Stevenage boss Dino Maamria as he gears up for Lamex return against table toppers Milton Keynes after three weeks on the road: “I’ve seen our coach driver more than my wife this month”

PUBLISHED: 10:24 23 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:24 23 November 2018

Stevenage FC First Team Manager Dino Maamria. Picture: DANNY LOO

Stevenage FC First Team Manager Dino Maamria. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

Stevenage boss Dino Maamria has been speaking extensively with Layth Yousif at the club’s training ground Bragbury End on a wide range of topics ahead of the visit of League Two table-toppers Milton Keynes at the Lamex on Saturday. Read on for the full transcript of what he said.

After three weeks away how much are you looking forward to Saturday’s game?

I think I’ve seen more of our bus driver than my wife this month! It feels like a long time since we played Oldham in early November in our last home game. I’m excited for the fans. Our last home game saw an exciting game. We were 2-1 down and turned it around to win 3-2 [against Oldham]. Hopefully the fans will turn out in their numbers. It’s a huge game. It’s us against the top of the league side and it’s a measure for us to see how far we can go. It’ll be fantastic for as many people as possible to turn up and back us on Saturday.

What would be a good crowd on Saturday?

I’d like 4,000+. If we have 4,000 from Stevenage and 2,000 from MK that would be 6,000 fans [smiles]. That would be a sellout...

In terms of late winners against Stevenage is there an issue with fitness among your squad?

No. We’ve won a lot of games late on. Against Oldham we won in the last ten minutes. Against Macclesfield too. Against Grimsby as well. The only two games we lost late on have been against Plymouth and Newport – and both games were settled by wonder strikes. I always try and start and finish games well. I know how important it is for this football club to win games late on.

Are you happy with your side’s fitness?

Yes.

One hundred per cent?

Yes. I think what we haven’t got is a big squad. We’ve got a good group. Maybe we haven’t got the depth of the squad. Last week at Bury [when Stevenage lost 4-0] we had five players out missing and we couldn’t really replace them.

That’s always going to be an issue as we’ve got a small squad. What we’ve got to do is keep players fit and we’ll be fine. When we’ve got our best team out there we can beat anyone in this league. When we have one or two injuries that’s when we may struggle a little bit.

Milton Keynes stole Wimbledon’s identity. What’s your take on that fact?

I remember our games against MK when Carl Robinson was there and they were always very heated games. I think we always beat them when I was here in the past. They’re different now and I think they’ve gone past that now. I just think MK is our derby now, we’ve had good games against them in the past and I’m looking forward to playing them again on Saturday

I’m not sure Wimbledon fans have ‘got over it’. Do you think what MK did was acceptable?

It was such a long time ago I don’t really know the ins and outs of it to put my name to a statement about it...

With leaders Milton Keynes as well as big games against Swindon and Lincoln coming up this is a crucial period for Stevenage…

It is. I’m looking forward to December. We’ve got some good fixtures in December and I can’t wait. The most important thing is to keep our players fit and I think we’ll do well.

It will test us. For the first time this season this season at Bury last week I had a number of important players out. We have been fortunate with injuries up until now but hopefully we’ll get one or two back for this weekend.

Injury news for Saturday?

One or two are touch and go. Luther [James-Wildin] is a doubt. Kenners [Ben Kennedy] is doubtful. Kurtis [Guthrie] is suspended. We’re touch and go with a few players but hopefully we’ll have a strong enough team. [Ben] Nugent is back.

What’s the goalkeeping situation? Paul Farman is fit now…?

Yes, he’s fit. He needs games. We’re organising games behind closed doors to get him up to speed with match fitness. He was out for six weeks and has only played one game which was away to AFC Wimbledon. He’s fit and training but just needs match fitness now.

Will he return as your No1 keeper?

He will return in due time. I can’t really say who’s my No1 or No2 keepers because they’re both good players. Seny [Dieng] has come in and done fantastic. If he keeps doing what he’s doing he’ll keep the shirt but if Farms does more than Seny he’ll get the shirt.

With the January transfer window coming up fast will you be looking to bring anyone in?

Of course. We’re always looking to improve. We’re trying to improve the backroom team. The playing staff. It’s a transition period for us on and off the pitch. The chairman recruited me to manage the team and we’ve made a lot of changes among the playing staff. We’ve got Alex Tunbridge as our new chief executive and he’s been busy making changes off the pitch. For three or four years this club has not been reaching his potential and the chairman has recruited me and Alex to sort it out. And that’s what we’re trying to do…

The U18s are doing well in the FA Youth Cup. You must be pleased…

Yes, it’ll be their third home tie [against Bury at the Lamex on Wednesday, December 12]. That’s what’s really important with cup ties – with a home tie you fancy yourself against anybody. Our lads are doing well and hopefully it will continue.

Any youngsters in particular that have caught your eye?

We’ve got Liam Smyth [who signed his first pro contract earlier this month] with me at the minute. He’s only just turned 17. He’s a player we’re excited about. There’a number of young players with good potential. Luis Fernandez is another, Jack Smith too. I’m keeping tabs on them all. They’re an exciting team and we’re trying to build a bridge between the U18s and the first team. Since I’ve taken the job I’ve given four young players their debut and I’m not scared to put youngsters in my team if they’re good enough.

And Arthur Iontton?

Yes, he’s still 17. He would have played but it’s unfortunate he picked up an ankle injury. Hopefully he’ll be ok. He’s having a scan and we’ll see. 100 per cent he’s a huge prospect. I’ve told all the youngsters I’ve got a small squad and I need them to step up to.

Follow Layth on Twitter @laythy29

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