FC Halifax Town: "What's got us here is hard work, determination and effort. That's still the narrative," says Wild

No-one can doubt the progress that has been made at FC Halifax Town under Pete Wild.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 9:18 am
Pete Wild. Photo: Marcus Branston

When he was appointed as Town's new manager on July 24, 2019 - the same day that fellow blonde bombshell Boris Johnson became Prime Minister - the club was badly in need of a lift.

Halifax had finished 16th the previous season, comfortably clear of the relegation zone but also far adrift of being promotion contenders.

Nearly two-and-a-half years on, Town are an established top ten side, with a play-off finish in Wild's first season, and are currently just three points off top spot in the National League after 14 games.

Pete Wild and Chris Millington

"There's lots of lessons gone on along the way and I think there's still more lessons to be learned. We never stop learning," says Wild.

"But I think one of the things we've tried to do here is learn from the league and what makes a good team in this league, learn what players understand and can implement at this level and then be brave enough to try them out, knowing that some of our ideas won't work.

"But I'd rather be brave and fail trying than just keeping doing what we've always done.

"I think that's what we've done here, is try to evolve."

Town's evolution under Wild certainly seems to have gone up another level this season.

An attractive, fluid playing style is deeply embedded in the team, with players suited to what is being asked of them, scoring some finely-crafted goal at one end and keeping them out at the other.

Clubs with more cash down the back of their sofas than Town have in their savings account are looking up enviously at The Shaymen's superb start.

"I thought recruitment was the hardest it's been this summer, to try and attract players to come to us," said Wild.

"We seem to have attracted a young, hungry bunch.

"Maybe there was some scepticism around 'where's the experience this year?', 'where this, that and the other' and I think we've quashed all that.

"I think a lot of credit has to go to the staff for the robust performance model that we've created here, and the fact that we're living it every day.

"I think the first year here was crisis management, last year was about building and this year's about trying to develop and deliver on what we've seen and the experiences we've had.

"Another big credit has to go to the players because we can have all the plans in the world but if we don't have receptive players who are receptive to what we're trying to get across to them, then it doesn't work.

"I think we've got a real humble, receptive group this year that are desperate to do well for themselves and the football club, because they see us as a pathway to hopefully the club being in the Football League but hopefully further their careers."

When asked what has pleased him most about the start to the season, Wild said: "I just think how hard we work with and without the ball, I think we work so hard to stifle teams, and we work on when we get teams low, try and suffocate them and keep them low, so we're then not defending on the edge of our own box.

"We've done lots and lots of work on that and I think you're seeing that bear fruit now, that we can suffocate teams when we get them low, and they can't get out against us.

"Again, that's massive credit to the coaching staff and massive credit to the players for taking on board and implementing that information."

One particularly impressive aspect of The Shaymen's season so far has been their defensive record - before Saturday's goal-fest against Maidenhead - with eight clean sheets in their last 11 matches and the joint-best defence in the National League.

"The less teams are at the other end of the pitch, the less opportunities they have to hurt us," said Wild.

"We try and dominate the football, one because we want to try and score, but two, because the less they have it, the better.

"The way the team's defended our own box against teams who put a lot of pressure on us, and probably looked at us and thought 'the way you get at Halifax is they're a good footballing side but can they stand up to the aggressive nature of being in the box?' and Bromley used a comment they were going to bully us on set-pieces, but I don't think they did that once.

"All these things take time though, and credit has to go to the chairman for giving us the time to implement what we want to do.

"Football is an industry where, if it's not going well, you just change the toy, and that's quite easy to do.

"But what we've been afforded here is time to build.

"The teams that always do well are the teams that have got continuity, and time to build. The teams that change their manager every six months, but might have the cash to do so, that might work in the short-term, but in the long-term, it won't.

"So credit has to go to the chairman for giving us that time.

"But that's because we now have a strong performance model that allows us to recruit players that fit the model.

"I'll use Elliot Newby as an example, we know who to go after because we know Elliot Newby suits our model, so why wouldn't we go after him?

"It makes recruitment easier because we know the types of player we're going after, and I think that's because we've had to build what we want to build here."

Town's start has fans dreaming that this might be their year when a longed-for return to the Football League could be on the cards.

"We just don't get carried away, we're one game at a time, that's one of the things we agreed with the players, we just keep doing what we're doing," Wild said.

"There'll be a bump in the road along the way, of course there will, there is for every team.

"But it's about remaining true to ourselves when we have that bump and not trying to change, not being distracted by outside noise.

"We have a way of working here and the utter madness would be to change that, we have to remain clear to what we are and who we are, live those values every day and hopefully that will see us right across the season.

"Expectations will always heighten. When you look at when we came here, it was 'please keep us in the league', now everybody's calling for my head if we're below tenth in the league.

"So expectations rise, but we can't get cocky or arrogant as staff, players or fans, we've got to keep working hard.

"What's got us here is hard work, determination and effort. That's still the narrative.

"We're lucky that there's not, in inverted commas, the pressure that there is of other teams around us.

"But I fully understand that people now expect a little bit more from us than they used to, that's fine, but we won't change because expectations have risen, we'll keep doing what has got us here.

"Why throw away what's got us here? I won't be doing that."

The big question now is whether The Shaymen can maintain such an impressive start.

"Seasons evolve, at this time of the season it's about getting as many points on the board as you possibly can, and then when you come to February, March, you look where you are and go 'right, where are we going now?' said Wild.

"We know teams will strengthen as we go across the year, that's one of the upsides, or downsides, of this league is that they can keep strengthening until they get it right.

"But we pride ourselves on a good dressing room, good teams have good dressing rooms, we pride ourselves on a tactically aware plan and we pride ourselves on a professional attitude to what we do.

"I think all those are bearing fruit at the moment.

"I'm not bothered about what goes on down the road, I'm bothered about what goes on here."

And Wild says there is some money available to strengthen his squad further if need be.

"We have, if needed, when necessary. I'm not going to go and bring people in just for the sake of it because that just causes me and the group more problems," he said.

"I think we're fully versed at the moment in every position, and as and when we see fit we'll look to strengthen."