In the 2nd pre-season interview ahead of the 2019-2020 season, Off the Post travelled to Buckinghamshire once again to visit Chalfont St Peter as they were in pre-season training. We spoke to Finlay Johnson who moved from Hendon to Chalfont St Peter last summer. Chalfont St Peter AFC were formed in 1926 and have featured from Step 4 to Step 6 for the club’s history.
How long have you been in charge?
I’ve been in charge for over a year, when we came in a year ago, we only had 1 player that stayed with us. We had a good start and a good pre-season and started really well, better than we thought it would. We had a good group of players, but if you do well at a club like ours the players will be scouted and be offered more money in a higher league. We always try and be successful as we can but last year our squad averaged just 20.8 so this season we will be looking for more experienced players at Step 4 level.
Chalfont Finished 13th last season, were you pleased with your first season in charge?
When the pitches and weather was better we were sitting in 7th or 8th, but after we did lose some players who we didnt replace with the same quality and this coupled with poor pitches and weather we dropped points and further down the table. We like to play football on the deck and not lump it so our game is better suited to the warmer weather.
Do you think the FA were right to void all leagues below Step 2?
My opinon has changed on this a few times since the season finished. With everything that has happend since, i would say yes. At the beginning of lockdown, i was for PPG and then i saw how the football league sorted PPG with Tranmere going down and Wycombe being pushed into the playoff and i think some teams were hard done by. Some teams that were 3/4 places above relegation were then to be relegated. It was not the most favourable but the best decision in the end.
What is your target for the league this this season?
We want to finish Higher than last year and see where we go from there. Top half finish is what we aiming for.
How will non leagues have changed due to COVID-19?
I think non league will change mostly due to players expectations over wages and what they want with what the clubs are willing to pay.Players who missed out on wages, wanting as an example 150 per week, the budget for these wages might not be there this season and players might find it difficult finding those wages. Clubs will not have the finances they did last year and players who were on or wanted bigger wages might find that those contacts and funds are not there There is no doubt that from League 2 down, squads and budgets will be smaller than last year.From my perspective some of the players, those players that were sitting on the bench at a step 2/3 might be moved on, when new players come in and then have to find a new club and might have to drop a division or two. The standard of non league will be better though with this.
What type of football do you like your side to play?
We like to play, but we do not insist on a style like Tika Taka, but i like to make sure when we are playing it’s an attacking style of football. We had to adapt our formation and how we played, last season with the pitches in the winter.
What opposition are you looking forward/ looking to avoid this season?
We never got to travel and take on Chertsey as the game got cancelled due to COVID-19 last season, they have big crowds and we missed out on this so looking forward to playing them. We are looking to avoid Bracknell but this was down to us playing them 4 times last season in the league and 2 in cup competitions.
Who do you think will win the league this year?
Bracknell, it’s there to lose. I think Hanwell and Tooting and Mitcham will be their challenging or in the playoffs. Uxbridge i expect to see in the playoffs, but there might be a few more surprise’s when the season starts.
One player that has impressed last season was Kahil Francis, how do you think he will do next season?
He played over 30 games for us last season and i’ve set him some targets for the next season, if he hits them then, then next summer we will be having a different conversation. I am very fond of him and i think has a great future in the game.
How do you devlop your coaching?
I’ve watched a few documentaries, such as Building Jerusalem and The Test which looks at the issues with Australian Cricket. I think sometimes if you look at football ones it can become a bit one dimensional. But Building Jerusalem was about building a team culture, a team ethos. I have a keen interest in sports psychology and last year we bought one in for a few sessions to help the players.
Since last season, you have made changes in the backroom staff, why was this?
My assistant manager moved an hour and half away, so Scott Dash stepped up. I felt last year we were a little bare boned and having things covered. I also wanted people from different parts of the country. I bought in Aaron Steadman and helps us with our knowledge of players in Berkshire that i might not have known about it, we also have Anthony spent time with U18’s at Hayes and Yeading and helps our club recruitment being wider than it would be otherwise.
Are the club looking to have tighter community links post COVID-19?
That all depends on how many we are allowed in, but we are a village club. We do a lot of work with the youth setup to bring players through, we just need to make a few more of them to come along to games with their parents.
Is there any news on your pre season friendlies?
We have not announced anything yet, we are waiting to finalise the final 2 games and then after that we will put them out. They are mostly going to be teams from above.
Let’s find out a big more about Finlay.
What club do you support?
I’m a Watford fan.
What is your Best moment in management?
I enjoyed beating Barking at home with a last minute goal and that was great last season. Apart from this, when i was at Hendon it was winning the league with the U23’s.
How has your coaching adapted over time?
My coaching style has mostly stayed the same, but you have to adapt to the level you are managing at you have to change your formation, against the teams you are coming up against you can’t keep your style. We don’t have the luxury to play the same squad like that every week in a certain style.
What manager/coach do you admire the most?
Bobby Robson. I’ve watched every documentary or book on him, the compassion he showed along with a strong hand when managing. He has that joy in everything he does while also being competitive.
What is the clubs plans for the next 3-5 years?
The club is building an astro turf pitch, next to the ground, this will help us with things such as training, warm ups and for our younger age groups, but also for the community. The club is also looking to put in a stand on the opposite side of the dugouts that would help with ground grading if we went up and we would be ready. The plan is bring and develop youth players.