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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Waddock Talking About His Time at QPR and Success at Aldershot

Setanta/Toby Davis - Exclusive Interview with Gary Waddock

With only one automatic promotion place on offer, guiding a club into the Football League is one of the toughest jobs in club management.

When Hercules completed his twelfth labour, he might just have fancied doing another. But if someone suggested he take on the task of getting promoted from Blue Square Premier, he would probably have called it a day.

But Aldershot, under the stewardship of boss Gary Waddock, have made this ultra-Herculean task look rather easy.

The Shots have waltzed to the title amassing an astonishing tally of 100 points – a Conference record – with one game still to play.

Waddock arrived at the club last summer - after an unsuccessful spell in charge at QPR - with one thing on his mind.

“Promotion was the target from day one,” he told setantasports.com in an exclusive interview.

“I told the players as soon as I got here that it was what we were going for and they have done a fantastic job to achieve that.

“When I arrived I knew we had a good group of players, I knew they were talented and had a lot of ability, but they have worked extremely hard. Hard work is the starting point in football, then you can show your ability and they have done just that.”

Waddock was thrust into football management when QPR decided then boss Ian Holloway’s fingers were not as green as they could be and sent him on gardening leave in 2006.

He had been on Holloway’s coaching staff, but took up the reins and initially brought success, keeping the club in The Championship.

But the following season, results did not go their way and Waddock was replaced by John Gregory.

But he bears no ill-will towards the club where he spent nine years as a player, before becoming manager.

“Things didn’t go according to plan at QPR,” he added. “But I learnt a hell of a lot in a short period of time and I have put it into good use here at Aldershot. It didn’t work for me, but it wasn’t for want of trying and I’m better for the experience.”

“I wasn’t disappointed to drop down to the Conference. It was a new challenge, a new opening.

“The Aldershot job just came about. Terry Brown (former boss) left for family reasons. I applied for the job, went through the interview stage and they offered me the position. They gave me the opportunity to get back into the game.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Aldershot were top of the table by November and gradually built up an assailable lead.

But despite their dominance, Waddock was keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground.

A repetitive feature of post-match interviews became his reluctance to accept what was blindingly obvious to all – Aldershot were going to win the title at a canter.

“As we got closer, people were saying you’ve won it,” he added. “But you haven’t won anything until you cross that finish line. I have been in football for quite some time and it has a habit of slapping you in the face when you haven’t achieved anything.

“If I am being honest, it wasn’t hard to keep the players grounded either. They are a young group, but we asked them to take it one game at a time and to their credit, that’s what they have done.”

The champagne finally flowed when Aldershot wrapped up the title down in Devon with a draw at Exeter City.

But with the celebrations over and done with, the business of planning for next season is already underway.

“I have started thinking about next year,” Waddock added. “You have to enjoy the moment which we have, but you also have to plan for the future.

“The Blue Square is a really difficult league. There are a lot of good players and managers there. So we have done well to get out. And if we can get off to a good start next season, then hopefully the lads will feel comfortable playing at that level; we are looking forward to it.”

Although Waddock remains undaunted by the prospect of moving into The Football League, the task of improving the squad has already begun in earnest.

He is confident his players can cut the mustard in League Two, but hinted that, with the board’s backing, there could be one or two new arrivals over the summer.

“I hope the chairman’s going back me with some cash this summer, but you will have to ask him. We have spoken about budgets so I am fully aware of what I have got due to me.

“I have got to deal with the players who are out of contract first, and if they commit to the club then great, but if they don’t then I will have to look elsewhere.”

But even if personnel change, one thing will remain the same. Few people would think of the Conference as easy on the eye, but Aldershot have played an open, expansive brand of football that has seen them hit 81 goals on their way to the title.

“We won’t change the way we play,” Waddock added. “It’s bought success. If we need to, I will have a look at it, but we have got players that play that way and we can’t all of a sudden change our style.”

Perhaps the biggest fear for Aldershot fans is that Waddock’s success may lead him to pastures new. But while he remains at the club, the future looks bright and the celebrations will continue. Setanta

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