New Stockport Town manager Matt Jansen knows he needs experienced heads to compliment the young talent in his squad following their defeat to West Didsbury & Chorlton.
Town have fielded a youthful side in their opening two games of the North West Counties Division One South season, with one point on the board after conceding an injury time equaliser against Abbey Hey in a 2-2 opening day draw.
Jansen’s cause isn’t helped by a rib injury to captain Paul Turnbull, which left him struggling to breathe and needing to be substituted after just 20 minutes on Monday night.
Town playing catch up to find senior players
“We need experience and we know that, we need voices. Paul is obviously a massive loss to us,he’s a leader on the pitch. He’s a huge ingredient which we need, but hopefully it’s not too serious and he’ll be back before too long.
“We’ve only had 3-4 weeks to put the squad together, so we’re on catch up. We’re probably 10 weeks behind schedule. That’s not an excuse, we have to deal with it.Hopefully there will be players we can bring in with more experience, in and amongst the youth. Initially we wanted to bring the best of the academy in - the younger players were going to be on the fringes and dip them in here and there, but we’re having to rely on them now because we’re so far behind,” he said.
Strong links with neighbours County
Ex-Chorley boss Jansen is back in management three years after leaving Victory Park, and most recently worked at Stockport County as the club’s head of recruitment and player liaison.
County chairman Mark Stott bought a controlling stake in Town’s previous owners Pro Football Academy last month, with the FA and North West Counties League approving the deal on the condition that the two clubs are operated independently.
The move strengthens the links between the two near neighbours, with the National League side having sent youth players on loan to gain experience at Stockport Sports Village since 2018.
Jansen looking for more than talent
The recent nature of the takeover has caused the delays to building the Town squad, but should benefit the club in the long run. The former Blackburn Rovers striker admits his return to management has proved stressful so far, and he’s lost out on players due to the uncertainty around the club’s situation. It’s clear Jansen wants his young players to progress, on and off the field, under his leadership.
“We need to remember they’re only kids. I want to use them sporadically and develop them. I want to build a team that’s experienced and able to cope physically and mentally.
Ability wise we’re good - but in a list of ingredients for success, ability is down the pecking order. Work rate, team spirit, aggression, fight, desire, a little bit of nastiness - they are all more important than ability. Without those, ability is irrelevant. We’re lacking a bit on those at the moment. We can play attractive football and pass well, do tricks and flicks, but if you’re not doing those other things the ability is lost. That’s what my players need to learn.
Learning curve for Town youngsters
There’s no exaggeration when it comes to the lack of experience in the Town squad. Jansen fielded two 16-year-olds, two 17-year-olds and four other teenagers in the club’s first two games. The loss of 32-year-old headline signing Turnbull leaves central defender Matt Grimshaw as the squad’s only senior player.
“These games have been an eye-opener for the academy lads who are now exposed to men’s football. This is a rough and tough level of football, and they need to learn quickly, and hopefully they will.
“If we can bring more experience in, the younger players won’t be so exposed so dramatically. That way, they can dip their toe in rather than being chucked in at the deep end. It’s like playing with a youth team. At this level you can’t do that, playing with monsters! It’s a huge learning curve,and it might be a good thing for them,” he said.
Stockport Town go looking for their first victory of the season on Saturday away at Eccleshall.