As the new year begins, Truro City manager Steve Tully is pleased with progress in the first half of the National League South campaign.
But he’s only looking forward and, backed up by Coach Wayne Carlisle and Chairman Peter Masters, is relentlessly raising the bar for the team.
He reflected on the last four and a half months and what lies ahead for Truro City in 2016. With the team lying eighth in the National League South, Steve notes with satisfaction that:
“We’ve surprised a few people already this season. What’s important is that even when we haven’t played well, we’ve still been walking away with a point. “
And he’s relished the chance to play against higher-level opposition.
“We want to keep testing ourselves. I haven’t seen a team yet that we should be frightened of.”
And that also applies to the nightmare defeat to Oxford City at the end of August (which, as it turned out, was the catalyst for Truro’s 11 match unbeaten league run). Steve feels that it was more a case of Truro playing badly than of running into clearly superior opposition. And that gives him confidence going forward.
“Anybody can beat anybody at this level. I‘ve told the players that we have a squad which is capable of that.”
Aaron Dawson’s return to training after two months out is very welcome news and Steve says that he will be back on the bench on Boxing Day.
“It’s like having a new signing. Having him back keeps the midfielders on their toes, it keeps the competition for places going.”
“Competition for places is key. Competition breeds success.”
And competition for places is at the heart of Steve’s management philosophy. Shane White’s recent experience is a great example. Shane’s form had slipped, but rather than go out on loan he stayed to fight for his place. He’s now played his way back into the team and, of course, his penalties won Truro’s last two games. Because of Shane’s return, Pierce Mitchell is disappointed to find himself on the bench. So now he has to work hard to get back in.
But this approach only works if the players have trust in the manager and coach and believe that selection is based on merit alone. Steve is confident that is the case at Truro City:
“If people get dropped, they know that it’s because there are others who are playing better. I think the players trust my and Wayne’s judgement. And trust goes a long way.”
Truro’s most recent addition, striker Cameron Gill, will be on the bench on Saturday. Steve was pleased with what he saw last weekend.
“You saw how he played in his few minutes against Eastbourne. When he gets the ball in the box, all he thinks about is hitting the target. So yes, we definitely like what we see so far. But you have to remember that Cam is only 18 – he’s a long term prospect.”
Could his loan be extended?
“Wayne worked with him at Exeter when he managed the Under 15s so we know him. He’s on an initial one month loan and we could certainly be looking to extend that until the end of the season.“
Meanwhile, Steve has no doubts that Isaac Vassell and Matt Wright fully deserve their starting places.
“Matt, Isaac – and Craig Duff – bring a lot to the team. They’re pivotal players who give us the option of playing in different styles.”
Steve confirms, however, that an addition up-front remains a priority.
“Everyone knows we’re looking for a centre forward. We’re creating something like 15 or 16 chances per game – more than a lot of other teams – and we need another finisher. If we’d kept hold of Jamie Reid that would have solved the issue but that didn’t happen.”
Steve says that he’s spent a lot of time on the phone to agents and players recently but he won’t be rushing into anything.
“We’re being offered centre forwards left and right but we have to hold on for the right player. We need someone who wants to come to Truro in the first place. Take Jamie Reid – he turned down loan offers from National League clubs because he knew Truro. “
Steve emphasises that financial constraints are not a problem.
“Resources aren’t the issue. The chairman has made the money available but Wayne and I don’t want to throw it away on the wrong player.”
“The Chairman is never happy resting on his laurels and I love the fact that he’s ambitious”
Steve says that the good relationship between the Chairman and his manager and coach has been critical.
“We believe in and trust the chairman, we trust his judgement. We have a good working relationship. We can always pick up the phone to Peter and we’ve always been frank and honest with each other.“
The commitment at the top also has an impact on the whole squad.
“We’re very lucky with our chairman because we know there’s financial stability. Players know they’ll get paid, they know they and their families are taken care of.”
What about Steve and Wayne’s own future with the club? Well they came in with a view to getting Truro City into the National League South in two years and achieved it in one. So it was welcome news to hear the other day that they are keen to extend their stay at the club into next season.
“We’ve done a good job but we want to keep pushing. I’m not worried about new contracts at the moment. The Chairman has had a lot to deal with recently with the new ground. We can sort out the nitty gritty detail in the New Year.”
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t shoot for the stars.”
Meanwhile, Tully knows that the next 4-6 weeks will be a crucial period. There are six league games in January – including the first meeting with leaders Ebbsfleet – plus, of course, the small matter of an FA Trophy clash with the National League’s Macclesfield Town.
“We’ll know a lot more about how things stand after that. But we’re taking each game as it comes. We have a plan. We got promoted to play in games like these.”
The main message though is that Steve and his team are setting their sights high in 2016.
“We keep raising the bar. When we came into this league, the first target was to get established mid table. Then the goal was to be in the top 10. And now we’re pushing for a play off place. We won’t rest on our laurels. I don’t see any reason why we can’t shoot for the stars.”
Interview and Images: Colin Bradbury