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Behind the Scenes with Reno - Part 5 Boys will be Boys

Behind the Scenes with Reno - Part 5 Boys will be BoysA successful team has to have a strong bond and that is forged off the pitch, as the saying goes, to be greater than the sum of it’s parts, Reno describes some of the rituals and occasional mishaps that create that great team spirit that then translates onto the pitch.

There is no better feeling than winning! Everything just changes, you talk more, laugh louder, you enjoy your working week… I’ve no idea why, but to me it’s just an incredible feeling… In fact, to me, I’m not sure if there is anything that can top it. People say the birth of your children is up there and rightly so. I was over the moon when Molly and Jack were brought into this world but when that moment arrived I do not recall running down the hospital corridor with my arms in the air, hugging doctors and nurses as they went past, the way I did when we scored the last minute goal against Lancaster…. Nope, that feeling is surreal! I just lost myself, sprinting down the touchline, diving into the main stand and hugging grown men and then diving on top of my players as everyone was screaming with joy. What a feeling!

After that game we celebrated with the fans and walked off the pitch and went into the dressing room. The noise was electric. At the start of the season we needed to come up with a winning song… Pottsy will always say… ‘And when we win, we sing!!’. Away from home we will belt out ‘Ole ole, ole ole, FC United away, FC United away, FC United away’. However, at home, I made the lads learn the words to ‘This badge is your badge, this badge is my badge’. We walk in after a win and we sing our hearts out! Pottsy will always slam the big blue kit bin against the floor to create more atmosphere. The noise is incredible. Singsong over, big group hug, high fives and then it’s shower time!

I have mentioned in previous chapters that a changing room can be a very special place – especially when it’s built on trust and friendships. It’s where the boys will be boys. On match day the lads arrive around 1pm on a Saturday, put the TV on and watch football, have a rub-down from Liv our amazing physio, sit around reading the programme, have a coffee, share stories and laughter with each other, put their music on as loud as they want and the best thing is…. no one will ever moan at them – not saying that they get moaned at when they are home, but you know what I mean. As a manager, I have a ritual that I always stick to. I will never spend too much time in the dressing room, for me it’s where I give my team talk before, during and after the game. Apart from that I don’t want to suffocate the players, that is their time, their special place and there are some things that I don’t need to know – don’t get me wrong, I miss it like crazy. When you are a player laughing and joking with all your mates, having banter with each other before the game is the best. I encourage the staff to go in there but for me, no, that is their time. I will often sit in my office on match day with the door open watching lads arrive. The sound of the dressing room door opening and the lads greeting each other is special, especially when they all get on and enjoy each other’s company.

Like most dressing rooms, there is a system of fines in place. The reason for these is to ensure that people turn up on time and keep to the rules that the team want to abide by, it’s not for the manager to organise or put his stamp on it, this is just for the lads. This is where the banter at times is incredible. In our dressing room Pottsy and Charlie run the fine system. They have created the rules and are responsible for issuing the fines. Every time you break a rule then the player must pay into the kitty - £5 per fine. Arriving late for training/matches, dirty boots, not wearing the correct attire for training/match days, not travelling on the coach to away games, even putting the ball over the fence on training night.... you name it, it’s there. The golden rule is, read the rules, understand the rules and never break the rules. By doing that you will keep your money in your pocket – that very rarely happens. When the time comes to spend the kitty money, the lads will decide what to spend it on. They supplemented their Christmas trip to Glasgow with it, they go out for meals together, they bought a new ‘boom box’ for the changing rooms. However, if the squad decide where they are going out then everyone must go. Anyone who fails to attend, it’s an automatic £20 fine. The other golden rule with the fines committee is that you must pay up within 7 days – if you do not then your fine doubles. You can always hear on matchdays when someone is being fined…the dressing room gets louder and if the player does not accept it or tries to defend themself then they are in for it! If they want to appeal it take it to the committee, they will listen and then take it to ‘kangaroo court’, in other words, your appeal will get bounced and you will end up paying double. Like I said just follow the rules and you can keep your money.

You can pretty much guarantee on match days that one fine will always happen. Meeting time is 13:15, although some lads arrive earlier. Pottsy and Chaz sit there clockwatching. As soon as the time hits, anyone who arrives late is fined! It is great because you can guarantee the ‘Scouse Bus’ will always arrive late; Doyley, Griff, Jack & Ben always travel together. They will walk past my office and say at the same time, ‘Alright Gaffer?’, ‘Yes boys’ I say, then I look at Brian realising that it is past 13:15 and say, ‘Listen to this!’. The dressing room door opens and all you can hear is the sound of laughter and the word ‘FINE’ will belt out. It is not the driver that gets the fine – it is the lot of them. BOOM, twenty quid into the kitty. They will always try and defend themselves saying that they arrived on time but were talking to fans, or their watches say it’s 13:14 and they are on time. Griff however never says anything, he just gives that little smile and sits himself down in the corner. The fines will always get released on a Friday night on our WhatsApp group. Chaz will list the players and their fines and remind them that they must pay the following day. Griff always owes the most but then again, he will always pay!

For me, the fine that generates the most interest happens on a training night. It does not matter what we do at training, we will always finish with some form of shooting drill. We train on the 3G next to the pitch at Broadhurst Park. It’s surrounded with high fences – mainly to prevent the ball going over the top. You would not think that this would happen, then again, you have not seen the shooting at the end of training. Anyone who manages to clear the fences on a training night gets an automatic fine. It’s great – especially if we are doing volleys and the lads catch it wrong – you just see the ball sailing over the fence and onto the main road behind the goals. You can hear all the lads behind you when you are about to execute your shot – you’re thinking it’s going in the top corner and it clears the fence, lads are just hugging each other and laughing like you wouldn’t believe.

One player who loves to clear the fence is Griff – I am sure one night at training he must have done it 4 or 5 times. The lads were falling about laughing but there was nothing he could do – every shot just got higher and higher. The players would pass their ball to me, I would lay it off and they would try and score or hit the target at least! I didn’t have to turn around to know what had happened, the lads’ faces would say it all. There is nothing worse than hearing the lads behind you shouting ‘No pressure’ as you address the ball, then the ball bobbles up and you put it out of sight. That kept happening to Griff on that night. His head had gone (a saying when things are not going right for you at footy). I remember keeping him behind after training to do some one on one shooting – I did not want that night to dent his confidence. He was on fire in the one on one, everything he hit left the net bulging. Despite this, the lads did not let him off the fine. To compound his misery, the scouse bus was late to training and he forgot his FC training T-shirt. Two hours work, £35 in fines but it did not change him. Griff is that laid back, nothing seems to faze him. Brian calls him Mañana after the saying ‘laid back mañana’.

The one player who received the biggest fine of the season was our skipper, Michael Potts. Traditionally at all clubs the Christmas do, and the end of season do, are the ones that create all the memories and talking points for years to come. After training one night the lads were deciding where to go for their Christmas do. They had quite a lot of money built up in the kitty, so they were planning a night out with a possible overnight stay. The date was set. 7th December, we play Matlock at home so they can leave straight away and have the night out. Everyone was mentioning different places, all relatively local. Blackpool, Manchester, Liverpool, I think York was mentioned but that was a bit far. Chaz said, the best way to decide is that six of us write down a destination and whichever one is drawn first then that is where we are going! Everyone agreed, the little bits of paper went into Chaz’s FC bobble hat and it was left to him to pick out the destination.

On this evening I was in the changing room after training, watching the draw take place. For the record, the staff did not go on the trip, this was for the players only!! No one could back out, they were all going on the Christmas do together. All the lads were excited and waited eagerly for Chaz to tell them where their destination would be. I remember Chaz unfolding this bit of paper and looking slightly bemused! No one told anyone where they had put, just presumed they would put local places. GLASGOW?……GLASGOW!! Pottsy had put Glasgow down. ‘How the hell are we getting there?, it’s about three hours away. We cannot do one night!!’. No backing out now, Glasgow it was, and the planning had to start. Chaz booked all the hotel rooms and organized the train times. It was agreed that they could not travel all that way for one night so turned it into a two-night stay! The kitty paid for most of the trip. Pottsy would be responsible for looking after the remaining kitty money so the lads did not need to worry about the first few rounds or beers on the way to Glasgow. It was all booked.

I recall the team talk before the Matlock game: ‘Remember lads, you do not want to go away for the weekend on a defeat – make sure you win the game’. I then said, ‘And by the way, no one will be going anywhere if we don’t win as I will make you all miss your train….I will lock you all in the dressing room, I don’t care! You know what winning means to me!!’ - for the first twenty minutes of the game you would have thought the lads were already in Glasgow! 2-2 after twenty minutes and you knew that there were more goals in the game. Defensively we were poor, and Marshall was giving us the run around for the opening twenty minutes, but then we clicked into gear and ran out eventual winners, 5-2.

When Chaz was booking the train times there was a slight problem. Knowing it was a long journey and we had a game to play, the only train available to them was 17:50. They needed to play the game, get showered, get some food and then get to the train station in taxis to leave at 17:50. The club arranged for the lads to eat in the changing rooms as they didn’t have any time to come into the bar after the game. It was going to be a tight turn-around.They got changed into their own clothes and left their bags etc at the club. They could get them on Tuesday as we had training.

The last message I gave was to my skipper. ‘Look after everyone please, you are one of the more senior ones in the group and I want everyone back in one piece’. ‘No problem Gaffer, you know you can rely on me. I will look after them, I have the kitty money etc. I will ring you if there is anything wrong!’.
As they were all on the last minute some lads did not have time to go to the cash machine, but that was ok as Pottsy had the kitty money!!!!! I remember taking a call from Pottsy around 18:15 - I looked at my phone and thought, what’s happened?, he said he would only call if something was wrong. ‘Gaffer, Gaffer, is my wallet at the ground? We are on the train and I cannot find my wallet’. The lads were furious as Pottsy had the kitty money. ‘There is about 400 quid in it, my bank card, some receipts and my FC United membership card!’ I ran down to the changing rooms to see if it was there – there was no sign of it. ‘Are you sure one of the lads has not picked it up and they are messing around?’, I said. ‘No, no one has it!!’ I could hear his voice, he was gutted. ‘I’ve no money for the weekend!’. Great start to the trip – as it happened, he had to borrow some money from Cameron Belford.

Now, one of the rules that I had implemented at the start of the season was that everyone had to become members of the club. We would pay our money and then we would be given our membership cards. Looking back on it, this is probably the best £15 that Pottsy has ever parted with. That evening a lady sent a direct message to our Facebook page that Leon in the FC volunteer comms team picked up, and she was asking if we had a Michael Potts at the club. She had found a wallet at Piccadilly Station and checked the belongings. She had found an FC United membership card in the wallet with the name MICHAEL POTTS on it!! That is right, our captain, the responsible one, the one that the manager had told less than an hour before to look after the lads and make sure everyone was safe and he responded with, ‘It’s ok Gaffer, you know you can trust me!!’. I’ve no idea how, but he must have put his wallet down at the station while he was rushing around and someone picked it up. The honesty and integrity of that lady needs applauding. I rang Pottsy that evening and they were still on the train. I gave him the good news and he was over the moon. Pottsy was happy but the lads gave him plenty of stick - plus he had a huge fine to pay into the kitty. When the lads returned Pottsy contacted the lady to thank her. The club issued two complimentary tickets to the following week’s game and a bouquet of flowers – Pottsy paid of course!

The lads had a great time, but we had a better time on the Tuesday. We had training and it had been a while since we had done some hard running. We said to the lads that they needed to get the weekend out of their system so we would do, as Brian put it, some hard yards!! Brian delivered the perfect session, but it was brutal. I said twenty minutes of running but I think Brian lost track of time, and his whistle, it went on for about an hour and twenty minutes! The lads were struggling but needed to do it, they would feel better after it. One player stood out though as he was really struggling, in fact he was crawling!! Doyley – he had no idea what hit him on that Tuesday night. He must have enjoyed Glasgow and did he know about it at training? It was like he had been out injured for two years and this was his first training session – he could not breathe! It did him the world of good though, he did not feel it at the time, but we went on to beat Kettering on the Saturday and Chris was a colossal at the back. If you ever get a chance, ask him about the training session after Glasgow, he will know exactly what you mean!!

That same night the staff had our Christmas do. We all decided on a curry, We just wanted to keep it low key. Chaz gave us some money from the kitty and off we went. This was the first time that Matty Clarkson had met the staff and the players officially. I think he was a little bit nervous. We all sat down laughing and joking about training but mainly Doyley! The waiter came over to us to take our drinks order. Six lagers and one coke. The coke was for Brian who doesn’t drink, he never has. Always likes to keep himself fit and drinking just is not for him.

‘Please can we have some poppadoms as well?’. The waiter came back with our drinks and poppadoms. Matty had hardly said a word, not really knowing anyone he just sat there quiet. However, he was not shy when the poppadoms arrived, he was straight in. Matty was sat to the right of me… He just leaned across everyone to grab a poppadom. What he didn’t realise was that there were two pints in his way… Before Brian could tell Matty that he would pass them to him, two pints smashed onto the table. I looked up and Brian was covered in lager. Literally it was dripping off his face, it went everywhere. Brian looked at Matty and Matty did not know what to say. Matt was so apologetic, but Brian played it well and pretended that he was furious. I knew Brian was ok with it but did not let on. Matty was stood over Brian doing his best to dry him off. We let it roll for about a minute, I bet it felt like a lifetime for Matty, then Brian started laughing, still wiping away the drink and said, ‘I am not sure if I can drive home, I may be over the limit! I just hope I can convince Lynn (his wife) why I am late home smelling of alcohol!!’.

Now, there is a famous phrase in our dressing room that everyone associates Mike Faulkner with. ‘NOT GOOD ENOUGH’. Mike is a man of very few words but will always give his opinion – it’s not that detailed, it usually equates to his favourite three words, NOT GOOD ENOUGH. You can imagine what he said the night of the missing wallet incident! It’s not only the players and the staff that associate Mike with this, but even some of the fans are aware. Nothing is ever good enough for Mike. Brian got to know Mike straight away and has heard him say this phrase a few times now. In Brighton Brian created a new nickname for Mike – DOCTOR DEATH, as he never sees the good side to anything. We will often say, what does the Doctor think about this or that and you know what his answer usually is – ‘NOT GOOD ENOUGH’!

Now Mike will deny this, but I think it’s fair that you all know the truth. Certain players who will remain nameless have been labelled at the first glance as NOT GOOD ENOUGH by Mike! I joke with him saying, ‘Remember this player or that player that you labeled?, well there is a league scout watching them today. Shows how in-depth your knowledge is’ I say to him. I get a call every Sunday to go through all the statistics from the analysis vests. He will name individuals and give me their distance covered, sprint speeds, passes completed etc…. I will try and engage in a conversation with him but all I get is the usual phrase. ‘These need addressing, IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH’ and he ends the call!

Mike and I go back a long way. We have been best mates for nearly thirty years. We met on a local school field playing double coupies – the game where you are in pairs and you must score to go through to the next round. The last pair not to score are eliminated. We would play this game for hours, about 10 or 12 of us, every night! I recall that evening Mike having no partner and I had just arrived. I had not really spoken to Mike before, I just knew he had a wand of a left foot. ‘Come on, let’s double up’. We won the tournament that night, we just clicked. He would cross it; I would head it in and through we went. From that moment on, we used to double up all the time.
Mike did not have his bike that evening. I said I would give him a backie home – not knowing that it was about two miles from where we played! I dropped him off, he made me a pint of vimto and water and as they say, the rest is history.

Mike is just one of those people that everyone is drawn to. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word against him but then again I never tell people when he has labelled them with his favourite phrase! Mike has an amazing relationship with all the players and staff. They trust him and speak to him a lot. Mike is not one for grabbing the headlines. You may not see a lot of him on matchdays as he sits in the stand above the home dugout completing the analysis and writing key points to address at half time. He always comes into the dugout for the second half – that is his thing.

You can imagine our surprise before we beat Bamber Bridge at home in the league this season. It was Cameron Belford’s first time he had experienced a match day. He had been training for a couple of weeks but today we named him on the subs bench. We walked into the dressing room and noticed that Mike had bought himself a brand-new pair of trainers. He was so proud of them. His others were about 5 years old, so everyone noticed them! All the lads were having banter with him and then the staff joined in. Mike stood there and took it, getting a bit embarrassed. Then from nowhere, Paddy said… ‘I think they are ‘Boss’ them, Mike’ in his scouse accent. Mike seemed to grow in confidence with this comment. All of a sudden, he showed us all what these brand-new trainers could do. Mike, Doctor Death, broke out into the best moonwalk I have ever seen since the passing of Michael Jackson. There he was, gliding across the dressing room floor like it was his own dancefloor. The lads were cheering and clapping – it was incredible. Then he stopped and stood there like nothing had happened. Wow – was the doctor changing?, this was like something we had never seen before, this was DEFINITELY GOOD ENOUGH!!

Despite his incredible moonwalking skills, there was no way that Mike was going to shake off his new name. I do not think Brian realises he says it but every time we speak, he will say, ‘Have you heard from the Doctor?’I swear I do not think I have heard anyone call him Mike for the last six months, just the DOCTOR!

As we approached Christmas, I said to the staff that we should do a ‘secret Santa’, just the staff. Everyone agreed and we said we would spend a maximum of a tenner on each other. I never know what to buy; beers, a mug, something along those lines. There are people that are brilliant at this type of thing and put so much thought into it, I am not. However, I soon discovered that Brian is one of those people. We were due to play Grantham at home on the 21st December so we said that because it was the nearest day to Christmas, we would exchange our gifts then. We all arrived with our gifts, apart from Chaddy, he forgot to buy his, so poor Chappy was left without his present – brilliant, there is never a dull moment!!

We all opened them one by one, I got some beers, Brian got a mug and so on. I could tell with the smile on Brian’s face that he was really proud of the present he had bought! By this point we had worked out who was whose secret Santa. When Mike went to open his present Brian was already giggling. Mike opened it, a black T-shirt. Mike held the T-shirt up and started laughing. He had not seen what was on the back but on the front was a big printed picture of a doctor and a skull - the writing underneath said, ‘DOCTOR DEATH’. He turned the T-shirt around to show us all and then saw the writing on the back. In huge letters it could only say one thing: ‘NOT GOOD ENOUGH’. We all fell about laughing, what a moment! Mike put the T-shirt on, perfect fit! We said he had to go into the changing room with the T-shirt on. Mike entered the changing room and that was it…everyone was in hysterics. There was such a good feeling in the dressing room.

We beat Grantham 4-0 and then had the chance to celebrate in style that evening. It was the club’s Christmas party and all the teams of FC United would be present along with all the fans. Mike wore the T-shirt throughout the game, he could not take it off, but it was under his coat for the full game!! I am sure he whispered his famous phrase in my ear at some point during the game but as with the moonwalk, the result and then celebrating with the whole team plus the FC fans at the packed Christmas party certainly proved to be ‘GOOD ENOUGH’!

Stay tuned for next week’s edition…..What really happened at Nantwich away?

Gaffer xx

First Posted ~ 08:31 Fri 15 May 2020
News ID ~ 8712
Last Updated ~ 17:00 Fri 19 Feb 2021