After a long week that’s seen a real blossoming of talent, and an enormous progression of an already strong team spirit, Daniel Edwards sat down with Dale's Head of Academy Coaching Rick Ashcroft to discuss in depth the win over Dordrecht, what ethic he’s trying to instil into his squad, and how proud he is of the side.
How much do opportunities like this mean to the club?
“I think they’re invaluable really. What we’re trying to achieve is player outcomes after it. The players are gonna be a little bit better socially because of the trip. They’re gonna have had more of an input off the staff, had a one-to-one, and in the collective expanding them in many different ways through being here, and I think that can only be beneficial for the club in terms of player development after. I think the bond that you then get between the group can help that, and help you staff to player, player to player, staff to staff, and also be a little bit tighter in delivering the same messages. Again, there’s development in the players because we all understand each other that little bit more. And understanding each other is a big thing. We can tap in to the experiences we’ve had here, which have been intense in a short period of time, and draw on those like we have done with the analysis, and really go in depth. It also then means that for us as a club, the exposure that we’re getting on the website, through the LFE, through Training Trips, through everyone we meet in Holland, in terms of hotel, staff. Like today we’ve been on a little bit of an adventure, and it’s probably the first contact that a lot of people in Holland have had with Rochdale Football Club, so we’re all ambassadors for the club as well. So in terms of that it’s really, really important.”
Would you agree that you focus on improving the human, not just the footballer?
“Yeah it’s a particular trait that we’ve been be displayed from Keith Hill, Chris Beech and Tony Ellis. That is part of the ethos of the club, and it’s part of what we do. It is about getting that footballer through into the first team undoubtedly, but if we can improve the player socially and improve his experiences, then that’s beneficial. It’s just something we’ve seen done, and me as a person, as a player, I try and tap in to that as much as possible because the player is the person, the person is the player. You can’t really dissect those two, they have to come together.”
Is there a particular ethic you’re trying to instil into the squad?
“There’s always an ethic. There’s what you’re trying to achieve in terms of what the club wants – player exposure specifically, in terms of what type of team we are, what we’re trying to do. But the ethic is acceptance for the lads, the ethic is that they actually trust us, and that they actually agree with us and work with it. And if we can instil that ethic, of doing that, and doing more, and pushing them to different places where they aren’t used to going, and also exposure them to a little bit of adversity through video analysis, then that’s gonna drive what we’ve talked about before – which is development, and they aren’t gonna develop if they don’t have acceptance about what they’re doing and where they are.”
You must be really pleased about the win over Dordrecht?
“What was pleasing is we’ve had a really hard week, an intense week. We’ve backed off a little bit just in time, but we knew they were fatiguing because we’ve worked really hard. It’s non-stop, from getting up to going to bed, with just tiny little snippets of down time. So we know physically and mentally there’s some fatigue, but what they did do was excel. In the first half, some of the ideas that we’ve been trying to implement came out, and it came out very, very well. It’s not gonna drop in overnight, but it’s come in quite consistently, which is pleasing in terms of learning. And then on top of that, we got tested a little bit in the second half, because we were fatiguing and a little bit tired, but they handled the situation, and what we’re trying to do is make them keep the ball, dictate tempo of the play, get the pass numbers up so they’re resting in possession. That then breeds higher concentration levels. So yeah, it’s pleasing and we’re looking forward to the next two games.”
You obviously set a goal for the tour before you left England, how close would you say you are to reaching that goal at this point in time, and what was it?
“I think we knew we had the boys 24/7. I think the goal was to get as much learning in as we possibly could, and as much time in as we possibly could – for the footballer. The goal also is to expand them socially and expose them to things they wouldn’t normally be involved in, or normally do or see. It’s about letting them be comfortable and opening up their personalities, whilst also knowing that when they do open up their personalities, at some point they’re gonna get shot down a little bit. And I think we actually do that as a club. We actually help them develop their personality and the person. But they need to know there are gonna be moments where they’ll get cold and clipped – or whatever you wanna call it. The goal for me was to be with the lads 24/7, see how much learning we could do, and give me an idea of where we can actually take the individuals in the group. That’s on the social element, it’s on the football element, it’s in everything we do. I think already we’ve seen improvements, training session on training session. If I stopped it right now, it’s a success already. Because how we’ve built the programme, the members of staff, everyone included, we’ve actually been able to fulfil the days. We’ve took them beyond places they’ve been training wise, in terms of what we’ve done and numbers of training sessions and hours. For instance, playing a game against Wolves that was 80 minutes, and then training again in the afternoon. That doesn’t happen on a normal day. So it’s been a success already, but I’m not comfortable, and I say it a bit but, I don’t feel comfortable in comfort. I feel uncomfortable in comfort. And I don’t wanna get comfortable, and we’re not yet, but now I’m ready to take them again. We’ve had a little back off, with a little bit of a recovery day today, and a trip to Amsterdam on Sunday, but I want to push them again and see where we can go. We can’t be satisfied, we’ve got to push again."
On a personal level, what would you like to take home for yourself as a coach?
“I want to tap in to the other coaches a little bit more. The Dutch coaches. What they do, why they do it. As a coach, the experience of coaching over here. On a personal level, I think the management of the group has been really good. The behaviour of the group has been good, the social side has been very good. They’ve all shown their personalities, and we’ve allowed that to happen. So I think we’ve successfully created a really good environment while we’ve been here. The environment itself is unbelievable. But to me it’s also opened my eyes, to the possibility of living or working here one day. And without coming here I would’ve never said yes, but now I’m here I’m thinking – all day long. It’s a beautiful place, it’s got good football, good coaching, and a real good community spirit around every club. So there’s a lot for me to take back personally, and I would imagine it’s the same for the rest of the staff as well.”