Coughlin on discipline, tactics and the cups

Earlier this week we caught up with first-team boss John Coughlin to pose to him a number of questions sent in via our social media channels.

Having already answered a number of questions based around his plans for the team this season, thoughts on what the bookies make of the team’s chances and where he’ll be looking to improve prior to the season’s start, the boss admitted that he wasn’t sure what to make of criticism that tactics last campaign were too negative.

“I think if you asked the players, they’d tell you otherwise. I try set us up to win every match – and of course, there is more than one way to win a game. But, the Hawick defeat apart, my biggest disappointment was the way we conceded goals so easily and I would hold the view that any successful team starts from the back.

Coughlin believes his team simply didn’t play well enough in the back end of last season.

“If we can get that part right then it gives us a great platform to win games. For the majority of weeks following (Jordyn) Sheerin’s departure, we played with two strikers in Rutherford and Murrell, and also usually had Thomson, Lavery and McKenna in the side.

“But early in the season, we just couldn’t find a strike partnership that would work. I think we had enough going forward to win games in the second half. I didn’t try to complicate things tactically – I just don’t think we played well enough when it mattered.

“Our shape this season will be entirely dependent on the players we bring into the club. We have worked on one in particular which reflects the way in which the squad is developing – I suppose you’ll have to come to pre-season games to make your own mind up on the tactical implications of that!”

Having touched upon pre-season work, Coughlin continued: “The boys have been working hard. We only get 10 training sessions in before we start matches, so time is precious.

“Unfortunately, it is holiday time for some players and that’s something out of our control. Players don’t get paid during this period so there are no penalties on their end. Work and family requirements can dictate that this is the only time they can take it – ultimately it is down to them.

“The important thing is that I’ve been able to sign players who can breathe life into us. I’m looking forward to the start of the season – even if it does look daunting on paper. After last season, I’m aware how important it is that we start well, and like all managers I’m looking for the fans to help support us in doing that – I’m confident the young group we have would respond well to that.”

This season, Coughlin will be relying on a few experienced heads within the squad to help guide his budding players through games, and John has promoted both Steven Notman and Pat Scullion into player-coach roles, demonstrating the trust he has in his senior players.

Pat Scullion has been promoted to the role of player/coach along with Steven Notman.

When asked why as many players were retained at the end of last season, Coughlin expanded: “Seven players were on two year deals and are entering their last season. I think the players I’m bringing in will motivate them to improve.

“Football is fairly simple. Play well and keep the jersey, or deal with the alternative. I’m not one for picking people on reputation or geography unless my hands are tied by other factors such as suspensions.  

“We might have to be more selective when signing players who have a history of injuries at previous clubs, but we also have to improve our discipline. It’s been a massive problem.

“We’ve got players who are costing us games and money in fines. I fine them and they continue to offend – to me, that shows a shocking disregard for the club, its supporters and their own team mates.

“Last season we had 10 red card. Most came in the first half of the season and whilst I increased the fines, it hasn’t fully cured the issue.

“Prior to rejoining Berwick I’d hardly had to fine players. I don’t like doing it, but I don’t have many options open to me. The alternative is leaving them out for more games which can continue to hurt the team.

“What I will say after my experiences last season though, is that I’m not opposed to parting company with any individual that continues to impair my team’s chances of winning.”

Coughlin finishes by offering his view on the recent cup draws, the latest of which saw Berwick handed an away trip to Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park to take on their Colts team in IRN BRU Cup 1st Round action.

“It could have been better for us. Having to travel to Ayrshire on a Tuesday night isn’t ideal for part-time players, but it is a draw which gives us a chance of progression.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to take on full-time teams last year in the BetFred Cup, but we were on our knees by the time it’d had finished – the Morton game really took it’s toll on players after going down to 10 men.

“It’s probably a tournament geared towards the full-time clubs, but hopefully we can improve on last year’s performances. I think the new format is something fresh for the players and anything that makes the tournament more exciting is fine by me.

“That said, it’s a shame we drew Edinburgh City in our group – I think four games in a season against any one club is more than enough!”