Stevenage boss Dino Maamria Q&A on Grimsby, Arthur Iontton, Moise Kean racism row, whether he would take Boro off the pitch and much more
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
Stevenage boss Dino Maamria has been speaking to Layth Yousif ahead of the League Two side’s trip to Grimbsy. Read on for his in-depth Q&A including his view of highly-rated starlet Arthur Iontton, Billy Joe Saunders playing striker for Boro, his take on the Moise Keen racisim row and much, much more.
LY: What are your thoughts having had a few days to reflect on the disappointing 3-0 home defeat by Notts County?
DM: My thoughts haven’t changed a lot. There’s no worse feeling than losing. You prepare the team for certain scenarios against County and you think you’ve put in a good week’s training and then 25 seconds into the match a hugely deflected goal changes your whole gameplan. But that’s football. It’s been a quite crazy few months, we’ve conceded various last minute goals while also grabbing two late goals at Lincoln to draw against the leaders.
We’ve got to take the rough with the smooth. We are where we are in the league. We’ve haven’t been as consistent as I would have liked this season. There have been loads of lessons learned. I’ve learned so much as well. It’s a learning curve. To get success in League Two you need time to build or you need money.
We’ve seen with Accrington and Wycombe – they’ve taken six or seven years to build. Even with money it takes time. Look at Luton, it took them three or four years. Mansfield have been throwing money at it but it certainly doesn’t guarantee you anything.
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If you want a quick fix you throw money at it, which is something we haven’t got. What we need is time to build. There are positives. We’re only one point away from our total tally last season. We’ve been in the top ten all season. I’ve got to make sure we don’t slip away now and we finish the season as strongly as possible.
One thing about this season is that we didn’t manage to get the new North Stand open. Sometimes you don’t get what you want, Circumstances dictate certain things and unfortunately for all of us we didn’t get the stand. But once it’s open next year it will hopefully give everyone a massive lift.
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I’ve not said it this season but it has been hard without a stand behind the goal when we play. We can’t get any momentum because if any balls go over there they stay there for five minutes. It’s not been easy for us. I’m not using that as an excuse but it will be great to have a new stand next season which will attract a new generation of fans.
LY: Clubs who have built new stands always seem to have a boost in attendances. What do you think would be a good crowd for Boro once the new stand is open?
DM: I think we need to get the new generation. We need to get them in week ion week out. We need to get kids in the town supporting Stevenage instead of Arsenal or West Ham or Spurs. Our foundation are doing a great job spreading the word across schools in our area. The squad does too. If we try and focus on the next generation we can aim for 3,000 week in week out. That would give us a good base to kick on.
LY: Are your play-off hopes over?
DM: I’m a very ambitious person as you know. I’m very driven. I want to do the impossible. I always want to achieve. I’ve learned this season. I’ve learned I need to be patient. I think with six games to go with 18 points to play for I think we’re too far from that now. There are twists and turns but I think we needed six points out of six from the last two games and we didn’t get that.
I’ve got to make sure we finish the season as strongly as possible to give us a foundation for next season starting with Grimsby on Saturday. Blundell Park is always a tough place to go. We’ve got to go back to basics and start doing the things we were doing well in the autumn when we were picking up nearly two points a game. We were running harder then, we covered a lot more distance. We closed down teams quicker. We had a lot of ‘regains’ we pressed higher in the opposition half. We put a lot more crosses in the box. Our ball retention was a little bit better. Those sorts of things we need to be doing again consistently.
LY: You touched on a few positive there. There are a lot of things to be positive about for next season including the new North Stand as well as young players like Arthur Iontton who won League Two apprentice of the year…
DM: Arthur is fantastic. He’s a fantastic player. When I first took the job a year ago I saw him play in a practice match and I loved him from the first minute. He’s got a great attitude. He’s got a great appetitive to learn. He’s going to play a lot of league game for us. He will move on eventually because he’s such a great prospect. His quality is there to see for everybody. He’s a young 18-year-old but nothing phases him. He looks like he’s been playing the game for 10 or 15 years. He’s a fantastic lad. He’s the first one onto the training ground and the last one off. He’s a fantastic kid.
LY: Grimsby on Saturday. Injuries?
DM: Yes, we’ve had a few knocks. Danny Newton started last week. He wasn’t 100 per cent fit. He’s been off training this week. He won’t be starting. Alex Revell has a sore calf. He won’t be starting. Kurtis had a knock on his knee on Tuesday. He’s very doubtful. I need to play a team that will run hard and compete. Win that second ball and put the opposition under pressure. Grimsby have been in a difficult period themselves but I’m sure they will be determined to put that right.
LY: Will Billy Joe Saunders play at centre-forward as revealed by a certain newspaper on Monday…?
DM: [Laughs] I’ll take that as long as he can score goals! I don’t care if he’s a boxer as long as he can score goals. No, it’s brilliant for the town and for the football club. It’s a brilliant coup by Alex and we’re all looking forward to it in May. Hopefully people who haven’t been to the Lamex will come again and support us next season.
LY: On a wider note Juve’s Moise Kean being racially abused at Cagliari. His manager Massimo Allegri wasn’t particularly supportive of him, nor was his teammate Bonucci who said the blame for the racist abuse was ‘50/50’. What’s your take on the incident?
DM: No-one knows how it feels unless you are a victim. People can speculate on how you feel but unless it happens to you no-one knows how you feel being a victim. Naivety, ignorance – if you’re being abused whether it be through race, gender or whatever, unless it happens to you people shouldn’t make assumptions.
It’s ignorant for people to say it’s ‘50/50’ or that they brought it on themselves. It’s very ‘old school’ to say stuff like that. It’s a massive issue and we don’t need people saying that we need people to stamp it out and make sure it doesn’t happen in our stadiums, in our communities in our schools, because it happens everyday on our streets and in our schools. As a society we need to stamp it out. We need to do something drastic to stop it.
LY: I asked Arsenal boss Unai Emery about this last week: I asked him if one of your players was racially abused would you take your team off the pitch in protest and solidarity. What’s your take? Would you be prepared to take a Stevenage team off the park if a player was racially abused?
DM: I’m not sure if taking a team off the pitch is the right thing to do. I think individuals or football clubs need to be punished heavily if racist abuse occurs. I think taking a team off the pitch would be negative because you’re stopping everyone else watching the game that we love. One individual or a number shouting racist abuse against a player is not going to make us stop playing football. They didn’t stop players like John Barnes in the 1980s. I think we should carry on what we’re doing while the people above ensure that they do all they can to stamp out racism.
LY: One final question from me on a far lighter note. I’ve heard Grimsby has great fish and chips. Will you be sampling them on Saturday?
DM: [Laughs] Funnily enough we went to Morecambe earlier in the season and Ronnie Henry said they’ve got great fish and chips in Morecambe. So I told the player: ‘If we win we’ll get fish and chips on the coach afterwards’. We won the game but John Ashton our fitness coach failed to get them because he couldn’t find the shop! He got a bit of stick and got fined for it but hopefully we’ll get the three points on Saturday and the lads will get fish and chips.
See CometSport on Friday for Layth’s in-depth interview feature with the highly-rated Arthur Iontton.