It was twelve months ago that Francisco Ramos was appointed manager of Arlesey Town Football Club. In November 2019 no one could have predicted the events that would change the world and as that football season was abruptly halted and then void, no one really knew how or when football would restart.

But even during the closed season of the summer months, plans still had to be made by Chico on a new season, new players and a new coaching team. Football managers and coaches will continue to work, plan and discuss ideas for a new season during the summer break , even if this year, a start date was still unknown at the time.

So forward just a few months and after playing nine games (2 cup, 7 league) we are once again in a  country wide lockdown that has seen football suspended again. So, I thought this was the perfect time to catch up with Chico and discuss his first year at the club, the void season and the start to this very different campaign…...

Interview by D. Field

There's been all sorts of changes since last season but let's start with your management team, It all looks to be going really well ?

First of all thanks for your time for this interview Duncan.

Several changes were made and needed in my opinion. Obviously with Ricky’s departure to manage a Portuguese club in Portugal I had no option to press that “interview button” to find my assistants during the first lockdown.

I was blessed and really pleased with the amount of coaches that approached me but a no brainer when Kras and Ky were on the top of my list.

Kras has a great pedigree and Holding his UEFA A   licence as you already know, coaching Arsenal Development teams, scouting qualifications, studying at University of Greenwich to complete his Match Analysis degree and also Coaching at Walthamstow first team where we first met, I always enjoyed his attacking drills and his professional approach.

Ky was completely different and he can tell you this, I have done a full interview with him over the phone after receiving his email and liked it straight away even not knowing him personally but never told him ha ah. Asked him the typical questions and he really nailed it. Following a couple of calls I have invited him to attend a couple of pre-season training days to deliver a session and once again he did really well.

Ky was working for two seasons as assistant manager at Langford and MK Dons Academy and he possesses the UEFA B license. It has been great fun working with these two gents, we have several meetings, we work together for session plans, we decide the match day squad together and we also agree with the best starting eleven each match, obviously I take the last decision. We even fine each other if we are late for training or matches. We are very professional and we will continue to be.

Player wise, I think it's fair to say there's been a complete change of personnel except for one or two players from last year. Has it been an easy transition from a settled squad of last season to welcoming a new group of  players?

Not really Duncan. It has been a massive challenge for me and the club has been supporting me on his matter.

Unfortunately some players might not believed in the new project and I totally understand if they wanted to move on. Luckily I had several players during pre-season that I have signed but post the first Official match of the season I had to take   drastic decisions and let players go.

Now having to have on board experienced players, like Randal, Bruno, Manny, Luis, JJ, Derek, Wilson ,Stuart, local players Ryan, Alex and Tony Ellis, that carried an injury, Goalkeepers Nathan Nelson and Luke Daley ,give us that experience and desire to do well for me and the club on and off the pitch.

Following the departure of the former Club’s captain it was a no brainer for myself and the  management team to hand it to experienced Arlesey town long term player Adam Randall. Also the Younger players that we brought in are outstanding, Herculano, Jalen, Bobi, Lincoln and others.

 

Rewinding back to what was probably the longest pre-season ever covering a couple of months, was that to your advantage in terms of having more time to try more players out and finding the right players for the squad or was it a hindrance in keeping track of players fitness levels and not knowing exactly when the season would actually start ?

It could have gone both ways but players were very active to stay fit during the first lockdown and we knew that it was going to be a long pre season. I knew my plan from head to toe, and you could ask if it worked? Maybe it didn't go according to plan but I always say that, hard work works and if you are patient everything will fall into that plan.

 

Unusually our first competitive game of the  season was an FA Cup fixture away to Wroxham (Norfolk) midweek and it was a big lesson with a 5-0 defeat. What did the management team learn about players in the squad that night ? or was it just a case of Wroxham were a lot better than us so ‘let's just move on’ and physically and mentally got them ready for the first league game of the season?

I did not sleep that night, you can imagine. That FA cup match was a very heavy defeat and one to forget. I think the fact of having a new team, new players, new formation and the long trip after a day of work, did definitely affect us mentally and physically. Fair play to Wroxham they were a good side and really well organised, they also had a few older heads who have been around that made the difference.

We definitely learned from that and it was a big wake up call for all of us including myself.

There’s been a lot of Covid-19 restrictions in place and every away club has different measures. How much has it affected how you approach games especially with changing, team talks and warm ups?

It has been very difficult. A team needs their changing rooms, needs that changing room heat, needs that private space. It mentally affects                everyone but we are dealing with it in the best way possible. I have to say that our club has done a very good job, our players are respecting all rules and I'm really pleased but I haven't been to an away league game where we were okay. Team talks outside and few players getting changed at the time affects pre match preparations. Hopefully  we will go back to normal very soon and everyone will be safe.

 

For me the biggest disappointment of the season has to be the FA VASE game at home, how and what did you make of that late collapse?

Very disappointed. We dominated most of the game and really deserved that win like the 4-2 win at Spelthorne sports in the previous round. They literally gave up in the final minutes and lack of concentration cost us the defeat. We all (management team and players) to blame for what happened at the end and need to make sure that does not happen again.

 

Now lets get positive. We are clearly, at times playing some really good football and it seems that the combination of the new coaching team and influx of new players has contributed to that. Have you noticed (as a management team) any improvement taken from the training pitch onto matches in the squad especially since the start of the season?

Since I started my management career I have always wanted to play attractive football and since our first management team meeting I addressed that. People might think because I was a Goalkeeper in my playing time, they might think I will be very defensive but it's actually the opposite, I’m very attacking minded.

Training is specifically related to our game model and our players, it's not about me or you, it's about the team and the club. The intensity of training sessions are high and players and management team know and keep high expectations and  standards. I have been hearing from outsiders that our sessions are decent, it's really good to know that and have to take the hat off to Kras and Ky to deliver some excellent sessions too and can               release me to do other management duties.

 

 There are also some excellent individual talent in the squad and for me new players such as Jalen Miller, Herculano Carvalho and Boyen Dimov and a few others have really impressed. It must be exciting to coach and watch players in the squad play well and perform every week?

Very exciting Duncan. Regarding these young players I was once again blessed to have signed former Sporting Lisbon u19’s, that had a short spell at Inter Milan but never signed due to an injury. Herculano, 22, I call him “the beast” very strong and technically gifted, the bicycle kick that he scored a few weeks back was unreal, I can guarantee you that he did that at my local Community Sunday league Club Inter Globo FC where I saw him playing for the first time.

Jalen, 19, was another blessing this boy has scored in his first ten minutes on the pitch and hasn't stopped scoring since then with nine goals already.

Bobi 20 and also Lincoln 19 are running machines, they never get tired and they never sweat, such hardworking players that also score goals and assist too. Have to also mention young Keeper Louie that has been showing maturity at age 16 that already played two difficult matches.

I’m also very pleased with our U23’s boys, Jack and Muhamad, who are working with Lee Alinson’s academy (LAFA) and also thanks to Future Elite Sports for sending us a couple of young players that are involved in the squad.

I’m happy with all the young players in the squad including Arge, Dutchy, Kaleem and Stefan

 

There’s also a couple of ‘experienced heads’ such as Bruno Brito and Derek Feyi in the squad which must be a great help in bringing individuals together in creating a team ethic?

 

Since last season when Bruno scored those two goals against us I was amazed with his work ethic and great mentality. I mentioned to Ricky that I want him at Arlesey and here he is. Bruno has a great character and coaching knowledge and he's a great bloke and do not give a chance on players fines, he's on top at all times. Happy to have him back to the squad after his 3 match suspension.

 Derek is another one that I liked 1st time I saw him. He brings that physicality needed at our level. Plenty of experience and works really hard. Very quiet but he is a “Monster” on the pitch, he always listen and give advice to younger players. Both bring the team together even when we loose or had a bad game. Pleasure to have them on board.

It must be frustrating now that when we eventually got into a rhythm of games (that weren’t postponed away) that once again the season has been disrupted. Clearly we are not allowed to train as a group, have you asked the players to train individually?

We have sent out a programme for them to do, there are loads of tips and individual coaching sessions that they can do while we are in                   lockdown. It has been great response from the players that are sending videos to us and they are interactive on the group chat. Every week I get in touch and I also call players individually to make sure they are doing their fitness. No time to waste and everyone knows where we want to be.

 

Some leagues (when the lockdown eases on ( Dec 2nd) have announced that the season will restart 3 days later on the 5th December. If the SSML were to announce the same, do you think the players and squad would be match fit or would you prefer a later starting date to allow some squad training beforehand?

 

We will be ready for anything thrown our way Duncan. Even if they want us to start today. We are ready and focused. Bring them on.

 

Last couple of questions. It’s been a year since you took over the club. How would you reflect on that year?

Delighted. Few ups and downs but that desire to succeed and win for this Football Club is unreal. I’m blessed to have good people around me and working with me. Very unfortunate of going through 2 lockdowns in a year. Last season I was happy that we finished 4 positions above since I took over and we went to 1st lockdown with about 4 to 5 matches in hand from teams that were seated between 8th and 12th place from 14 points to 30 points( around 1.3 points per match).

I really enjoyed this 1st year at the club even enjoying Mick and the committee preparing the ground for new restrictions. I feel like I just started and have a lot more to give and show.

 

And lastly, your favourite goal so far that we’ve scored?

Herculano’s bicycle kick ha ha…Yes i do have one and never knew we done 11 passes before we scored. Another Herculano’s top corner goal assisted by Bobi and an amazing back flick pass from Luis in our 1st league game against North greenford. Goal went viral with an estonic 5000 video views.