Sam Collins has been at Concord for two seasons now and in his first season Sam won Supporters Player of the year and shared the Players Player of the year award. How did he feel this season went, and what was his career before joining Concord like, I spoke with Sam to find out more.
We then moved onto a Concord goal of the season competition, and a Celebrity come dine with me.
You started your career at MK Dons as a youth player, who were your coaches there and what did they teach you about the game?
My coach of the youth team and Head of Development at the time was a guy called Mike Dove who helped the transition from Wimbledon to Milton Keynes, and I believe he is still head of youth now. My two year scholarship and one year pro contract saw three different managers; Danny Wilson, Martin Allen and Paul Ince, who all offered different views on the game.
I learnt the most from Martin Allen, I was involved with the first team more when he was manager, and he offered me a professional contract at the time. He also introduced me to non-league football by loaning me out to Maidenhead for a month when I was 17. This certainly helped me adapt from academy football to men's football, which is vital to all young players and I think if you ask our young players who are in that situation, Taylor (Miles) and Josh (Vickers) will tell you same.
Concord has a squad of young players, as one of the older more experienced players do you see it as your role to advise them, and tell them about your experiences?
No I don't see it as my job to advise them, I'd like to think that I can encourage them to express themselves and be confident whilst still doing the role in the team that the manager has asked us to do.
Going back to yourself, did you always want to be a footballer when you were growing up?
As a kid I would play all varieties of sport helped by two older brothers, but yeah football stood out for me. When I first started playing I never had much patience to watch football, but through my teenage years as I moved to left back, I started to watch a lot more, and enjoyed watching Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge play.
You mentioned you played all variety of sports, could you have got into any of them professionally?
I did love cricket at school and made a few appearances for the Districts, but after going to trials for Essex I realised I was too far off the standard to get anywhere near professional. I used to fancy myself on a table tennis table although I could never beat Tom Stephen at East Thurrock but we are due a rematch!
Was you a batsmen or bowler at cricket?
I'd like to think myself as an all-rounder but I guess I was more of a bowler, I haven't played cricket for 10 years now since I left school. I used to play for a team on Canvey as it was local, my old man was doing enough travelling taking me to and from football!
How about computer games...you grew up in a time when consoles took off!
My parents must of hated me, as I always had pals round playing on the Nintendo 64. I had 4 controllers so we played a few racing games, like Mario Kart, I think one was called Micro Machines...oh and of course James Bond Goldeneye.
Do you still play computer games now?
I've got a playstation, but with work, football, fiance and other commitments I don't play much anymore.
Let's get back to football...I've seen you play in numerous positions on the pitch, what is your favourite? What is the main strength of your game, and also what are you looking to improve on?
I don't have a favourite position, I'm happy playing football and doing a job for the team. As for strengths, I think it changes from what position I play, or what role I'm asked to play. However when I'm asked to play through the middle, my robust playing style and ability to get involved in the game is a strength. Next season I'll be looking to improve on impacting the game more and getting to a higher level of consistency as I feel on a personal performance I had an average season at best. I'll be turning 26 in June and would have played 300+ non league games, so I'd like to improve on my leadership skills.
What does the Concord "spirit" mean to you?
It's unique to say the least. I've been part of a few different clubs, but what Ant and Danny have achieved and built in recent years is fascinating. I believe that the spirit of Concord comes from the top with the owner, the chairman, then is passed down to the manager and onto the players. I've only been here two years but it's obvious that the changing room has always had something special, as there are players that have been through it all with the club...Oggers, Kingy, Glozier, Stokesy, Nick even Miki Hood which is vital to help the team evolve, but also keep the identity of what Concord Rangers are about.
Looking back over the season, they're have been a number of highlights (Mansfield, Barnet, Essex Senior Cup) what has been your personal highlight?
Yeah you've mentioned the cup highlights, I would say retaining the Essex Cup even though I played only the last 10minutes and the score was already 4-0, I celebrated more than the season before! For me though going 12 games unbeaten in the Conference South is a highlight for me, in such a tough league, with a small squad and finding different ways to get results..brilliant. It was also a record best in all three Conference leagues at the time.
What has been the best goal you've seen by one of your team-mates this season? Was you jealous you didn't score it!!!
Yeah I was well jealous, as last season it was me scoring some of the good ones! I can't pick one out this season, but I'll give you 5 of my favourites...Taylor Miles has two of them, and not even his one against Chelmsford!
1. Taylor v Farnborough at home - decent passing move down the right followed by a great cross and finish...a real team goal.
2. Taylor v Weston away - We showed no real attacking threat in that game and he waltzes pass 2/3 defenders, rolled it through another's legs then drilled in the bottom corner.
3. Joe (Gardner) v St Albans away - Great volley top bins and the importance of the goal to take the club to the first round of the FA Cup
4. Steve (Cawley) v Weston at home - He has a few to pick from, but his 25yard chip over the keeper is my choice
5. Stokesy v Maidenhead at home - Again has a few to pick from (Colchester, Havant) but his touch volley lob in the last minute against one of my old clubs was a lovely goal.
When chatting to some of the other lads, you've been labelled a party boy...is that fair? Is it important to team spirit that all the lads go out?
Yeah that's a fair comment, more last season though, as this season my lifestyle has changed completely, I don't get out as much anymore. I still do like a good night out though, and when the team one's come around they are important, as playing for Danny can be intense, so to get a chance to relax away from the football environment does help the team.
What is your most annoying habit off the pitch? Is there something which winds your Mrs up?!?!
Hmmmm no annoying habits off the pitch, although she might have a different answer to me on that one!! I do keep things neat and tidy and let's just say she's not the same, so my slight o.c.d. could be an annoying habit.
So your house is all neat and tidy, you can invite 3 celebrities over for dinner. Who would they be and why?
So many to choose from, but let's keep it simple.
Will Ferrell - for comedy value
Ricky Hatton - An English sporting great and he was kind enough to let me have a picture with him in Tenerife, so I'd return the favour.
Angelina Jolie - For obvious reasons, but also my Mrs likes her so I won't get told off for inviting her...lol!
**This interview took place before the departure of Danny Cowley to Braintree**