Friday, 15 May 2015

An Interview with ... Joe Gardner

Joe Gardner has been at Concord since February 2014, and in that time his pace has been a key attribute to the side.
As the season winds down and the players jet off for their holidays, I grabbed some time with Joe to find out if he was a budding Usain Bolt when he was younger...

You're a very pacey player, did you represent your school at athletics when you were younger?

I have actually got quicker as I've got older.  When I was at school I wouldn't say I was really fast, maybe faster than average, but certainly not quick enough to run in the 100m or relay teams.  I was more of a long distance runner - 800m and cross country.

I hated athletics at school, even though I was pretty good at it.  How about you?

Agreed, I didn't particularly enjoy running, I was fairly good at it, so I got picked to run for the school.  Luckily representing the school meant that I could miss lessons I didn't like...that's the only bit I liked about it!

Haha..I take it you didn't have any athletic idols growing up then?

No, the only one's I had were footballers. Although I like other sports, I was never into them as much as football.  I represented my school in every sport it had available - Football, rugby, basketball, athletics as we've mentioned.

So who of these footballers did you model your game on when you were younger, and when you saw them play, did you think "wow I want to be like them"?

I couldn't say I would model my game on any specific player.  I play in so many different positions I wouldn't just focus on one player, it would be a mixture of different attacking players who have different skills and attributes.
Being a Spurs fan I loved watching David Ginola, and then just for his entertainment and playing style, Ronaldinho.  I liked players that made the crowd stand up, cheer and almost celebrate without scoring or even creating a goal.

Did you have any trials at any pro clubs?

I played a couple of times for an Ipswich Town representative side, but I wasn't YTS or anything like that.

I notice you work for the Financial Conduct Authority, was that a conscious decision to move into that sector, whilst playing football part time?

I've always wanted to work in finance/business, (aside from being a professional footballer).  I just started there in a temporary position as an 18year old after I'd finished college.  A permanent position became available, which I was successful in applying for.......and I've been there ever since!

Let's move onto the present day...What is the biggest strength of your game?

My biggest strengths would probably be being able to beat and take on opponents and creating a goal/chance.  People like players that create opportunities and "make things happen" it's what fans like to see.  Being this type of player, if you don't play so well, people appreciate that it's a difficult part of the game!

It's like Ginola and Ronaldinho, getting people out of their seats.  How about weaknesses then, what are you looking to improve on?

A weakness in my game, which I feel is getting better, is not being greedy enough in the attacking third.  I naturally try and create goals instead of concentrating on getting more goals for myself.  Lots of people have said "you need to more selfish...if you get a chance, just have a go yourself!"
On the flip side of all that though, my team-mates don't mind my unselfishness!

What does it mean to you to play for Concord?

I first played for Concord when I was 17, I spent most of my time playing and scoring for Dan Clare (goalkeeping coach) who was the reserve manager at the time. He always said I would end up playing for the 1st team, it just took me six years to gain some much needed experience at other clubs before returning.
The club's unique.  It has so many good people all pulling in the same direction to achieve results which no-one looking from outside, would give the club a chance of achieving.
People talk about their players "togetherness" being great, but the group of players here are the most like-able group of players you're ever likely to meet.

In what way?

The easiest way to describe the group we have is to liken it to a pub team full of mates.  To have 18 people get on without any issues in any environment is rare.  To have a squad of players at this level surrounded by high emotions and competitiveness and still everyone get on so well is almost impossible...but that's what we have!
I feel privileged to have been part of this club, group of people and players during (arguably) it's most successful season to date!

What did Danny Cowley add to your game, and what are you hoping the new manager Adam Flanagan can bring to your club?

Dan is a great manager, who I would say contributed to me as a player in various ways as opposed to one specific area of my game.  He gave me the opportunity to play at this level and the belief that I was good enough to play at this level and above.
Dan stressed that football is won on the 1%'s, and that would run through my head whenever I didn't fancy doing my own extra training, whether that be weights training or body conditioning after a hard game.  If I couldn't find the motivation I would have to think about that 1% extra...none of my opponents will be doing this 1%, but I will, and that will show on a Saturday afternoon!
I know Adam through playing against him, and also when he was manager of Brentwood, as my brother currently plays there.  With a change of manager it could mean new philosophies, training ideas and match preparation.  Adam has a lot of football experience, so I'm hoping he can add his own ideas to improve the current group of players and high tempo playing style.

I've heard your very superstitious...give me an example?

I have so many superstitions, I think around 25.


Haha...One that people don't see is me getting ready in an alternate order. Right sock, left sock, right shin pad, left shin pad, right boot, left boot, right laces, left laces, right tape, left tape etc.
The one that most people will see me do is - six knee to chest jumps followed by three bounces and then kick out my feet alternately right to left three times each.  I do this right before kick-off at the beginning of the game and at the start of the second half.
If I start on the bench and come on, then I'll do it on the side of the pitch, which linesmen find annoying when they're trying to check my shorts/boots.

How did all the superstitions start?  There must have been a reason!

I think it's based on success.  I've been doing them for so long, I can't remember the exact circumstances but all the superstitions weren't started all at the same time.  I did something like put my socks and boots on in a certain order, then I played really well, scored, so I made sure I did the same routine the next game, and so on.  If I did something else different during my preparation and done well during the game...the additional steps would be included in the routine going forward.

I sound mental!

Have you ever forgotten to do a superstition before a game, and what happened?

This will sound crazy, but the one time I didn't do one of my superstitions I got injured.  I ruptured my kidney during the game and spent two weeks in hospital with internal bleeding, and it was 3/4 months before I could play again.

The superstition I missed out on that day was scoring a goal past my own keeper during the warm up, but after that injury happened I dropped that superstition from the routine.

Let's get off these superstitions...You're in charge of the music in the dressing room.  Were you elected to the role, or did you just decide "I'm going to do it"?

It was a shared responsibility, but the audiences seemed to favour my music, and then it just stuck really.  That said, Dan Cowley hated the pre-match house music and in the past has walked round the dressing room asking each individual member of the team if they "liked this type of music!"

The music has evolved to more than just the changing room.  The speaker now comes on the coach on the long away journeys so we can all have a sing-a-long on the way home. (only if we win that is!)

Ok then, during the team sing-a-longs who is the worst singer, and also who fancies themselves as the next Olly Murs?

This is difficult because I don't like picking people out about their singing...but Oggers likes to belt out a tune.  He says the better he sings, the better he plays.  I won't say how bad he is, but he gets an A for effort.  Whitey doesn't so much sing... he's more of a pirate radio DJ impression between lyrics and songs - which probably shows we don't have a good singer amongst us!

Back to serious stuff, you turned down a move to Welling earlier this year. Do you think Concord can satisfy your footballing ambitions?

Earlier this season when the play-offs were still a possibility, I spoke to Miki Hood and said that I would have loved nothing more than to be promoted with Concord. This group of players/management/backroom staff and volunteers not only deserve it, but would  make the most of rubbing shoulders with the giants of non-league football. Imagine Concord Rangers v Bristol Rovers, or Concord Rangers v Torquay in league fixtures. I think that promotion is achievable goal.  Look we only missed out on the play-off's by such a short margin, change a couple of draws into wins, and a couple of losses into draws and we make the play-offs.  Then on our day we've proved in the past we can beat anyone.

Speaking about Welling, at the time it was not the right move.  I spoke to my Dad, I spoke to work - due to Welling training during the day I would have had to leave the office during core business hours and I spoke to Dan Cowley at the time.  I had to weigh up the pro's and con's but in the end it wasn't the right move for me.

My personal ambition includes playing at the highest level I can, although I feel I made the right decision at the time, whether I ever make it to play at the highest level of non-league in the future will ultimately decide whether the decision was the right one!

Right last question, and it's a biggie.
It's the 89th minute of the match it's 0-0 and a Concord player is clean through on goal 30yards out, one-on-one with the keeper.  What player would you guarantee would finish it, and what one would you think "oh god anyone but him!"

This is easy.

Stokesy (Tony Stokes) and Kingy (Steve King).

I'll let you work out which ones which.....

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