FC Halifax Town: “We are aiming to do better but that will take a massive amount of effort” - Wild and Millington look ahead to the new season

If Pete Wild and Chris Millington have their way, the extra mile they are asking their squad to go this season will lead them into the Football League.

Friday, 2nd October 2020, 8:53 am
Pete Wild. Photo: Marcus Branston

The FC Halifax Town manager and his right-hand man have experienced a very different close season to the situation they found upon their arrival at The Shay last year.

Their not inconsiderable task then was to quickly find enough players to constitute a squad and mould them into a cohesive unit less than two weeks before the season began.

This year, before and since July’s play-off defeat at Boreham Wood, the duo have had time to plan, produce and, hopefully, perfect a squad they can call their own for the first time in their careers at senior level.

Sign up to our daily Halifax Courier Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Chris Millington. Photo: Marcus Branston

“We’ve had 12 months to learn how we want to do things and I think we’re getting closer to what we want now,” says Wild.

“The proof will be in the pudding, we’ve got to go and deliver it now.

“But I think we’ve got a switched on group of lads who know what’s required and are prepared to do that.”

Underpinning their entire approach this season is ‘go the extra mile’, a phrase Wild has constantly used when commenting on new signings.

For the Town boss, it embodies the commitment to the cause he expects from his squad.

“Go the extra mile for us means ‘will it benefit me and/or the team?’ he says.

“We want players who are committed to doing everything we want, that’s why that strapline keeps getting bandied about, because that’s what this club’s going to be about this year. Going the extra mile.

“It means ‘am I doing it for the good or myself or the team’ - that’s everything we do.

“That’s the backroom staff, that’s the players, everybody. That’s how we’re going to live our lives for the next ten months.”

”It’s about maximising our development and making sure we get the best out of everybody who’s here,” says Millington, “from the gaffer all the way down to the younger players.

“Making sure we squeeze every bit of potential out of everything we’ve got.

“That’s everything from the recruitment strategy right down to the way we design and approach our training sessions with a view to saying ‘right, how can we squeeze every bit of development out of ourselves and the group of players we’ve got around us?’

“A lot of that has been recruiting lads with the right type of attitude who want that type of environment and will naturally buy into it.”

Wild and Millington’s recruitment strategy consisted of three distinct areas - young, hungry players, players aged around their mid-20s with good levels of experience, and older players with vast experience to guide those younger heads.

“How they behave sets the culture for the group,” Wild said of the squad’s older age group, “that’s why we wanted people who set the right culture for the football club.

“They’ve been there, they know what it takes to get there and everybody else can look at them and go ‘if I want to be where they’ve been, I’ve got to behave like they behave’.

“And they continue to behave that way. It’s not a case of ‘I’ve been there and now I’m on my last pay day until I retire’.

“The older boys have got to still have that inner drive to want to succeed.

“One thing they have is that drive to continuously want to improve and succeed. That’s what we wanted from our senior players, to raise the bar and set the bar really high.”

Wild says the culture of commitment he is trying to implement extends further than turning up on time and wearing the appropriate clothing.

“It’s everything. If I need to be in early because I need to do a mobility session, then I come in early and do it.

“I don’t need praising for doing that, I just need to be in, doing what’s expected of me.

“Everybody in life has dull days, down times, where they don’t feel their best.

“We want everybody to go the extra mile and do it because they want to do it, because they know the benefits of it and we want the senior lads to be driving that forward.

“We’ve recruited players because of their attitude towards how they live their lives and how they behave.

“The recruitment’s been focused on off-the-pitch behaviour as much as it’s been on on-the-pitch behaviour.”

The success or failure of attempting to create such a culture will come down to what happens on the pitch, and Wild is hoping to see a more aggressive and assured Town side this season.

“We want to enjoy our football more, we want to impose our game on teams more,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean to say it’s going to be total football, don’t get me wrong, but we want to dominate the ball better, especially in the opponent’s half, and for more prolonged periods of time.”

”It’s much the same as what we worked towards last season,” says Millington, “which was trying to make the right decisions at the right times, understanding when we’ve got the opportunity to play and taking that opportunity, and then understanding when it requires a more direct approach.

“I think the one thing we’ve done in our recruitment is we’ve tried to balance that off and make sure we’ve got a team who are capable of dominating possession technically when the opportunity’s there, but also has the athleticism to be direct when that’s what’s required, when the time is right to get ball up the pitch and put it in the opponent’s half.

“It’s not dissimilar to what we wanted to do last year but I think the benefit we’ve had this year is the time and the freedom to be able to build a squad that we believe can do that, which was something we weren’t lucky enough to experience last year.

“But hopefully that’s what the fans will see.”

Wild is under no illusions that, with a full close season to prepare, this season’s efforts are his and Millington’s, and theirs alone.

“We will now be judged,” he says. “We’re not steering somebody else’s ship, we’ve recruited the way we wanted and the proof will now be in the pudding whether we can deliver it or not.

“We’re excited by that and we’ll work as hard as we can to make sure that we get the best results for the football club and to prove ourselves right that we made the right choices and the right decisions in terms of recruitment and how to play.

“What happened last season was last year’s team’s achievements.

“That does not give us any God given right that we will go and deliver the same this year.

“Don’t get me wrong, our aspirations are still the same, to be what we want to be, but we can’t be complacent and just think that because we were in the play-offs last year, we’re going to smoke it in the play-offs this year.

“You saw what happened to Wrexham, Fylde paid the ultimate price of being relegated, Ebbsfleet have been relegated after being on the verge of the play-offs the year before.

“We have no given right we’re going to do what we did last year. We are aiming to do better, but that will take a massive amount of effort, like it did last year.”

”It’ll be interesting to see how teams approach us off the back of last year,” says Millington, “because we’re trying to drive a new culture here whereby we move from being plucky little Halifax who occasionally get a little bit of the limelight and have a good day, to being a team that people expect to do well, expect to be up there fighting at the right end of the table.

“That’s what we’re pushing for and what we’re trying to create, so it’ll be interesting to see whether other teams approach us in that way and approach us as a team who they expect to be fighting at the top end of the division, because that in itself will pose new challenges for us.

“But without a doubt, we’ve left no stone unturned in trying to make sure that we are that serious contender, we are that team they expected to be at the right end of the division,”