Caretaker Manager Mark aims for more of the same on Saturday
Huddersfield Town’s Caretaker Manager Mark Lillis wants his players to be brave enough to play the short, passing style he has encouraged when they take on Derby County at Pride Park on Saturday.
Lillis has had time to analyse Wednesday night’s home win over Crystal Palace and he puts the excellent performance down to one major factor.
“Preparation – that is the big word,” Mark told htafc.com. “That comes from me and the coaches, but then the players delivered it on the pitch. We had a plan to stop their wide men; we wanted to get bodies around the likes of Zaha, because we knew if they could run at us they would cause us problems. We tried to annul their strengths. Glenn Murray is a top striker, but I think we restricted him to one shot.
“The main thing after that was the need for the lads to embrace the night, enjoy themselves and pass the ball. One of the big things was to get in amongst the opposition and let them know they were in a game.
“The tactics worked, but the main thing about tactics is relaying them to the players. We did a lot of work with Performance Analyst Chris Markham and the staff using DVDs and then we took that onto the training field, producing similar situations. If those situations then arise on the pitch during the game, the players should be aware and ready for it.
“It’s great for the staff when the preparation pays off. I’m including all the staff – we have some very qualified people here – and everyone has a role to play in getting the Club back to winning ways. I’ve just marshalled things really.
“I’m trying to give the players freedom to enjoy themselves. We have some fantastic players here who can really pass the ball and I like seeing them come off the pitch with a smile on their face.
“We have lads who are being brave on the ball – that is why they are Championship players. I think the majority of them still have a chance of playing in the Premier League – and why not.
“We’re not getting carried away though, as we have a really tough away game at Derby on Saturday. They play good football. We haven’t done anything yet; there are a lot of points to play for and it is important that we are still a Championship side come the end of the season.”
Mark reserved special praise for match winner James Vaughan, who bagged the game’s only goal to break his nine game scoreless streak.
“I thought ‘Vaughany’ showed so much bravery the other night. As a striker, when you haven’t scored for a while, it would have been so easy to feel the nudge and go down for a penalty, which would draw applause as Novak hopefully sticks it in, but to stay on his feet and score will do him a lot of good.”
Sadly Palace midfielder Mile Jedinak suffered a bad eye injury in the closing moments of the game; Lillis commented on this incident:
“Ian (Holloway) was very annoyed on the sidelines, but as I said at the time I didn’t see it live – it was 70 yards away. I told Ian that after the game, but he was understandably annoyed as his lad was hurt.
“I’ve seen the incident since and Alan hasn’t done it intentionally – it’s not malicious. He jumped with his arms to get some leverage and got a great header in, but his arm has clashed with their lad.
“Jedinak had a great game. I’ve seen his eye and it wasn’t very good, so I wish him a speedy recovery. The whole Club – the staff, players, everyone – send their regards to him and hope he’s back quickly.
“Alan isn’t a guy who will go and intentionally smash someone with his elbow. He’s been a fantastic pro for me and he’s a family man; he’s actually upset about it.
“I don’t want this to overshadow the game though because we played very well, won 1-0 and got three points.”
Town’s performances in the last two games have shortened Lillis’ odds to become the Club’s permanent manager with the bookies, but he once again reiterated his role as Academy Manager is a long term project.
“I’m under no pressure from the Chairman; he’s telling me to get on with it. I’m planning for the Derby game and then we have a full week before the Cardiff game. I’m just trying to get the best out of the team. I’m taking the team on a caretaker basis until Dean Hoyle says otherwise.
“To see the fans at the end of the game, as an ex player and ex Captain here, was fantastic – I got an unbelievable high from that. However, I am still Academy Manager.
“We have an FA Youth Cup tie on Tuesday night that is so important for our young players and I don’t want to be seen as jumping ship; that is not me. Those lads deserve better.
“I came in during January 2012 to setup the foundations for the Academy for the future of this Club. I’ve got under-14s and under-15s coming through who will hopefully be in our team in two or three years’ time and I’m focussing on that.
“Over the next three to five years we want to bring young players through. We have some great players in the Academy that the supporters haven’t seen yet and I want our young players to realise there is a pathway here if they are good enough.”
Lillis believes the Town job is a tempting prospect for any manager, but that they would have to fit within the Club’s current structure.
“We are ‘one club’ and the new manager that comes in must buy into that pathway that will allow our young players to come through. We want to play the same style of football throughout the Club and the new manager must buy into the ‘Huddersfield Town way’.
“It’s a great opportunity for whoever comes in, but we do need to stay in the Championship. Being in this division brings revenue in and helps my job in the Academy, because we can tell young players that are a Championship side and they have a chance of playing in our First Team.
“That process is down to the likes of Dean, Nigel and Ross. My focus at the moment is on the First Team dressing room and ensuring we are all pulling in the right direction.”
Lillis, alongside Steve Eyre, will lead the team against his former club Derby County at the weekend and he’s relishing the challenge.
“It’ll be different as we’ll be away from home and they will have 25,000 fans there. As a player you want to play in front of big crowds, so they will be up for the game.
“I played at the Baseball Ground, but more importantly I was a coach at Derby under John Gregory when they were in the Premier League. I’ll see one or two faces that I know, but at the end of the day we are there to do a job.
“We have to make sure we believe. We have to roll our sleeves up and get stuck in, but we have players who can really pass a ball and others who can beat people.
“I want our lads to be brave and pass the ball. We’re away from home, but we should have no fear. We should always try and pass forward – I’ve told the players to pass with purpose. If you watch the big Premier League sides they pass with purpose and we have to be brave in doing that.
“The players know how we want them to play and they know the system, but we also have a plan B and plan C and I trust the players to take that onto the pitch.”
Lillis and the squad will travel south today before training at the FA’s St. George’s Park complex, but one man not in the travelling party is injured striker Jermaine Beckford.
“We’ll know better tomorrow, as he is going to have a scan on his hamstring,” Lillis confirmed. “We’ll have to monitor that and our physio is calling me once we know the result. We should know more next week. As you could see the boy was distraught when he was coming off.
“Joel Lynch and Chris Atkinson are back on the training ground, which is good for me – although you can only pick 11 players!
“You don’t have to look after the starting XI; they are happy because they’re in the team. You have to look after the other guys because football can change so quickly – one week you are sat in the stands and next week you’re in the team. The key for me is keeping the squad happy and the key to that is interacting with them. I explain my decisions, which I believe is right. They might not agree with me, but I have to make decisions and I stick by them.”
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