FC Halifax Town: Assistant boss Millington isn’t getting carried away by Shaymen’s superb start

Action from FC Halifax Town v Harrogate, at the Shay, Halifax. Pictured is Chris Millington
Action from FC Halifax Town v Harrogate, at the Shay, Halifax. Pictured is Chris Millington

As one half of the management team who have propelled FC Halifax Town to within a point of the National League summit, Chris Millington could be forgiven for a celebratory pat on the back.

Not a bit of it. For the Halifax assistant manager, results and league position are a by-product of performances, his preferred indicator of success.

Millington, like the team he and Pete Wild have forged, is calm and considered.

“If the lads are working as hard as they can, they’re as committed as they can be and they’re trying their best to implement our game plan, then we believe the results will take care of themselves,” he said.

“If we were rock bottom then I might find it more difficult to be so philosophical, and I might have to look at the league table a bit more.

“But our conversations are mostly about performance; what went well, what do we need to do better and what areas can we most benefit from improving?

“They’re the type of things we talk about on a day-to-day basis. We rarely look at league tables or how other teams are doing.

“We’ll assess opposition on a game-by-game basis and keep an eye on styles of play, but the league standings are low on our list of priorities.”

Despite Town sitting only one place and point off top spot in the National League, Millington is satisfied rather than delighted with their start.

“We’ve started reasonably well. In terms of results we’re probably ahead of where most people would expect us to be,” he said.

“In terms of performance, we’ve been solid, difficult to beat for the most part with one or two exceptions.

“We started off as a team that worked a lot around the counter-attack and now we’re starting to develop the other side of our game where we maintain possession in the opposition half and starting to show signs of being able to break teams down when they sit in against us.

“From a coaching perspective it’s progressing nicely, but I still feel there’s a lot more to come from us and I think we can get better.

“We want to be a versatile, well-rounded team, one who can sit in, defend deep, hit on the counter-attack.

“But also one who can press and win the ball high up the pitch, and maintain possession in the opposition half.

“We’re reasonably well organised for the stage we’re at, we’ve got a clear identity in terms of our ability to get men behind the ball and defend our own box. The lads put everything on the line to try and nullify opposition attacks.

“In possession, we’re quite considered. The lads recognise when to attack quickly, and when we need to be a bit more patient with the ball.

“I think we can get better at our defensive side of the game, at counter-attacking and building possession through the thirds.

“We’re in a good place but there’s definitely more to come.”

Has Halifax’s remarkable first two months of the campaign altered Wild and Millington’s approach?

“The definition of starting well is maybe different for different people,” he said. “My definition is the fact we’re starting to play in the way that me and the gaffer have in our heads.

“We’re seeing things on the pitch that we’re working towards during the week.

“If we weren’t seeing those things, then we would maybe have to look at how we’re training the lads and find better ways of getting that information across and getting those behaviours out on a matchday.

“What we’d be tweaking is the method of coaching, but the rest of what we’re doing probably wouldn’t change.

“That would only be if the attitude of the lads wasn’t right, but they’re so good. They’re dead keen, they work hard, they want to get better.”

Town have used a 4-2-3-1 formation so far this season, but Millington says that system is fluid and can adapt to different variations.

“We’re open to changing it,” he said. “It depends on the personnel we’ve got available.

“We’ve got a clear identity in terms of the 4-2-3-1 but that formation can easily become a 4-5-1 if we need to get in-behind the ball, or a 4-3-3 if we want to be more attack-minded, or a 4-4-2.

“The lads understand that there’s flexibility within that depending on what’s happening in the game and what our objective is in that moment.

“On paper, it’s 4-2-3-1 but there is flexibility in that and hopefully you’ll recognise little changes within the games when we become more offensive, or we drop in and look to be harder to break down.”

Saturday’s game at Maidenhead will be Halifax’s 15th of the season, which will be around a third of the way through the league campaign.

Millington is averse to looking too far ahead, but is confident The Shaymen can maintain the form they have shown.

“We look at it game-by-game, assess the upcoming opposition, how our strengths can undermine their weaknesses and how their strengths might be used against us,” he said.

“Our players are fantastic, we’ve got a lot of good ability, there’s a determination and a steel about them which means we can make ourselves difficult to beat.

“Longer-term I don’t see why the level of performance should change a great deal.

“Certain things will change as we get into winter. We might have to be a bit more considered about what areas of the pitch we look to play in, we might have to address things tactically.

“But the group we’ve got, their willingness and our approach to how we want to keep moving forward, I don’t see why the performances shouldn’t continue to be fairly good.

“I think there’s definitely more to come from us.”

Millington said he and Wild have enjoyed their first couple of months at The Shay.

He added: “The lads are a pleasure to work with, hard working, honest, reliable, hungry to get better.

“The chairman’s been great with us, very supportive and very helpful.

“The fans are brilliant. The fact we’ve got them willing to travel to Dover, the fact they’re turning up in such numbers at home and away.

“I hope they’re enjoying what they’re seeing because the lads do work at it, and me and the gaffer will give everything we can to maintain performances.

“It’s a really good environment to come to work in, and I hope the fans see that on a matchday.”