Ben Garner and his team answer fan questions

A question and answer session with Ben Garner, Scott Marshall and Anthony Hayes was held at The Valley this evening, chaired by Charlotte Richardson.  All the questions had been submitted by supporters but there was no opportunity for follow-up questions from the floor. This is an attempt at a brief summary of what was said:

Q: How do you know one another ?

BG: Scott and I did our UEFA badges together about fifteen years ago. I kept in touch with him. When I went to Swindon I spoke to Reading people who spoke very highly of him. Once I got to know Anthony it was a simple decision. Both my agent and Steve Avory recommended him.

SM: I'm loving it here. I enjoy the environment Ben is creating.

AH: This is my seventh season at CAFC, having started as an under 16s coach. I am enjoying Ben's style of play and I am learning a lot. I try to come in every day and add value to the players in some way.

Q: How do you plan for each game ?

BG: We train from Tuesday through to Saturday (not a day off on Wednesday). It is about finding a balance between preparing for the specific opposition but also working on what we can do to affect the game. We have two full-time analysts and two interns who provide visual clips. During a game we can consult our IPad and react to what is happening. We have an IPad with a time delay so we can watch fifteen seconds before an incident occurs. We have to adapt, make decisions and get information to the players.

Q: How much of half time are you speaking with the players ?

BG: We speak together as a management team first and agree the key messages. We will have had radio contact with the analysts during the half and they will have prepared visuals. I do get angry sometimes but I try not to express it too often because it loses its effect. I prefer to explain why I was angry on the training ground a few days later.

Q: We have an identity now and a style of play. What needs to improve ?

BG: I've been impressed how the players have taken on board the messages we are giving them. I have felt an excitement coming back from the players.

AH: The clarity of the messages we give players is vital - both with and without the ball. The way we play now is a significant shift from previously. We have to be patient.

BG: The psychological side is vital. The players really need to believe in it. If there are setbacks their confidence can falter. Against Fleetwood we resorted to direct football too early. The players need to be mentally strong even if the supporters are getting impatient. If we don't stick at it how are we going to get better at it ? We have a lot of one to one conversations and we review moments to build confidence.

Q: Would Jayden Stockley be more effective if he had a partner in a 4-4-2 system ?

BG: It is my job to get the best out of this group. If Jayden had a partner up top we would have one less in midfield. It is about finding a balance. We started the season with only two fit centre forwards, one of whom is eighteen but we have created chances. We need to fine tune the system not rip it up.

AH: Jayden has been unlucky. He has had chances and he would admit he should have had a few goals.

Q: Do you do specialist individual training with players ?

SM: I am getting to know all the players as individuals - how they think and see the game. I try to speak in their ears at the right moment. It is also nice to hear what they think. Sometimes it can change your thinking.

Q: What is your favourite part of coaching ?

AH: I like to wake up in the morning and ask myself how I can inspire players. I want to help create an aspirational culture. I enjoy working on finishing. I also lead on set plays, so perhaps better not go into that now !

BG: I like working with the front players too. When the players split into groups I will watch one group live and the others on video later.

SM: I was a defender but I do like to coach attacking play as well.

Q: Do you regret letting Conor Washington go without a replacement ?

BG: No, because I wasn't here. We know what we want - someone with energy who can run behind off the shoulder and maintain a press. I haven't been given assurances about the January window but the recruitment team has a shortlist and I will be knocking on the door

Q: What is the toughest conversation in football ?

AH/ BG:  Releasing young players when you don't think they are good enough

SM: It is important to make sure it doesn't come as too much of a shock. You can do it respectfully and you can always stress that they can come back or make it elsewhere.

AH: Last year we released Terrell Agyemang and he's just signed for Man City. It will be interesting to see how he gets on.

Q: We have yet to score from a set piece but Barnsley have got 40% of their goals from set plays. How do you combat that?

BG: Scored two, conceded one !

AH: We need to simplify their roles and work on delivery. We must play to our strengths and work diligently to improve.

Q: You've been quoted as saying a top six finish would be an over achievement ?

BG: There are no short cuts. It is all about hard work and dedication on the training ground. We have time to make improvements and with investment in January we might surprise a few people.

Q: Has the intensity of our high press reduced ?

SM: Not according to the statistics of work rate and distances. Sometimes the opposition don't give you an opportunity to press by playing forward early. We will stick to our principles.

Q: How do you deal with the frustrations of fans ?

BG: My job is to stay calm and measured. Sometimes you can play well and lose and sometimes play poorly and win. I watched the Arsenal documentary. It was an up and down season for them but the support for the manager was phenomenal. It is bearing fruit this season.

Q: George Dobson looks a new player. How have you changed his style ?

AH: George is renowned for breaking up play. I think we have allowed him a platform to concentrate more on distribution.

Q: What are the main differences between League 2 and League 1 ?

BG: I'd like to say the referees are better but they aren't. It is a more physical league and teams are better organised to stop you playing. That is a big challenge.

SM: Players are technically and tactically better. Drills we did in League 2 look different with higher quality players.

Q: What change in the laws of the game would you like to see ?

BG: The ball is in play for about 55 minutes per game. I'd like to see the multi-ball system to speed things up.

AH: I wouldn't like to see VAR introduced. I think it takes the emotion away.

Q: Do you feel under pressure to play the youngsters ?

BG: No. I have always loved to see young players given opportunities but you can damage them by exposing them too early. Sometimes they play from necessity and sometimes they deserve their place but, if they are good enough and their attitude is right, then I am all for it.

Q: Are Miles Leaburn and Chuks better coming off the bench or as a starter ?

BG: Miles is exceptional but we have to be careful how we introduce him. I've got a lot of faith and trust in him and he has a lovely attitude to learning. It has been great to see Chuks on the grass this week. Is he going to play 90 minutes every week ? No, but I will be delighted when he is an option off the bench.

Q: How realistic is the owner's wish for European football within ten years?

SM: We all want to play at the highest level. At the moment I'm keeping my head down and working hard.

Q: If Mandela Egbo is available for Saturday will Sean Clare play in midfield ?

BG: Sean Clare has huge value because he is so versatile. I also think he has immense potential. We started the season with only three full backs (one short) and it was very difficult when two were injured. Having Mandela back on the training pitch has been huge. He is a brilliant character. Steven Sessegnon will also be available for the weekend.

Q: Will Charlie Kirk be in the squad ?

BG: Wait and see. He has been fantastic in training this week. I wanted to see a response from him after a conversation I had with him. Two or three players will have trained very well this week but won't travel to Barnsley. Two or three won't make the bench.

Q: What did you know about CAFC before you joined?

SM: Coming from Scotland I had no idea where Charlton was but I played as a youngster in a youth game at Sparrows Road. My dad told me about The Valley.

AH: I knew about CAFC's history and reputation for youth development.

BG: I knew quite a lot, having grown up in Croydon. I was aware of the Alan Curbishley years and there was quite a lot of rivalry between CAFC and Palace youth set-ups.

Q: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities?

BG: The club is just getting aligned again after all the turmoil and difficulties. The most important thing is the relationship between the fans and the players. I can assure you that you have a fantastic group of young men representing your football club.

We have an opportunity to establish an identity and a way of playing and align it with The Academy. We have an opportunity to get promoted. An opportunity to beat Stevenage and draw a Premier League club. There is an opportunity to strengthen in January. We need to be positive and build gradually.

Q: What are your non-negotiables ?

AH: Hard work. Discipline and time keeping. Respect

BG: Humility. I want players to speak to cleaning and kitchen staff with respect. I also like positivity. Energy sappers drain the room.

Q: How do you refuel ?

BG: I'm rubbish at it. I've got a book about choosing nine things to re-energise yourself and I've only done one of them. I do listen to the high performance podcast in the car every day. My parents were a great source of inspiration to me. I saw what hard work and dedication could achieve.

Q: How do you celebrate and relax  ?

SM: I spend time with my family. My girls are oblivious to the football which brings me back to earth. I play a bit of golf but not much lately. It is always on to the next game.

AH: Maybe a glass of red wine. I might manage a walk with my wife and eleven month old son. But it is relentless. By Sunday I am already planning for the next game.

BG: The best place to celebrate is in the dressing room together. Three points at least means I'll be in a good mood in Sunday morning for my wife and two daughters in Bristol.


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