It was team spirit that carried us through the second half of the season and helped us maintain our National 2 status.
If you were watching Macclesfield Blues at Priory Park just before Christmas, you would quite naturally have been deeply worried about the future. The Blues were on a bad run of form and had lost 10 of their first 14 games. The future certainly did not look bright. However, once former Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, parted company with the Club, and experienced front row forward, Marshall Gadd, stepped up to the plate to take temporary charge everything changed.
The Blues re-found their mojo and confidence and the results started to flow again. Macclesfield Blues finished a creditable 8th in National League 2 North: no mean feat when you consider where they were at Christmas time. What changed their fortune? What turned their season around? Here’s what new Head Coach, Marshall Gadd, thinks:
You may not have been in charge at the start of the season, but have you any thoughts on why the Blues struggled so badly during the first few months of the National League 2 campaign?
“I just wonder whether the game plan we adopted during the early part of the season didn’t really suit us. I know Giles [Heagerty] had his principles and his own ideas of how he wanted to the team to play a more expansive game, but maybe the lads just couldn’t come to terms with those plans or didn’t fully understand what he wanted from them. The problem is, whatever grand ideas you might have, you can only play with the players you have available to you, and if the message you’re trying to convey is just a little too technical, then the players won’t really grasp it.”
“Don’t get me wrong, Giles was, and is, a fantastic coach with some of the highest credentials in the area. He does a lot of work with the England set up, so knows what he’s talking about. But if you’re trying to implement plans which the players either don’t understand, or don’t buy into, then it’s not the right game plan at the end of the day.”
Giles did say when he succeeded Geoff Wappett that he intended to change things and introduce a different style of rugby at Macclesfield Blues: do you think it was just too much to ask of the players?
“Well, Giles did change things, not just in terms of how the team played, but also in terms of rugby in general. Giles was a coach who moved with the times, and now I look back on it, I wonder whether he just maybe moved a little too quickly. Geoff was very much an advocate of the forward-orientated game, whereas Giles believed in a wider, more expansive game.”
“For my part, all I’ve done over the past few months when I’ve been in charge of the team is to try and bridge the gap between the two styles. We already had a good set piece, and had some good attacking abilities, but we struggled to bring both of those qualities to our game play consistently. We found out in National 1 that a good forward pack alone won’t win you games: you’ve got to be able to play rugby as well. So I knew we had to make some changes if we were to retain our National 2 status.”
Do you think that’s what made the difference after December, and was it that blending of the two styles of rugby that helped the Blues keep their place in the league?
“If I’m being brutally honest I’d have to say that I didn’t really change much, nor did I really have to. I knew the lads were battling against some of the ideas that Giles was trying to implement, so I simply tried to make sure that the boys were happy with what we were doing. You have to keep the players happy because they’re the ones who are going out there and playing the game. You can’t try to implement things that the players don’t want to do. If you try that, you’ll just come a cropper. So my game plan was simply this: keep the players happy, implement some of the structures they wanted to get the best out of their skill sets, put my spin on it all, and make sure I always had the final say.”
Do you not think you should take a little more credit than that for the team’s good finish to the season, given where Macclesfield Blues were languishing at Christmas?
“No, not really. I was just doing the job I’d been given. What I will take some credit for is possibly helping to build the team spirit. The one thing I have learned in my rugby career is that team spirit counts for an awful lot. I banged onto the lads constantly about it, but it is important. Team spirit wins tight games. I reckon personally that team spirit can help you gain 20 to 30 points a season. When you have a great team spirit, the boys play for each other: they play for their mates and not the badge.”
“You could clearly see how team spirit carried us through in some of the results we had in the latter part of the season; Take the game away at Sheffield. We were well and truly under the cosh for 80 minutes, but the boys dug in and came out on top. That wouldn’t have happened before Christmas, and certainly wouldn’t have happened had we not had a great team spirit.”
Will you be stepping up to the position of full time Head Coach next season?
“Yes, I have agreed to take on the role next year. I would never have seen myself as a Head Coach at this time last year. To be honest it’s not something I’ve really ever wanted to do, but you know, we are where we are. It’s been a tough few months, as I’ve had to do it all on my own, but we don’t have the resources of some of the other clubs. In spite of that, I’m quite happy to give it another go next season and see what happens.”
Would you say you’ve enjoyed the experience?
“If I’m being honest, then the answer is no, not really. The last 3 months has been hard work, not just in terms of the shortage of support staff, but also in terms of the pressure that comes with the job when you find yourself in a poor position. Hopefully now we’re looking to recruit some more backroom staff, some of the pressure will be taken off me and maybe then I’ll start to enjoy the experience more.”