It was a brilliant season for Bracknell Town on and off the pitch with a runners up spot in the Hellenic Premier Division and three cup final wins as well as the redevelopment of the clubs home ground Larges Lane.
We spoke to Mark Tallentire about the season and what his plans are for 2017/18.
Hey Mark, thanks for talking to us. What a season you’ve just had – arguably the best in over two decades. How do you improve on that going in to 17/18?
To win a treble at any level is extremely difficult, so for us to achieve that in my first full season back at the Lane was amazing. Obviously, the dissapointment of losing out in the league on the last day of the season is still raw. But I will be reminding the players of how we felt after that last game, and we will be using that as a motivational tool, to make sure we are fully focused on the thirty eight league games that lay ahead of us.
You had one of the most settled first elevens in Bracknell’s recent history, is that a conscious effort on your part as manager?
For any manager at any level, consistency is the key to having a successful season. We had a very strong squad last season, which gave us a real competitive edge within the group. That competition drove performance levels up. Once the team started winning on a regular basis, there really wasn’t any need for me to make changes. The lads that were unlucky enough not to be in the starting eleven had to show incredible patience and belief, that they would get the chance to break into the team.
And how do you deal with players that are ‘waiting’? From the outside it seemed a very fair system of ‘player comes in, does well and keeps position’ which was no more evident with Carl Davies in the Reading Senior Cup Final.
Managing the players that are playing regularly in the team is the easy part of being a manager. The hardest part of the job is managing the lads that are not playing regularly. Just because those lads are not in the team at that moment in time, doesn’t mean they are not up to the task.
Modern football is now a squad game. At our club, all the players that we have are all capable of hitting high performance levels. It is very much the case of when you get your chance, you have to take it.
Can you pinpoint the moment you thought Bracknell could win the title? Was there one moment or period of time where you thought ‘We really can do this’
I always thought that the catalyst for our title challenge would coincide with our return to Larges Lane. It was imperative we got back at the earliest opportunity, although we were grateful to Sandhurst Town for allowing us to groundshare, it still wasn’t home. It could be argued that we lost the title at the very start of the season when we were playing at Sandhurst. Once we got back to Larges Lane, everything fell into place, it galvanised the whole club. The team started winning almost immediately, so I would say the first league game back against Binfield was the turning point.
How important were some of the older players? Particularly the likes of Damien and Gavin Smith?
It is important to get the right balance of experience and young players. I thought we got that balance just right last season. We purposely went for the very best young players in the area, but targeted players in the very early 20s. Seb [Bowerman] and Kensley [Maloney] plus Joe Grant all come into that bracket. Dan Roberts is another one, although he is younger than those lads and still has room to develop. You then look to some of our more experienced players to mentor those lads and help them with advice and by giving good information during games.
The two lads you mentioned were both instrumental in helping some of our youngsters in the under 21s, in particular Damo who played a few games in that team. Gavin Smith wanted to play more and that is the reason he went to Badshot Lea. But while he was here, he was an example of how a player of his age can make a vital contribution, during the long season. Having that balance is vital, and with better quality young players coming to the club, the influence of the experienced players will carry more significance.
Where are you looking to strengthen on and off the pitch for the season ahead?
There will be some subtle changes to the backroom staff. Both Steve Nebbett and Darren Mc Arthur have stepped down, due to their work commitments. Geoff Warner will have a dual role as coach and assistant manager alongside myself. Liam Day has come into the first team set up as match day secretary, and we are in the process of interviewing a suitable candidate for the role of Sports Therapist. As far as the first team squad goes, we are not looking to make major changes.
We have agreed terms with most of last seasons squad. TJ’s suprise departure means we do need a new striker, which we are in the process of filling that space. I envisage three maybe four coming into our existing group. We have brought in Robbie Creach and Andy Findlay to oversee the Reserve team and to work more closely with Geoff and I.
Final word on Joe Grant, great to see him back in action – how will he fit in and when do you think he might be up to speed?
There was a period at the end of last season, that I was a little concerned about Joe’s injury. I know one thing, I think if Joe had remained fit for the run in, I think we would have won the league. He scored seventeen goals for us up until his injury. I think he would have got another ten goals at least, so he was a big miss.
Joe has worked extremely hard with a strict rehab programme over the summer, and nothing pleased me more than seeing him report for the first pre-season training session. He looks comfortable, and more importantly chomping at the bit to play. He is an important player for us and an example to some of the younger players at the club. If he stays injury free, I am sure he will have a great season,and help us get to where we want to be as a club.
Thanks very much Mark, anything you’d like to add particularly regarding the ultras? You have quite the fanbase building there.
One of the big positives for the club since we come back to the Lane,has been the incredible rise of our fan base. I see some of the old faces that have supported the club through thick and thin. But the amount of new people coming to watch the team, has been nothing short of magnificent. The Ultras really are a product of one of the chairman’s ideas. With the internal restructure of our club, Kayne always wanted the Youth of the club to engage with the senior section of the club.
Every now and again during the season, the first team squad are encouraged to join in with the different age groups of the youth section during training. This has built an amazing bond between the Youth section of the club and the Senior section of the club. The Ultras are a product of that bond, with their numbers expected to grow this year, I expect them to get noisier as well as bigger!
When we won the Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy, the Ultras made that night very special for everyone at the club, a night that will sit long in the memories of everyone who was involved. That was the night we all become one.
Fancy advertising to 10,000 people? FiB now averages 10k readers per month and it costs just £50 to advertise for the season. Full details here.