After Monday night’s bittersweet win at Kennels Lane against Mytchett Athletic, and with the final few games of the 2017-18 season imminently looming, we caught up with manager Nick Brown on what has been a “brilliant” season thus far.
“This season has been brilliant to date,” said Traco Athletic manager Nick Brown. “We set out at the start of the season with one thing in mind, promotion. When I started the club with Leon (Jelly) three seasons ago we had a clear goal set out and that was maintaining our Division One status and get promoted to the Senior Division within three years.”
The Traco boss applauds his side for how the season has unfolded, championing their “hard work and commitment”, which has been complemented by their tremendous League form this season.
“None of us expected this season to go the way it has gone. To have won all but one game in the League is something you can never assume when you start a season. To be also unbeaten in the Aldershot Divisional FA Cup and be in the final on 17 May at Aldershot Town FC is the cherry on the cake.”
Best and Worst
Best? “For me, the best game of the season was last Saturday. We moved two points clear of Laffans the week before and knew that a win would take us five points clear and almost seal the League. To go away and score seven against the team who led the table since October, and keep a clean sheet on top, was truly mind blowing. I’m still in shock now and know that some of the players were pinching themselves after. Obviously, we backed ourselves to win, but not 7-0, with one of the best performances of the season.
Worst? “The worst was, unfortunately, our exit of the League Cup. A Cup which should have been ours, as we have beaten both the finalists on multiple occasions this season. We only had a squad of 13 available for the game and four of those were injured but had to play. Every player fought hard in a close 3-2 loss, but in the end the injuries played their part and we just couldn’t find a way back into the game.”
Never complacent, Nick recognises the season is far from over, and highlights the size of the task in hand going into the final few games: “We also had a great Cup run in the Surrey County Cup, being knocked out in a close game in the Quarter Finals, so all-in-all this season has been a great success. That said, we still have a lot of work to do. A point on Saturday wins us the League against Sandhurst and then we have to meet them in the final in three weeks.”
Founded as Farnham Park in 2015, the club’s first season in the Aldershot & District League was “about cementing the team and ensuring we remained in Division One.” It was a tough season for Brown’s side, who left it to the last day of the season to clinch their fate, surviving relegation by the skin of their teeth.
The penultimate games of the 2016-17 campaign saw Traco Athletic record a string of consecutive draws, in which they very much dominated, but this killed their promotion chances and saw them finish 5th. It was a “huge improvement” on the season before yet left a “bittersweet feeling of what could have been.”
Nick explored the local area to find a new home pitch with suitable facilities and eventually struck a deal to name the club’s home pitch as the Aldershot Traction Club for 2016-17. On this point, he added: “The move to the Traco made a difference because it meant everyone could use the clubhouse after games. It brought the team together more. Being able to also train on the 3G at Cove has allowed us to train properly rather than on Hockey Carpet when we first started.”
At the start of the season, Tom Palmer accepted Nick’s invite to become his right-hand man in assisting him from the touchline for the season ahead. This followed his decision to hang up his boots for an early footballing retirement. The management duo bounce off of each other’s ideas while Tom also plays an invaluable role in using his playing experience to give greater perspective in the dressing room.
“This season has been an absolute delight, working with some of the talent in the squad has been a manager’s dream. They’ve all bought into the system I wanted to play and worked hard to achieve what we have done. All the success and credit goes to the lads, Tom and I just give them the foundations and structure but once they step over that white line it’s down to them to perform and turn everything we’ve worked on and discussed into three points.”
“This season we have been able to attract the right players for the style of football I wanted to play,” continued Nick, reflecting on what has been a fantastic season. “Credit to the lads, they have put in the hard work and commitment needed to get to where we are with four games remaining.”
Tougher challenges lie ahead, according to the man who has been touted by media officer, Morgan, as a slightly younger version of José Mourinho. “Next season the club will find itself in the Senior Division, a tough division but we are ready for the challenge. Keeping the team together will be the test because some players will be moving away to University and we have a fairly young squad. The squad has clicked this season, so we need to try and keep it together as much as we can.”
Eyeing up the Cup, Nick appeals to the wider community in gathering support for Traco’s Cup final in a few weeks: “Everything we do from now is with a view of the Cup final. We know what we have to do on Saturday to win the League but have games in hand, so we must work hard for the final and not assume our jobs are done. We need all the support we can get for the Cup final on 17 May. It would be good to see everyone come and support the team on the night and help us lift the trophy!”