26 February 2024
After the first training session of 2021 for his squad, we spoke with Neil Smith with plenty to cover from recent days.
The first area to speak about was the return to Hayes Lane after the ten day isolation period;
“Everyone is fine. You’re always concerned when you have issues with the virus. And then we had the Christmas period and you’re hoping the boys are looking after themselves, and that they are healthy when they come back.”
“We had the tests and that gave us the reassurances that they were all healthy. It was then trying to get back into some normality. But, it’s not normal. We know how difficult it is out there and we have a privilege in respect of the fact we can come in and do our job. The supporters have been backing us 100% and it’s about making the best of our situation now. But, it was great to be back out there, as cold as it was, there is no better place for us.”
We had been leading up to a very busy festive season but that was of course cancelled, much like all of our Christmas plans, and Smith commented on the difficult times we are all facing;
“It was really strange. The whole celebration of Christmas was very muted with restrictions on not being able to see our extended families and loved ones. It was tough in that respect, mentally more than anything. I spoke with the players during the time we were away, making sure they were okay and if they needed any help. Now we are back it’s all about making sure we are operating in a safe way, and go on to compete against the teams that are in and around the play-offs.”
Our last National League encounter came almost a month ago, as the Ravens put an end to Solihull’s impressive home form with a 1-0 victory. But that won’t faze the Ravens who have returned ready to go;
“We’re getting as much done as we can to try and get the players back to the levels they were reaching ahead of that Solihull game. We also had the win against Hemel Hempstead on the Tuesday after with both being fantastic performances. We have to try and get that back within a week. It’s my job to make sure the players do that and that they keep their feet on the ground, get back to the basics and keep the team ethic going. It is going to be a tough January with the amount of games that are scheduled, and we have to make sure we pick up as many points as possible during that time.
The interview with Neil came after the news that Harry Forster’s loan deal had been extended to the end of the 2020/21 season, and it was clear that all parties were very happy with that outcome;
“He has been a credit to Watford, to himself and his family. He has come in and worked tirelessly and when he gets his chances he takes them. I’ve said to him that he needs to keep doing what he is doing, as long as he does that he will be in my team. If he isn’t in the team he is always willing to work hard to get back in. He has a great attitude and no doubt he will have a great future in football. But for now, I need him to have a great future with us.”
To round off the chat Smith looked ahead to Saturday’s match with a resurgent Chesterfield making the trip to Hayes Lane under the leadership of new manager James Rowe;
“It’ll be a difficult game. Obviously we know them really well, I think they have brought in a couple of forwards recently. They’re going to be a tough side as they are on a bit of a roll at the minute. They have been playing regularly as well which will have helped the new manager to get his team playing the way he wants them. We are ready for them though, if we can play to the levels I know we are capable of it will be a tough game for them.”