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Riley: Lay off the kids
STEVE Riley has asked critics to lay off his young AFC Totton players ahead of tomorrow’s home game against Arlesey Town.
Given the extent of the financial problems that surfaced during the summer, it was a major achievement for the club to survive at any level, let alone the tough environment of the Calor Southern League Premier Division.
Needless to say, the Stags are finding it hard going with an inexperienced side top-heavy with youngsters and they are currently second-to-bottom having lost five league games on the spin.
Last Saturday they bowed out of the FA Trophy to lower league Clevedon Town and, though Riley was himself frustrated with elements of that performance, he knows his players put heart and soul into it and has been angered by some of the criticism directed at his team by people who should know better.
“I was a bit upset about comments made after the Trophy game,” he confessed.
“These lads are playing in a strong league and people forget how young they are and the amount of pressure they’ve got on their shoulders playing against experienced players week in, week out.
“It’s an easy game to sit and criticise, it really is, and I’m unhappy that people who have been around the club for a long time are singling players out. It’s only certain people, not everyone, but it’s unfair and it needs to stop.
“These lads are travelling all over the country for nothing when they could easily pick up £100 a week playing at a lower level and I don’t think people realise how damaging their comments are.
“I feel people’s frustration and I appreciate fans want to watch a winning team. But three months ago we didn’t even have a team and this was always going to be a tough season.
“The lads don’t go out deliberately to miss chances or make defensive mistakes and they need encouragement not criticism.
“When we had off-days last season no one shouted at Mike Gosney or Jono Davies if they didn’t play well or Ross Bottomley if he made a defensive slip. Whether it’s because these players are younger and they’re an easy target I don’t know.”
Admitting he had to “lift” a few of his young guns prior to Tuesday’s 4-1 Russell Cotes Cup win over Colden Common, Riley is appealing to club and fans alike to give the Stags their full support for tomorrow’s visit of ninth-placed Arlesey.
“For these lads to hear negative comments and then have to go back on the pitch again is hard for them. They need encouragement and a pat on the back, they don’t need to be knocked,” he said.
“It’s tough getting revenue into the club and we thank everyone who comes through the gate. All we’re asking for is a bit of encouragement and for people to be positive.
“When you’ve got everyone behind you, it’s like having an extra man.
“If there are any fingers to be pointed, then point them at me, my assistant Chris Ferrett or (injured striker) Nathaniel Sherborne who’s helping out with the team.
“We’ll take the blame.
“We pick the players and we give them the information, so if people have to scream at someone I’d rather they screamed at me.
“I always go into the bar afterwards and I don’t mind having a chat with people and explaining things.”
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