It’s been a bit of a whirlwind couple of weeks since Bracknell Town lost their Bostik League South Central Division One play off final to Cheshunt but as the dust settles, Football in Bracknell had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the Robins new boss.
Sam Lock joins Bracknell after 10 years working through the ranks at National League side Maidenhead United where he has just finished two seasons as assistant to legendary non league manager Alan Devonshire.
In the interview, Sam was nothing but enthusiastic about what lies ahead and addresses everything from who might stay after several notable player departures, his management team and what the two year contract means.
Without further ado, here’s what Sam had to say! Oh and if you are here, please join our new Berkshire wide facebook group here.
Welcome to Bracknell, first impressions?
First impressions, a club that is going places, a club that wants to progress not just off the field but on it, a club that is doing things the right way from the bottom up. From the lower age groups all the way through. It’s a fantastic opportunity and a fantastic club to be involved in.
You were at Maidenhead United for 10 years? It’s the club you support
It’s the club I grew up watching. I played a lot of football when I was younger myself, it was difficult but every moment I had I was down there watching Maidenhead play, my dad used to take me and my brothers down. Yeah I was fortunate to run a successful under 16 side that I took into under 18s and then Maidenhead approached me to become youth team manager and then I did that for a few years.
I like to think I did quite well with the under 18s, there was nothing more I could do there, every year we were winning the league Allied Counties League and the cups and started progressing player through and I was getting noticed higher up – them wondering if I can do it there lets get a reserve side and I progressed people through from the reserves to the firsts and that’s where I got involved first scouting for the first team.
After that it was first team coach and then assistant manager the last two years so I’ve come through the whole system at the club.
It’s been brilliant for me, it’s good grounding going forward and hopefully it stands me in good stead, especially with players in the local area, I have a very broad understanding!
I remember that all-conquering Maidenhead youth team, no one could ever bloody beat you!
On your coaching team you’ve got Aaron Steadman who worked with you at Maidenhead and Michael Butcher who runs JMA. What do they bring?
One thing is for sure I am not going to do anything by myself. I’m not naive enough to believe that, or egotistical enough to say ‘I can do this or I can do that’. I need a good team around me and people I trust and value.
The four people I’ve got involved with me are people I trust and offer so much. Aaron Steadman runs the County under 16s and under 18s sides, he builds very good relationships with players, especially the younger players. He’s got a wealth of knowledge in terms of that age group.
I don’t want to just look at the first team, I want to look at the whole shebang, the whole sytem in terms of younger age groups, 14, 15, 16. This is not a year project this is a long term project and if we can set it up correctly, we’re going to get the rewards in a couple of years time and I think Aaron is vital to that. He’s progressed some good young players at Ascot United as well. Nathan MInhas is one excellent young player that’s come through him.
Obviously Butch, in terms of knowledge of the league he’s been involved the last couple of seasons and again someone who knows all the young players because of the JMA side of things and knows a lot of the current players. It’s vital I have a bit of continuity.
When Alan Devonshire came in to Maidenhead I was the last one standing. I like to think I was vital to him because I could give him in depth knowledge in terms of what the current crop were like, the characters and I understood the league and Butch is exactly the same as that. He’s been involved and they did fantastically well last year.
Matt Stannard ran the academy at Wycombe Wanderers and the Acadamy at Luton Town for six years and he is a very very knowledgeable – probably over qualified – character and I value his judgement.
He will be looking at analysis and performance but he’ll also be talking to me and as I say I need people around me I trust and I know for a fact all three of those will improve players and that is what we need to do.
Had you seen Bracknell last season at all?
Luckily there were times where Maidenhead didn’t have games or there were cup runs and things like that so I probably watched them five or six times. I won’t say which players but yeah sometimes looking at players and looking at younger ones on Bracknell’s side and the opposition so I had a good opportunity to do that.
I try to watch as many different games as possible, from Met Police to Tonbridge Angels to the Bracknell play off games as well before I knew exactly what was going on. I was fortunate enough to watch Bracknell’s semi final and final as well.
There’s been a few players who have confirmed they are leaving, is that a blow to you?
It is a blow. Equally I find that if in my head, the way I want to do it is my way with my players. I had a meeting with Butch and Aaron and Matt and we discussed the current group of players, you can’t say any of them are poor players, exactly the opposite in truth. They are a fantastic group of lads who did brilliantly well last year. I feel that I can improve that squad, I feel that I can get players in that add different dynamics. Probably some more legs in there.
I felt they had some momentum from the previous year and when I watched them in the play offs I felt there were areas on the pitch that I could improve. It’s more tweaking, but equally the 6 or 7 players who’ve announced they are leaving, I think there will be a similar number staying so in my head I feel I have a very exciting group of players and if I can add the right ingredients to that I think we’ll be very successful.
In terms then of players staying, and if I don’t ask you this anyone reading it will wonder why I bothered! There’s a group of players, just looking at social media that they want to know what’s going on with them. Seb Bowerman, Harrison Bayley, Joe Grant and Joe Gater, Liam Ferdinand and Kensley Maloney. Any updates on that or when we might know?
I have had discussions with all those players. The thing is, at this level without contracting a player it’s difficult to make assumptions whether a player is going to stay or go. What I will tell you, they are all players I admire and come the start of the season if they are playing for Bracknell I’ll be very happy! I can tell you that much!
Where are you looking for players? In terms of levels? Up? Down? Everywere?
I am fortunate I have got a very good network of players that I have worked with over the last 10 years. One thing I won’t be doing that some people have mentioned to me – ‘we don’t want a load of young Maidenhead players coming in to Bracknell and filling it with loan players’ – that’s not something I am looking to do.
I think maybe I am being underestimated, comments like that, I think my network is a lot broader than that and I am sure that the fans will be excited in a couple of months time when we start announcing a few players and they’ll see the kind of people I am looking to bring in.
Targets, what has the chairman (Kayne Steinborn-Busse) challenged you to?
I am in a very fortunate position where he very much wanted me to come to the club and after a meeting with him I made a decision very quickly although I had options from the league above, I made the decision that Bracknell was the club I wanted to be at. He’s offered me a two year deal, I feel that, possibly – in his words – he has a bit of a reputation for hiring and firing and he wanted to give me a bit of solidity in what I am doing and he’s given me the trust to do it.
It’s down to me in terms of ambitition or what we expect these two years. No one puts any more pressure on than what I put on myself. I’ve come out of Maidenhead and I am eager to succeed and obviously this is one of my first jobs in management and I’m desperate to do well.
In terms of expectation on next season I want to finish as high in that table as possible, it’s often a cliche you hear from managers but I don’t want to put a limit on what we’re capable of doing but come the end of pre season I will have an idea in my head of what that squad is capable of. At the moment it’d be very naive of me to do that, to put an assumption on it now.
A two year contract, that’s quite unusual, what does it really mean?
I think what it means is Kayne has put a lot of trust in me and I feel very honoured to be put in that position. What the chairman is trying to create is a long term plan what with possibly building a new stadium in this season, ready for the following year. He wants to be a National League club in the next five or six years, seven or eight years. He has pretty big plans and what’s fantastic is he understands not just the first team that needs to be built up, it’s the whole system from the community program, the younger age groups, the family feel at the ground, the attendances, there’s a lot involved in it.
The one thing you’ll get with me is that I’m very passionate and I buy in to all of that. I have come through the system, I understood the scene. At Maidenhead we had crowds of 190 and last season we had 1,600 average so I’ve seen it happen and I think he’s trying to do things the right way and he’s put a lot of trust in me to help him do that.
Just a couple of quick one’s to finish off if that’s okay? One player you’d love to sign from your time at Maidenhead over the last ten years that you were there. One you’ve worked with.
One player I’d love to have, I think it’d be difficult to choose one but if I can do two I’d think Dave Tarpey would be difficult to beat if I am honest. The season we had when we won the National League South! Yeah if I could bring Dave Tarpey down to the ground then I think we’d be very happy.
Probably Max Kilman as well, a young lad I signed when he was 16 years old in my youth team at Maidenhead that made his debut for Wolves last week in the Premier League. That’d probably be the two I’d love to have. Fantastic for him and it shows there is a route for young players if they want it enough and I think that maybe and attraction for me is that I was fortunate enough to progress quite a few players like Matty Cash at Nottingham Forest and players like that. There is a route there and it’s about believing in the individual and believing in the person working with you and I feel I can foster those sorts of relationships.
Can we say assistant managerial highlight? Winning the National League South! I feel I was integral in that and had a large part in it. Everyone as a team worked together and we created an atmosphere where we felt we were unbeatable. No one could get near us! Winning the league on a very small budget in comparison to the other teams, we finished first and second placed Ebbsfleet United was seven or eight times ours so to win that league outright, that would be the highlight 100%!
Any chance of a Maidenhead United friendly pre season?
There will be a Maidenhead friendly pre season, I can reveal that! In the next couple of weeks we’ll reveal the schedule for friendlies!
Anything you’d like to add?
Just that I’m not all bad! I know I am probably being dismissed by some people because some fan favourites are leaving the club and it makes it difficult but there is change and change isn’t always bad.
I am determined to be successful and do well and I am determined to push the club on and I think maybe some quiet time over the next few weeks won’t be a bad thing but believe you me, I am working ever so hard behind the scenes to get the team in a position that I feel it needs to be!