Ask The Gaffa


First Team Manager Paul Smith recently announced an, ''Ask the Gaffa'' session asking fans to send in any questions they had.

Trevor Edwards asked: ''In view of the financial restraints on grassroots football clubs will you have to lose some contracted players and secondly can you see yourself picking a few up on the cheap?''

Paul replied, ''Hello Mr Edwards, Although grassroots football like all walks of life, is going through a terrible time at the moment, as a club we are in a good place. That’s not by luck, but by the work put in by our two owners. Fantastic football people who are very astute business people too. They love the club and put the clubs best interests ahead of anything else. They have rebuilt the club off the field to a point that we will be looking to continue where we left off upon our return.

If anything we will be looking at having more contracted players this year. Stability is vital for all concerned if you want to reach optimum performance levels. You get the best out of the players if they are settled. You get the best out of a group the longer they are together, and as importantly the fans/player interaction that I feel is vital has more chance of evolving with a nucleus of a squad for the whole season.

Although I understand your angle on the second part of the question regarding attracting players on the cheap, its not one I agree with. Again wanting to get the best out of players its important they don’t feel undervalued, so I’m the sort of manager that will try and get the best deals possible for any player coming in. That said they must fall into a certain character to be given the opportunity in the first place.

The recruitment process will be a lot easier this year than last. Players want to be a part of clubs doing well. In my humble opinion there are not many in a better position on or off the pitch at the moment than ours.

Peter Hannah asked: ''First of all, just to say also a massive thank you for the effort you, your coaching staff and all the players have given over the past season, as a huge fan of this wonderful club, I must say what an absolute pleasure it has been to see an attractive, dedicated team model, portray some wonderful football on the field, but more so a professional, respectful attitude of it too! How would you like to see the remainder of the FA Trophy played out this season, providing the FA complete the competition? i.e.; to complete in the current format = home and away semi-finals, a one legged semi, or a mini tournament, similar to the plans of the Champions league?''

Paul replied, ''Hello Mr Hannah,Many thanks for your kind words. I’m delighted you have enjoyed the season.

If the world was ideal I would like the trophy to be finished in its current format. That being a two legged semi-final, followed by a finals day with both the trophy and vase still being played on the same day. I would now do it as a season opener though. Very similar to the charity shield. There is no rush to get it finished with only the semi finals and final left to play. The trophy is the biggest single competition for non-league football. I feel its paramount that being this deep into the competition that’s its finished, to keep the integrity of the competition intact.''

Nick Garner asked: ''Would you ever leave us to go down the road to our noisy No9 derby neighbours?''

Paul replied, ''Hello Mr Garner, I’ve had a wonderful time since I arrived at the club, and in a very short space of time have built up a fantastic rapport with the fans. Keith Mckenna, Karen Brookes and I have a goal, that’s to take this great club into the conference. It’s going to take a huge amount of work and planning but I feel its achievable. Ive found a club and people that match my ambition. I want to be here for a long time and achieve our goal. That’s all my focus is about right now.  It’s a huge project and I’m doing it with honest, hardworking people I wouldn’t want to be at any other club right now.''

Liam Jones asked: ''What are your key principles for building a team that can perform and achieve success?''

Paul replied, ''Hello Mr Jones,Not wanting to give too much away! I base my management around the three P,s. Preparation. Professionalism and Performance.

Our preparation involves opposition analysis from scouting and videos, identifying strengths and weaknesses, then performance related training sessions to negate their strengths and capitalise on their weaknesses.

I demand a professional work ethic from staff and players alike. I think it’s vital that to achieve success you must go about your business in a professional manner. Timekeeping, appearance, etiquette's, etc etc.

Performance, its all well and good supplying players with everything they need to win a game, what’s crucial though is they take responsibility for that performance before its happened. That’s easier said than done.''

Andy Crampton asked: ''What's your favourite song that the Yeltz fans sing and what would be your England line up if the Euros were going ahead?''


Paul replied, '' Hello Mr Crampton, My favourite Yeltz song is a tough one, as there are so many. I really am amazed at just how many different ones there are. The best answer I can give is any of the ones that are directed at any of the players. I always look for anything that might get me an extra percent or two out of the players, the songs do just that they love them.

My England line up if everyone was fit would be in a 3/5/2 and would be… Pickford,  Gomez, Maguire, Stones. Alexander-Arnold, Chilwell, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Grealish, Sterling, Kane.''

Dave DJ  Johnson asked: ''Although the authorities may wish to think the 2019-20 season never happened, many Yeltz fans disagree and will retain their fantastic memories. Will the season’s achievements still be marked by awarding end-of-season trophies to the players (i.e. those that would normally be presented at an Awards Evening in May)?

 Secondly, will the player (and manager!) stats for 2019-20, such as Appearances and Goals Scored, be reflected in the official club records going forward?''

Paul replied, ''Hello Mr Johnson, I completely agree, I think our season has been too memorable for it all just to disappear. Talks with the club are at an early stage but we are all in agreement that a presentation night will be happening, with various awards being handed out. Obviously no firm details can be released as it stands. As soon as we can then we will, and it would be great to see as many Yeltz fans come and enjoy the evening.

Secondly again my personal view is they should stand in the clubs records. Huge amounts of work have gone into the season and it would be sad if those involved couldn’t look back at that in years to come.''

Wayne Homer asked: ''What is your approach to playing young players in the first team and will the planned revamp of the youth set up be a key source of players in the future?''

Paul replied, ''Hello Mr Homer, My approach with the youth team players is simple. If they are good enough then they play. As soon as I arrived I started to bring the youth set ups and first team closer together. A joint pre season took place and a number of friendlies involved a mix of the clubs age groups. Off the top of my head youth team players Brad Ward, Emlyn Tudgay, Joab Wheatley have all featured for the first team this season as has young Jack Holmes from Burton. I get to as many youth team games as possible in order to keep a close eye on progression.

I feel the working relationship between all age groups will move closer still once we are all training together at our new training facility. My hope now that our first team coaches have taken over the academy, is that will also start to push players towards the first team.

I’m a huge advocate of there being a clear and transparent pathway for young players from youth football to first team, so long as they have the drive and determination to succeed.''

Seamus asked: ''At Premier League level certain managers have a style or team shape they want to follow, and because of budget etc, will get players to fit into that model. At our level of non-league can that approach be followed or do we need to follow more of an methodology which says bring in the best players we can, then find a shape/style which brings the best out of them all?''

Paul replied, ''Hello Seamus, Firstly I hope you don’t mind me calling you Seamus, unfortunately I haven’t been sent your surname.

I think it’s a very good question.I don’t think its quite as simple as you make it sound.

I feel as a team at any level one of your biggest strengths should be adaptability. Different opposition will bring different strengths and weaknesses week on week. If you want to beat all sides in the league you play in, there must be a modicum of adaptability within your mindset, shape and squad. In my humble opinion I think its arrogant and naive for any side to think this is what we do and how we do it and we will beat everybody.

It would take me far too long to tell you what I look for and how I try to achieve it, I would send you to sleep! Trying to put it in a nutshell….I try to bring together a group of good footballers who are genuine and hardworking, that are eager to listen, learn and improve. If you can do that, it’s a great start. Its then about building and instilling a team mentality that is stronger than any individual. You then have the raw ingredients to mould and form, given the right information and training,  a team that will be able to succeed.''




Jack Knowles asked: '' Who are the top 3 players you have had the privilege to work with?''

Paul replied, ''Hello Mr Knowles, A very tough question that could mean so many different things.

Although I have some fantastic players now, some Ive had for a number of years. Some would definitely get in my top three overall players so far. I don’t think it fair I pick from my current group. So I will go with players that have played for me previously.

I will give you three players that have been fantastic players for me and all for different reasons, in no particular order.


  1. Jason Cowley..  A striker with a huge amount of natural ability, but unlike most he also has his work rate, hunger and desire, that is second to none that I have ever seen. A fantastic down to earth lad that I hope goes on to big things.

  2. Aaron Roberts... He will be the first to say there are better players than him,  but simply put once he stepped over that white line, no matter what was going on in his personal life,  no matter how intimidating an atmosphere, or team you were playing he would give me and his team mates everything. He wore his heart on his sleeve and at times got himself in trouble, but if I had to put my life in the hands of one of my players to win one tackle to save it he would be the man.

  3. Sam Wills… A player that makes the game look so easy, a player that should have played a lot higher than he has. He would do things and score goals, make passes from nothing. He had a true talent, I only wish he believed in himself as much as I did, he could have gone far.''

Tim Bullock asked: ''We've seen some incredible games this season but which, as manager, would you say was our most pleasing team performance?

Paul replied, ''Hello Mr Bullock, We’ve been spoilt haven’t we!

There have been some incredible performances and individual displays, its why as I've stated in a previous question I don’t think this season should be forgotten. To name the single best performance is a tough one and I will go onto that in a minute. I think it important though to mention the best half of football that we put in this season. Easily the second half away at Maidenhead on a freezing cold Tuesday night.

Simply put it was scintillating.

We were lucky not to come in at half time 5-2 down and out. Brendan Bunn was magnificent on the night. We made two substitutions at half time and changed the shape. Sometimes it works and as a manager you look like Jurgen Klopp, other times it doesn’t and you look like you couldn’t manage the dog and duck on a Sunday morning! We started the second half like a train and got even better as the half went on. Fantastic result that no one apart from some in our inner circles could imagine. It was the one that started to make some others believe we could beat anyone.

Stamford away was a big performance for me as a manager, we arrived late and those that know me will vouch I hate preparation not being perfect.  To go there midweek in a replay, arriving late and then to carry out the instructions I gave the boys to a tee was a credit to the players.

My most pleasing performance and result hands down was Halifax away in the Trophy. High flying Halifax, just won team of the month in the conference, sat third in the league looking for promotion to the football league.

To go there and perform as well as we did, to not concede and win was the most satisfying result of the season. As in every game I demand so much in our preparation, in the days leading up to the game I tinkered with selection and shape over and over again in my head, a hunch but more importantly my scout Steve McGinn’s detailed report made my mind up for me. He deserves a lot of credit.''

Thank you to all you amazing Yeltz fans for taking time to ask Paul your questions and thank you to the Gaffa for replying, we hope to see you all again at the Grove very soon, in the meantime please stay safe.

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