In our latest pre-season discussion, tauntontown.com caught up with manager Leigh Robinson.
Clubs at all levels face the annual summer reshuffle of their playing staff and it has been no exception at the Viridor Stadium where some players have moved on to pastures new while others have come on board in the quest to further improve the winning formula. There are seven new additions to the squad and Town boss Leigh Robinson, beginning his sixth season in charge, is satisfied. “I’m pretty pleased”, he commented.” There were improvements that we wanted to make which we have done and with the exception of Matt Buse, we haven't lost anyone that we were really keen to keep. Some of the new signings have looked really good in pre-season, Ryan Brett and Ben Adelsbury in particular, and many of the others have shown real glimpses of quality whilst still finding their way to full match sharpness.“
Whilst the departure of some players over recent seasons has caused initial disappointment amongst fans, the replacements have always proved more than capable of filling the gaps and Robinson believes his current crop is a further improvement on last term. He continued:” The squad is without question stronger than 12 months ago. This time last year the squad was very much about taking a punt on a number of players, some made it and some didn't whereas this year we are that bit more sure about what we have got both on and off the pitch. The squad last year got much stronger as the season went on as we had to reinforce due to having to play so many games and no doubt things will evolve this year too.”
It’s been an eventful five years or so since Robinson took over the Viridor Stadium hot seat in June 2012. Three appearances in the Southern League Play-Offs, three Somerset Premier Cup Final triumphs and that never to be forgotten FA Cup journey last season are among the successes the Peacocks have achieved under his leadership. Many supporters would naturally love a repeat of the FA Cup heroics of 2016-17 but the manager remains guarded. “Anything is possible I guess but we have to look at last year’s cup exploits as a bit of a one off. In reality, maybe only three or four clubs from this level in the whole country reach the FA Cup First Round every season and last year was our year. Whilst it was a wonderful time for everyone involved in the club, created some unforgettable memories and moved the club on leaps and bounds both on and off the pitch, the amount of effort we had to put into the games against Hemel and Barrow (both twice), Hampton and Richmond, and Chelmsford (in the FA Trophy) certainly took its toll on our energy levels come the end of the season. You could see in April that we had an extra 10-12 games in our legs and of course those weren't 10-12 ordinary games with the amount of effort that was put in to keep up with such good sides. I think in reality the league has to be our focus this year so if we could win perhaps two FA Cup and FA Trophy ties that would keep the money coming in whilst allowing us to keep energy levels throughout the season which would be perfect.”
Robinson has never been one to make rash predictions and his hopes for the new campaign are eminently sensible. “They’re the same as every year, to win as many games as possible and see where it takes us. As a manager you can make yourself look really foolish at this time of year if you start banding about massive promises as you literally never know what is around the corner. You never quite know the strength of the other sides at this time of year, whether they'll get stronger or weaker during the season, how many injuries you’ll get or any other number of factors so it really is about taking a month to month view. The only other big hope that I have is that our attendances either grow or stay at the same level as this was the most noticeable thing after the cup run last year that we were getting 500 people to league games which is tremendous at this level. Our support was great last year in terms of numbers and this is a big part of growing the club.”
Success on the pitch has to be mirrored by progress off it and Leigh feels the club are in great shape on both fronts. “Things are going really well. Of course we'd liked to have been promoted in any of the last three years that we've been in the play-offs but the margins are so small when your season comes down to one or two games. In the first year when we lost at Stratford, we did amazingly well to even reach the play-offs as that squad wasn't ready for promotion. We lost to the better team on the day and across the season at Banbury and last year we were dead on our feet. That said, I know Kevin would have taken FA Cup First Round over promotion if offered it as it’s literally the Holy Grail in non-league terms and the long term benefits are there for all to see.”
Robinson is fully aware that the necessary infrastructure off the pitch is also vital for the club to develop. He concluded:” Off the pitch things are going fantastically too. When I became manager here five years ago the struggle to get commercial partners and sponsors on board was massive. Nowadays we have local businesses falling over themselves to partner with us, the attendances have doubled, new people like Zeppi have come on board to take social media to the next level, we have the new partnership with Bridgwater and Taunton College and financially we are a whole lot more less 'hand to mouth' than even two years ago. We now have a club that the people of Taunton want to support and get involved in, and this in turn attracts players which is a great combination for future growth.”
Our final pre-season interview will be online very soon.