12:00am, Mon 3rd Sep 2007
I spoke to Frank Gray late this afternoon to get an update before Tuesday night?s game against Weymouth.
I asked him, first of all, about Michael Charles?s departure. Had it come as a surprise? ?He?s a very honest, lad?, said Frank. ?He knew that he was finding it difficult to make the step up to the next level. You have to remember that he is only 20 and has only played one full season at Conference South level. He decided that he needed a couple of seasons more at that level. He?s young enough to have a chance of moving up another level later. He?s not the kind of lad just to sit on the bench drawing his wages.?
I went on to ask whether Michael?s departure ? and the consequent space in the budget ? had opened the way for the signatures of Carl Gibbs, Izedin Harusha and James Younghusband. ?Michael?s departure meant that we had to get in someone to replace him up front?, replied Frank, ?but Izedin and James have been training with us for several weeks and we?d been planning to sign both on non-contract terms. I think James had already put pen to paper before we knew about Michael?s departure.?
Frank went on to confirm that all three were in contention for longer-term deals. ?We?ll want to see how they get on. They?re all content to join us on this basis.?
We then turned to Carl?s debut on Saturday. Frank agreed that Carl had played well but clearly wasn?t surprised: ?I know Carl very well from our time at Farnborough. I knew what I would be getting. He works defenders hard: centre halves know that they?ve been in a game when he?s been on the pitch. We?ve missed that so far ? Giuseppe Sole is a very different type of player ? and he?ll take a bit of weight off Marvin Morgan up front.? I asked about Carl?s fitness, given that he has not been playing full-time. ?He?s naturally a very fit lad: he was the fittest player at Farnborough?, responded Frank. ?We tested him on Friday to make sure that he was fit enough to play and he came through with flying colours. Of course, he?s not fully match fit and he couldn?t have sustained the work-rate he showed in the first half. But even in the second half I thought he was still giving us options.?
Frank was very pleased with his team?s display on Saturday, especially the second half performance, which he rated the best 45 minutes so far. ?Of course, I was disappointed not to get all three points but I couldn?t argue with the penalty given against us: Paul Lorraine just mistimed his tackle.? I noted that we?d put together a lot of attacking moves in the second half. Frank agreed but thought that we hadn?t created enough scoring chances from the pressure.
On the injury front, Frank regards Tom Hutchinson as very doubtful for Tuesday?s game. Worryingly, Carl Gibbs has apparently picked up a knock on his ankle. ?We?ll have to see how he is tomorrow?, Frank explained, ?but I?m more hopeful that he?ll be able to play than I am in respect of Tom.? Frank said that Matt Gray will be having his groin operation on Thursday and will probably be on the bench again tomorrow. Liam Marum has been working hard in the gym but is still at least two or three weeks away from a return.
Frank and his management team have watched Weymouth three times. ?We are pretty familiar with their squad. I knew a couple of them at Southampton and others, like Jefferson Louis, are well known. It will be another tough game. Of course, we?ll be looking for three points but Weymouth will fancy their chances and will be doing the same. All I can ask is that the team does its best; if they do, I can?t complain.?
3 September 2007