BBFA ST; Rangers stalwart confident his team are on upward Slope

Saturday 6th October 2018

Grendon Rangers v Hanslope

Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy 2nd Round

The Village Hall

K.O. 3.00pm

Grendon Rangers under somewhat of a revolution have a great opportunity on Saturday to progress in the Berks & Bucks senior trophy as they host North Bucks & District side Hanslope. Currently enjoying a three game unbeaten run, which includes their penalty shoot-out win at much fancied Pitstone & Ivinghoe in the previous round, Rangers now look ahead to facing a side from a level below and who are yet to win this season but this seasons competition has already thrown a few banana skins meaning Grendon must tread carefully.

Stuart Leonard

This week Sports Shots caught up with defender Stuart Leonard to ask if he feels the club has finally settled down since the new management took over in the summer:

It does, we have gone through a few tough times in recent seasons with managerial changes & player turnover, and managers playing whilst managing, which we did for much of last year which was not ideal! The committee here are great and they work tirelessly to ensure the club continues to move forward, Steve (Jackman) and Alan (Ostler) have come in and have a clear plan for what they want to achieve and already they have the ‘buy in’ from the players, which is half the battle. The players are reacting well and gaining a great deal from Steve’s experiences of higher level football & all of us are learning in training

How does the Grendon legend feel he has started the season?

The gaffer has come in and put his faith in quite a few of the players who have been here for a while, whilst bringing in some positive additions, so it’s nice to get the opportunity. I probably didn’t expect to still be playing at my age, but I still have a drive to improve and help the team, and really enjoy playing and working hard in training, & also helping the younger players if they need it, it seems a long time ago from signing for the club for Scott Reynolds, but it’s still very enjoyable.  We have a fairly settled back four at the moment & Jason Riddell & I have a good understanding, but we need to ensure that continues as competition for places is strong and you’re only as good as your last performance, which defensively against Pitstone was not as good as it should have been

The club suffered three heavy defeats in their first four games of the season, how does Stuart remember those games?

Realistically, like most other sides, early season results can be hit & miss given player availability, holidays and the cricket season. I didn’t play in the games against New Bradwell or Bovingdon, but we learnt a lot from these and have used them to help our recent results. The game against Amersham we went with a bare eleven & battled hard, which is all we could ask for on the night against higher level opponents. The win over Mursley showed us we can compete with good sides in the division and that we can do well this season

Since then the club are unbeaten including two eye catching wins at Pitstone, how were those games?

It was pleasing to go through on penalties in the first game & beating one of the higher placed teams in the division, which gave us confidence for the Tring game where we were well worth the win. Last time out, we went down to ten men on the hour mark and Pitstone scored almost immediately, so we illustrated our team spirit to come back and get the win, where we were under pressure for long periods. The pleasing things from the gaffer’s point of view is that we were able to adapt to the situation and produced quality in the final third of the pitch at the right time. Defensively we have generally been good, but we looked lacklustre at times against Pitstone, so we need to ensure we work hard on that

On to county cup matters this week against a side from a lower league, how dangerous is it to under estimate these fixtures:

All games are the same regardless of what league you’re in or where you are in that league. Hanslope beat a good New Bradwell team to get this far, so we approach the game as any other in terms of attitude & application

Does it feel like the squad is now more settled and the season is properly underway, or are there still areas of caution to be wary of?

Definitely more settled, availability is key to this which dictates the strength of the side and the bench. We have a clear way that Steve & Alan want us to play, and we work on this in each training session. There is much better competition for places this year which is a good thing to have, as this pushes players in both training & during matches to produce their best and not be complacent

Which players have stuck out for Stuart so far?

We have a stronger squad this season with additions from higher levels. Sol Janecki has shone in the centre midfield role so far, giving us added energy and goals, including a great hatrick against Pitstone. Mohammed Adam who was recommended to us by Scott Reynolds from Aylesbury FC is a real livewire with real pace, and with guidance & experience can become a really good goal scorer. Young Jack Bonson in his first introduction to senior football is also another good talented lad and has played well when his opportunities have come along. We have a lot more attacking threats this season with the quality we have brought in, so as defenders it’s down to us to do our basics well & give these boys their chance to shine in the final third

Finally, we asked how important is it to have that local feel to a lower level non-league football club?

It’s not necessarily the way these days and it’s not always essential, but in our case having Steve at the club where he started, and being a Grendon lad had had a hugely positive impact on everyone in and around the club. He has remained true to the ethos of the club and has brought in players who have made a positive impact, as opposed to flooding it with people who move around from club to club. We are a club who try to remain true to our roots of giving all local players the opportunity to play football and this is something that we will continue to do

Sports Shots would like to thank Stuart for his time this week

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