Post Durham City Review

Spartans Manager Mick Tait‘Cautiously optimistic’ is the phrase which could describe Mick Tait, manager of Blue Square Bet club Blyth Spartans, as he ruminated on his side’s chances for the forthcoming season and the choices he needs still needs to make as the season approaches.
“I’m more hopeful of a good season than I was last year but I’m not getting carried away,” he said. “We’ve had a good pre-season where we concentrated on fitness levels rather than results although we only lost two games – against East Stirling when our legs went and against Sunderland reserves when we should really have won.
“The major outcome of pre-season has been our increased level of confidence. I feel we are as ready as we can be although I’m still looking for another defender to bolster the squad.”
Tait is comfortable with the pressure for places across the team other than in defence. He has brought in centre backs Chris Swailes and Wayne Buchanan as well as left back Phil Cave but wants to add competition in the central positions.
“I could sign 20 defenders tomorrow but I’m after a squad who are all capable of playing at our level. Across midfield I have players fighting for places and up front I’ve got four forwards to choose from.”
Another choice Tait has yet to make is that of who will be his number one goalkeeper although he has confirmed that he will have a keeper on the bench for matches this season.
18 year old former Norwich City keeper Sam Grieveson played in the first half of Spartans’ 1-0 win over Durham City at the weekend while 19 year old Jake Cunningham, who was released by St. Mirren last year, was in goal for the second period. Both did well.
“Sam was ‘Mr Steady Eddie’ while Jake pulled off some great saves,” commented Tait.
“I told them before the game that they’d have 45 minutes each and that I’d decide this week who is to be in the starting line up for our first League game at Solihull next Saturday.  I’ll have a chat with Chris Swailes, my assistant, who has been playing in front of them during pre-season, and that will help with my decision.”
Tait is considering bringing in a goalkeeping coach to assist the development of his young keepers but is encouraged by their own mutual support.
“They are both from backgrounds in professional football and it’s great that they get on well, bringing each other on and encouraging each other but a bit of help could be useful.”
Also on Tait’s agenda for his chat with Swailes will be who will be the side’s captain following the departure of Gareth Williams to Whitley Bay. Swailes has worn the armband during pre-season but Tait doesn’t want that to continue.
“To be honest making that decision about the captain hasn’t been a priority – assembling the squad has.”
Blyth scored late in the game against Durham City through John Alexander following skilful approach work from ex Sunderland midfielder Liam O’Mahoney. The 21 year old is highly rated by Tait.
“He is a very talented lad although he needs to knuckle down to his football. After being released by Sunderland Liam had a couple of weeks training with Grimsby and was devastated not to be taken on. But I’ve told him it’s not the end of the world and we can give him the chance to get back to professional football. It’s up to him.”
Nicky Deverdics was brought on during the second half for Blyth and impressed with his mobility, vision and passing despite having struggled with an injury, thought to have been a hamstring issue, although now diagnosed by Spartans’ new physio Susan Coates as probably a back problem.
Tait has left the door open for him to sign for the Spartans.
“I’ve given him the opportunity to play for us,” he said.
“Nicky is still looking to play in full time football and I love that – him wanting to play at the best level he can. I was ambitious as a player and I always want  players to strive to be the best they can too.”
Tait is convinced his squad is an improvement on last year and thinks it can be more successful.
“The players from last year were largely new to our League so will get better while the players who have come in, especially in defence, have certainly improved the team.”
He is also pleased with the fact that more players are taking responsibility themselves as witnessed at half time on Saturday in the dressing room when they showed true commitment and conscientiousness in almost delivering their own team talk, and despite it only being a friendly.
“We all went out on Saturday night after the game and had a good time,” said Tait.
“There’s brilliant feeling amongst the players and I can’t ask for a better dressing room at the moment!”
So, powerful esprit de corps is circulating around Croft Park.
It could be said it smells of team spirit – nirvana.

Posted by Spartan