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James Crawley

James Crawley writes

Posted Friday, September 18th 2020

‘Why competition in the squad is healthy’ – Downing

Keith Downing says Head Coach Dean Holden faces a “healthy problem” with such a competitive group of players at his disposal.

Kasey Palmer, Alfie Mawson, Steven Sessegnon, Ádám Nagy, Niclas Eliasson, Chris Brunt and Max O’Leary made their first starts of the season in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup Round Two tie with Northampton Town.

It was a comprehensive Robins performance as they advanced to the next round with the 4-0 win to maintain their 100% winning run in all competitions ahead of Sunday’s trip to Stoke City in the Sky Bet Championship.

Previewing the trip to the bet365 Stadium, which will be streamed exclusively on Robins TV, Assistant Head Coach Downing warned it will not always be a smooth ride and the players must be prepared to deal with the challenges ahead and the next test against the Potters.

“We are going to lose games, be sure of that, but it’s trying to lose as few as you possibly can and try to churn out performances which aren’t quite right to get points, which help you grind out a season,” Downing said. “You have to have that mentality and what’s good about this squad, as Wednesday proved, there is healthy competition.

“It’s important to keep your place, to play well and if you don’t there is someone to replace you. I think it’s healthy and respectful to have 20-22 players who are earning their right to play, if they’re playing well.

“That’s a healthy problem for Dean to select from but it’s the best problem to have, rather than having to select from only 11 players on form. Everybody is firing and pushing each other and that will certainly help us achieve what we want to achieve.”

The former Cheltenham Town and England Under-19 manager, who joined City from the FA in August, believes the foundations for a successful club have already been set but sees the “consistencies” as one way to help take the City to the next level.

“Whether that’s set-plays, levels of the game and how you play as an individual, as a team, as a unit,” he explained. “We had a huge amount of respect for Northampton and we will have a huge amount of respect for Stoke City, so the first thing is to let the players know what they’re up against.”

Downing was talking about managing over-confidence, with City on course for a fourth-straight victory should they beat Stoke.

He added: “Whatever level of football you’re up against you have to have a huge amount of respect, detail and diligence about what you’re coming up against. If we can deliver that to the players and keep working on us with our own philosophy and be consistent with a clear and healthy environment, then that (confidence management) will take care of itself.”

The experienced manager and coach, who enjoyed a double-promotion with Wolves as a midfielder, is loving his time in BS3. His arrival six weeks ago came at the same time as Paul Simpson and Dean Holden’s head coach appointment, as the club boosted their backroom experience.

“Well it couldn’t have gone any better could it?” said Downing, assessing his short time with the Robins so far. “We’ve had some fantastic results. It’s been a whirlwind six weeks, coming into it with every day being really busy, I’ve really enjoyed it being on the grass, working with the players, the staff. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and results have been fantastic.

“We’re into the first throws of it, we’re not getting carried but certainly it’s been a great start for us.”

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