will change. The board made it quite clear to me that the staff has to stay and that’s fine by me. They are good lads. Shirty is a terrific professional.
I’ve gone straight in, I took the first training session on Thursday. We’ve worked on a few things and we have to see if we can get a quick response. There’s no point in me waiting to see what is wrong. Many managers will say that they will sit back and watch, it’s my job to get on with it and that’s what I am doing. I’m looking forward to that first game and having a go.
We have to be pragmatic about this. We are bottom of the league, so we need to start winning some games and getting results. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to win games to get results, because as a manager if you don’t get results, then you will lose your job – it’s as simple as that.
I like the game to be played on the floor as much as we can, pass the ball with pace and hopefully the players can do that, but there is an opposition who have a lot to say on how you play the game and how you can win the game. We have to be smart and know that we might need to win the game in different fashions, but we have to have the ability to change the game to go and win it.
If you go around the world and look how football is played, then I think in England we are miles behind. The expectation that is sometimes thrown at manager’s, you see them losing their after six or nine months. Sometimes a manager might want to come in and play like Barcelona but then finds that he has Bognor Regis players. Practicality says that he has to play like Bognor Regis until he can play like Barcelona. That takes time. Brendan Rogers at Liverpool wants to change things around, it’s going to take time but he already has people on his back. That’s the shame of football. You go abroad and they know where they want to be and they know that to get there takes time and they are prepared to take that route. That was something that was sold to me by the directors here and I was really pleased with that.
Any manager that is not working will want to improve himself, and that includes going to watch as many games as you can. I’ve seen Bury play a few times and a lot of clubs in many divisions. I’ve been asked by premier League managers to do work for them, to look at players so it’s been great to not only look at home but to look abroad as well.
People have said we have played well in games, but we are sitting at the bottom of the table because they haven’t scored enough and we have conceded goals. It’s not rocket science.
I got a text message and somebody said to me ‘Blacky, you never take on an easy challenge’. I love football and am delighted to be here. I just want to get on with it and do what I do best, and that’s coaching.
The supporters have to believe that we can get out of the mess that we are in. The mess is that we are bottom of the table, we’ve conceded the most number of goals, scored the least number of goals. We have to turn it around. Every club needs supporters, and you need them when you are down. When things are flying, things float along nicely, but when they are not, you need the support and we need the supporters.
The one thing that I do know from my previous time with Bury, we might not have massive numbers of supporters, but there loyalty is just unquestionable. We have to call on that loyalty and help us move the club forward.
Unfortunately we have game after game for the next two or three weeks. As a manager you have to look at how much energy the players are going to expend on the pitch and how much training you can do out there. It’s a happy balance but I need the players in. We had a double session on Thursday, and again on Friday and then straight into the game on Saturday and then on Tuesday.
Saturday will be a tough game, Stevenage has six or seven players over six foot three, they are a physical side, they work hard, they are honest and they were a non-league side three years ago, but look where they are now. I saw them in the semi-final against Sheffield United and they almost got to Wembley. We will pay massive respect to them; go there with respect – but not with fear.
I’ve been abroad in America, South Africa, Nigeria, Sweden and away with the FA doing courses, I’ve been asked to look at things by clubs and looking how clubs are developed. I have a decent reputation for developing players and I think I know what I am doing. It’s great when someone comes and asks you to come over and listen to what you have to say.
If you wake up and haven’t learnt something, then it’s a waste of time waking up. In football, if you go to these big clubs and don’t learn something, then you must be stupid. Anyone who says they know it all, doesn’t know anything.
I went to see Kaiser Chiefs in South Africa, Houston Dynamos in the state and loads of clubs around Europe. Everyone knows that English football outside of the premier league is tight, you need to manage tight budgets and all sort of things to keep players fit and away from injury.
The players here have already come across as a good bunch. I always think that the difference with premier league players is the prema donna’s, here these lads will stop in the road side café and have a chip butty, that won’t happen the premier league.”
Watch the full video interview on Shakers Player