Blues Boss Prepared For The Challenge
Stephen Henderson Talked To Brendan White
(first published in the March 2011 Finn Harps match programme)
Waterford United face Finn Harps tonight in our third game of the new season. Prior to the game, I caught up with manager Stephen Henderson to discuss the work, sometimes unnoticed, that goes into the pre-season as the team are prepared for the new season.
“The work started before the end of last season”, Henderson said. “We assess where we have improved over the season and where we haven’t. You’ve got to be always on the lookout all the time. I was constantly in touch with managers and players. We conceded more goals last season, we were aware that Liam Kearney could be gone and also that John Kearney could maybe be going too.”
“Then we’re into the pre-season. We have the facilities and all the players have their player pre-season programmes. From the end of the season to the start of the next is the when managers are busiest.”
Player recruitment is vital in preparing a team capable of challenging for promotion to the Premier Division. Henderson admits that while knowing the players he wants, he also knows an important balance is needed.
“I know the players I want to bring in but I also know I have a budget. I have to distribute the money the best way I can with experience and youth on a reduced budget from last year.
“I’m still looking; I need to get more in to be honest. We only had 12 training ten days ago with all the injuries but the 12 who were there are working hard but we need everyone training.”
While Henderson himself has a difficult task in assembling a squad for the season, the players themselves also have individual programmes to follow to be in the right shape when they return for training.
“The players come back in good shape after being on their fitness programmes. If the players haven’t done their work then they’re holding back the rest of the group because they’ve got to train on their own to get in the right shape. It’s just unprofessional. It’s all about being fit. Teams put a lot of men behind the ball so it means we have to work harder to break them down.”
A number of teams have strengthened over the pre-season, including tonight’s visitors Finn Harps, but Henderson knows that his side can improve on last season again.
“Waterford United Football Club are a big name but there are clubs spending a lot of money this season. We never expected Shels, Cork, Limerick, Harps and other teams to be spending as much but we’ve improved on the season before too. We got to second place last season from finishing fourth the previous season.”
“There seems to be a perception in the league that we’re the biggest spenders but it’s not true. We have a good budget but it’s certainly not the biggest. The players have brought in crowds to the club. We’ve brought huge crowds to Sligo to a cup semi-final, in the RSC for the EA cup and numerous others. But we just have to be a little hungrier. It hasn’t been the best starts, our midfield and forward line were decimated but we’ll come together.”
With the Blues now based in WIT’s top class Carriganore Sports Complex, it creates an opportunity for the club to attract players to the club.
“The facilities are brilliant. It’s a huge help trying to get players to the club knowing the quality facilities we have. We can bring players down and show them the quality of the facilities, the pitches and the dressing rooms, and now we have the training pitches at the back of the RSC which are excellent too. Players look forward to training when they know the facilities they get to use.”
The Blues donned a brand new red strip for their tie against Monaghan United two weeks ago, and while some fans may not be too attracted by the new colours, Stephen explains that a lot of thought went into the idea.
“We have to remember that the football club is also a business. Waterford United are blue primarily. Our second kit is white. But the red kit was brought in with the idea of representing Munster. Waterford United represents Waterford, the South-East and Munster. If there are people who maybe will buy a red Munster jersey, now they might buy a red Waterford United jersey and can use it for that too.”
“The same with Man United and Liverpool supporters. There was a lot of thought behind it and if we can sell a few of them then it’s helping the club. The yellow jersey we had last season is gone so we went with this idea instead.”
Winless going into game number three for the Blues has the manager not too unhappy and insists there is a long way to go, plenty of time to get things right.
“We haven’t had a great starts. But when I was with Cobh we lost our first three and then went 26 games unbeaten. There’s no reason we can’t do that here.”