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Lee knows his Roots
Lee knows his Roots

With the 2019/20 season now null and void, KSN football writer Colin Head caught up with Holmesdale FC manager Lee Roots to get his thoughts about the SCEFL Division One sides’ season as well as his plans for next season whenever that happens

First off thank you for agreeing to do the interview Lee, I hope you and your family are all well and coping with life in lockdown?

You’re more than welcome, I hope this finds you safe & well too. Well in what has been an unprecedented & worrying time, the whole country & the whole world has really shown a new resolve within us that maybe we all didn’t even realise we possessed. Having our freedom & movements limited of course is a huge change for us all, but there is such a bigger issue right now in the world that if there is anything we can all do that can help to save & preserve life, no matter the numbers, that must be the sole focus right now until we come out of the pandemic.

Before we talk about the season just gone can I ask how you got in to coaching? 

I got into coaching at a young age. I started actively coaching around 12-14 years old with a gentleman called Steve Kinchen, who ran a coaching school called Club Soccer. Now the older heads in the non-league world should remember club soccer, they were a massive company when I was young and they offered courses to learn but also for young adults to come gain experience & help coach young players.

I continued my playing career into my adult years but always remained active with coaching. I started my first badges back in 2010 whilst actively playing, as near on all my family male members were involved in football and have all transitioned over to management at one stage in their careers. So, it always felt like the right step for me after I finished playing and I always knew I would move into management and before you know it I am now into my eight straight season as a gaffer!

When the season came to a halt Holmesdale were in great form sitting third in the table, three points behind second place Rusthall with a game in hand. I guess with eight matches to play in the league you must have felt there was a good chance of a promotion push with two spots up for grabs?  

Spot on the money Colin! 8 games left remaining of the season and league tables really do not lie at that stage of a season. You are where you are in the league for a reason but of course there is still a lot more work to bank at that stage. We were in a healthy position where if we won our games in hand we would be top. Now for that full credit must go to all my players and staff for taking us into that promotion position and delivering consistency throughout the season.

We felt very confident throughout and we broke the season down correctly and that’s something which our record and stats back up. We had no doubt that we would finish the job and gain that deserved promotion for the club and the players. That challenge now rolls over to next season, something we are looking forward too.

(You don’t’ have to answer this one) Do you think calling the season null and void was the right choice instead of deciding the finishing places on PPG?

I think it has been a massive grey area in football that has not been needed to be addressed until now. The circumstances around suspending football and cancelling the season is totally correct. No one can argue the fact that we should have been still playing through this pandemic, so decisions to suspend and then cancel the season, for me, was the only sensible option that could have been taken by the FA.

Now we move onto PPG or null & void? From what I can see it looks like PPG has only ever only really been used maybe once or twice, many years ago, to conclude a season. Of course clubs who are around the top part of a league towards the end of a season are now preparing for promotion. With that comes huge man power & financial effort to not only finish that season, but also to prepare and go through the huge amount of hurdles a club has to to gain promotion into the step above. Whether that be for ground works etc or youth development set ups within their club.

PPG would have rewarded clubs who had been successful to that point & would have punished some clubs who maybe felt there were games left to save their league status. Either way you can’t win, no one is going to be fully happy overall with a decision.

I do think though that maybe taking it to a league vote for the clubs would have been a good idea before any decision was made by the FA. However I can only imagine the task that would need undertaking to complete that throughout all the leagues, especially in a time right now where our movements are limited & restricted.

Therefore null & void from matter of elimination must have been left as the most collective decision across the board which as frustrating as that can be for someone like us right now football is not the most important thing. It is not the main priority in our day to day lives, but as we all know, it soon will be again as we will come out of the other side of COVID 19, whenever that may be.

I take it Ryan Golding (15), Nathan Palmer (12) and Andy Constable (11) will still be counting their league goals in the career tallies?  

You try and tell a striker his goals no longer stand! No chance!! I don’t think you can take away from any club the achievements they may have had the season just gone and that includes players personal stats too.

Anyone who knows Golding knows you are not taking them goals away from him! AC is on two massive personal landmarks of one goal away from 50 for the club, and the other 12 goals away from notching 400 non-league goals in his career, so no chance they’re coming off.

Nathan Palmer has been superb for me, returned 12 goals in 15 games with 8 assists, so these stats stand and they last the test of time within our club book & rightly so. One person I can’t miss out from that stats list although not a striker is my goalkeeper Nathan Edwards. He played every game for us and kept 12 clean sheets conceding just four goals at home & 17 goals against all season.

Those stats are built from him & our defensive unit as a collective, so there’s no way you can chalk off stats like that for anyone, the challenge now is back over to the players to continue to run with that form into next season.

I was at the last match vs Sutton Athletic. ‘Dale won 4-0 and the team were playing some great football that day, is there a certain style of play that you favour as a coach? 

It was great to see you at the game that day Colin! We played excellent that day. It was an odd day as the day before professional football had just been suspended, which was topic of the day. We got a great crowd through the door and all staff and players were fully aware that 3 points, getting goals scored and a clean sheet was the only target of the day.

I felt we started the game very sharp taking a deserved lead. A slight harsh red card against us around the middle of the first half seemed to spur the lads on with 10 men. To then go on and win that game so comfortably 4-0 was an extremely pleasing way to end the season.

Yes, there is a clear identity in how we play as a team. Players get drilled from session one on our model of play and the coping strategies within it. We only took over at the start of pre-season and I’m grateful to have some real loyal core players who have now been with me the last few years. The players have been instrumental in implementing how I like my teams to play and I only see us getting better from here on.

Our approach next season will take a massive step up staff and player wise and we will offer more and expect more on the pitch in how we play but only the hard work will take us there.

After a season away at Forest Hill Park you came back to Holmesdale last summer and assembled a strong team and there seemed to be a real buzz around the place again. What did you learn from your time at another club? 

Thank you for those comments that is very kind. I agree there certainly has been a real buzz around the place since I came back. That was the number one item before anything else on the remit when I accepted the position as manager. My love for this club runs deep. The chairman knows it, the committee knows it and the players know it and we’ve said from day 1 it takes a certain and special individual to now wear the club badge.

I think you must always be learning in management and you must always take away good things you’ve done from every position or role you’ve had at any club. Forest Hill Park was a serious challenge on the field and off it. We went on to set new records for the club that season and we then continued that and went on to set new records this season for Holmesdale. I am always very grateful for all my experience in management so far and all that experience is crucial to help round you off as a manager.

It’s far from clear when we get the all clear to resume football at any level but have you already been planning for the next campaign?

Yes, we are very much planned and prepped and ready to go. Like you say it’s far from clear right now when we will return but that hasn’t and wont halt us in our preparations and planning for next season.

We did give ourselves as staff some down time a few weeks ago now. This is something the staff and players all deserve and all need and it is crucial to switch off totally from football.

We have our whole pre-season friendly schedule complete with some real excellent higher league teams sorted out. We won’t be announcing these details yet they will be announced via our social media pages next month but they are all booked & ready.

We have purchased the VEO video equipment we had planned to take into next season to record and re-watch our games, in detail, with the players to seek further improvement. I have added some new individuals to my management staff (which will be announced next week) and have been in contact with all my existing players regularly and also new player targets.

The committee board are already preparing by designing new training wear and kits for next season and have also agreed some ground work which are due to be completed post COVID 19. My management team and I have spoken for hours at a time so far during the lockdown regarding the process in the planning of the sessions to come etc.

At this stage and during these times right now, I can only control the controllable so we are just keeping our camp in order so that when lockdown is lifted, whenever that may be, we are ready and can move into training almost instantly.

What are your hopes for ‘Dale going forward and for your career as a coach?

My hopes going forward is to take this club up the leagues. I have great people around me all the way from committee members and staff to the players. I get the full reign and support across the board to do my job effectively. The club holds a special place in my heart due to the people and relationships I’ve made through it. We have a culture re-established within this club. The club has great potential to not only push up the league, but also become a pillar in the community alongside Bromley FC.

I am extremely ambitious, and as I said earlier I move into my eight straight season and I’m very proud of the fact that I have been in a manager’s position for that amount of time. My future lies in football and I don’t think I’ll ever be away from the game as it’s in my blood. It’s all I’ve ever known and you never know what the future holds for me, but the future right now is very much Green & Yellow.

I would just like to say a personal thank you to everyone who was involved with the club last season and thanks for all that you did. I would also like to thank you Colin & KSN for the support of the club.

My last message for everyone is to please remain well & stay safe during these times.

These times will pass & better times will come for us all. See you all next season.