Stevenage boss Darren Sarll: It's a terrific time to be a young player at Boro
PUBLISHED: 01:10 08 November 2017 | UPDATED: 01:16 08 November 2017
Danny Loo Photography 2017
A young Stevenage side impressively beat Brighton and Hove Albion 3-1 in the group stage of the Checkatrade Trophy. Read the full transcript of what Boro boss Darren Sarll said after the match.
Q: Darren: 3-1 win, good performance – you must be pretty happy?
A: Absolutely – I thought they were terrific, the young players, especially when we saw the team sheet come in, Brighton looked strong. It’s always nice to have good players at the football club. If you look at the makeup of our side, we had three regulars in [Luke] Wilkinson, [Harry] Beautyman, and [Joe] Fryer. I thought we were terrific all night: we were organised, focused, had good intensity, took our chances well, and it was lovely for the Stevenage supporters that were here to see Alex Samuel do what we recognised in him from last year and he really came to the fore tonight.
Q: Yeah, Alex Samuel looked really lively tonight leading the line – he put in a good work-rate and scored a brace. Is he giving you a bit of a headache for Saturday?
A: I think Matthew and Danny have consistently been our two strongest forwards this season. That’s not to say that people can’t muscle their way in, but they have to replicate the kind of form that Matthew and Danny have created for themselves with their performances. It was lovely to see Alex back to how I know and want him to be. If he’s consistently like that on the training ground and in the games outside the first eleven then absolutely, he’ll be in the team before too long.
Q: Elsewhere on the pitch, there were good performances from [Mark] McKee, and [Ben] Wilmot impressed me…
A: Wilmot has just turned eighteen and he was absolutely terrific. He plays like a thirty-year-old, he’s got a wonderful, mature outlook on the game and I thought he was absolutely terrific. McKee has been a little bit slow to get off the ground this year but I thought tonight was his best performance ‘against some good players in midfield. The key to Mark is his energy – if he plays with energy he has ridiculous quality in the middle. Towards the end of the game when he lifted the ball over the lad’s head and caught it on his foot, he showed his quality. He has to bring that energy to his game all the time, and the young players have to know that. They have to do double what the senior players do - double. As a young lad you should want to show that enthusiasm and that urgency. If we can get that enthusiasm and urgency out of Ben and Mark and the other young players then we’ll have some really terrific young players for the future.
Q: Kyle  looked like he limped off with an injury – can you give us an update on that?
A: No, it was just due to fatigue, and we wanted to be careful – we’re not the biggest of squads. Our senior players with senior experience - it’s important we look after them and we pay attention to their bodies’ needs.
Q: You’ve just failed to qualify for the next round on goal difference. When you look back on your three games in the Checkatrade Trophy as a whole, is it something that you view as a positive experience, or do you think the competition needs to be looked at again for next season?
A: Well, you can take [the Checkatrade Trophy] on two fronts. If you look at it in terms of us trying to win it, then we’re better off in a knockout format – winning matches and moving on. But with the Trophy as it is at the moment, it gives me a chance to play the younger players, who work so hard on the training ground. To give them game time is invaluable for their experience, and I guess that’s why the tournament has been changed to help produce young players, or to help give them the experience. For us, on that front, it’s great. I get terrific support from above where I’m encouraged to let them loose and not worry about the outcome even though I’d like to win everything. We have to make sure we utilise our squad with a little bit of intelligent management.
Q: Ultimately you’ve got two wins back-to-back in all competitions. That’s got to give you a bit of confidence going into an important month in the league…
A: People talk too much about peaks and troughs in performance. There’s so many different reasons why we’re in the league we’re in. I’m always relaxed about those troughs or those low times, because our players work so hard. They’re not trying to cut any corners, they’re trying to do their absolute level best to compete as high up the league as they can, and while they’re like that I’m never going to worry or come out and publicly attack them. They’re a great group to work with, young or old – an absolutely terrific group.
Q: Tom Conlon is playing his way back into contention after his injury – how did you rate him tonight?
Well one thing I love about Tom is that he’s very similar to Schumacher last year – Schumacher was a pest, a pest. When I said this to Tom, I don’t think he really believed me [that he’d come back from his injury]. He’s got great technical ability, he’s got a great sprint for a smaller player, his body is reaching full maturation, and he could be very, very useful to us but Tom has to be on it every time – that’s the important thing. Because he’s had eight or nine months out, it puts your progression in reverse almost, and you have to go back to go forward. Listen, he’s worked very hard and I’d like nothing more than for Tom to give me a problem for [picking] the first eleven because I think he’s got wonderful technical ability and it’s something we’re crying out for, that creativity in the middle of the park – for someone to assist Jonathan Smith. Daryl [Smith] has done a great job in a different way, Tom Pett’s done a great job in a different way, but I’d love for more [players] to come to the front and give me a [selection] problem.
Q: Terrence Vancooten – what do you think of his performance tonight in difficult conditions?
Listen, he had a great experience tonight playing against [Jamie] Murphy. At right back he had a few tactical issues in the first half - in the second half I thought him and Luke Slater were very sound where they were a little bit confused in the first half on certain matters. But we obviously spoke about that in the dressing room and I thought they got to grips with things in the second half very well and looked comfortable. Then Terrence went into central defence, and reads defensive situations so differently from the middle than he does from right-back. There are qualities in Terrence tha make me think he’d be an outstanding right back, and there are qualities in Terrence that make me think he’d be an outstanding centre-half. But the common adjective in all that is ‘outstanding’. He could be an outstanding player.
Q: What do you prefer him as, a right-back or a centre-half?
I think he sees the game more slowly as a centre-half - he is able to process the decision more quickly and then make it. When it’s slower he looks two or three steps ahead of the game, because he’s so quick. There was a moment in the game where he suddenly came out of nowhere three or four yards ahead of the centre-forward and there was no chance of [the forward] getting through on goal. At right-back there were a few situations where, as a young player, it was ridiculous [how well he did]. It’s great that we’re talking about our young players – we’ve got so many good young players here tonight and I’m really pleased that they’ve showcased what an excellent developer of young players we are at this football club. I think we’re starting to get out just desserts on that reputation – I really believe that. I think it’s important that we develop our young players. When they come to Stevenage, they get developed as a person and as a player. Also, there’s a clear pathway – not an imaginary one that everyone else talks about – but a real pathway to the first-team. Our young players play in the first team – it’s a terrific time to be a young player at Stevenage. If you push hard enough, you’ll play.