Welcome to our First Team Manager's blog page, where Jamie Byatt (Busy) will provide regular updates on his thoughts, and views on our first team squad and many other aspects of what is going on around the club.
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Tooting & Mitcham v Knaphill
24th February 2024
Good afternoon everybody, and welcome to todays league fixture with Knaphill.
Once again, I find myself writing my notes without being able to refer to the latest game we have played. That is because, due to printing deadlines, I need to get these done before our trip to AFC Croydon Athletic so, hopefully when you’re reading this, we’ll have got that victory for you.
As the final whistle blew against Abbey Rangers on Saturday, we had banked another three points, and that took our recent run to five wins out of six. This latest triumph was by far our best performance of the season. We went into it with a lot of belief after a hard-fought win last Tuesday against a very good Cobham side. In each of those games Shay Brennan and Mario Quiassaca were both on the scoresheet and they are developing into a very formidable partnership. Both of them work so well off the ball together, which sets the tone for the rest of the team. You could see the determination almost growing through the lads as the game went on and that is why it became such a complete and satisfying afternoon.
There was a hunger, desire and intelligence about the way we played. Our boys just didn’t allow Abbey to settle on the ball, got in their faces throughout the game - in a fair way - and showed amazing character. They got the ball forward quickly, and were a constant threat to the home team. The back four were fantastic, in securing another clean-sheet (I should say back five because, of course, Jack Minchin gave another very commanding display between the sticks). Andy and Lewis have developed into a very formidable partnership, but the whole squad that day - along with my management team and you, the supporters, who gave such good vocal encouragement - played their part in coming together to make such a great day. The trick now, of course, is to keep this going - results like that breed confidence and make us all determined to put the hard work in to achieve more days like that. It is particularly satisfying given the run of results we suffered in a very troublesome November and December.
I was just so happy as a manager after that game, that I didn’t even bother with some of the post-match duties which I usually indulge in well into a Saturday night. I just went home and we went out for some quality family-time - it is important to switch off sometimes and give something back to those who make such sacrifices for me. We had a lovely evening together (and, yes, I won the bowling - which helped LoL). That’s why I love football, the happiness it can give you when the hard work pays off.
Today we know we are going to face a very difficult task against a quality Knaphill side, but if the players continue to show the same level of commitment, hard work and intelligence they can grow stronger and more victories will be savoured. We are all up for this, to try our hardest to get a result. With the trip to Farnham looming next Saturday, we know these are now the biggest tests for us as a group. That is why I am in football - to compete, to be tested; this is what drives me because winning football matches is the greatest feeling, but it is never handed to you on a plate - you have to put the work in to get the rewards. If it were easy, then we’d all be Premier League managers now, and the game would be boring, wouldn’t it? Enjoy the match.
“We cannot be perfect, but we can strive to be excellent”
Tooting & Mitcham v Cobham
13th February 2024
Welcome everybody to this midweek game under the lights as we welcome Cobham to Imperial Fields.
We go into tonight's game with three wins out of four since our return after our New Year ‘break’. We had a great result against Fleet here winning 5-0 which represented a very complete performance from the boys.
Unfortunately, in a very tight game against Balham, we came away with nothing which disappointed me greatly because we had several chances to make it 2-0 which might have been decisive. It was a game that could have gone either way once they pegged us back to 1-1, but when we went behind my players didn’t give up and showed a fighting spirit which I give them great credit for. A draw in the end would probably have been a fair result, but I’m disappointed we didn’t get the win, to be honest - I always want the win!
Thankfully, we managed to get it on Saturday against Camberley, although we made heavy weather of it in the later stages - it was similar to the Balham game in that regard; chances had been there for the taking which would have helped us to see the game out, but the boys dug in defensively, especially against the main weapon that Camberley had - their long throws. Jack made a great save late on which was as good as scoring a goal as that helped us to bank the three points.
All in all, considering what happened towards the tail end of last year with so much bad luck, injuries, illnesses, suspensions, players travelling home for Christmas etc. I am very pleased with the way we have turned things around. Those early year postponements have probably gone a long way to helping keep us refreshed, the players trained hard during that period and we’re starting to see the benefits now.
I’ve brought in some new additions to the squad, and they have helped us in areas myself and my management team identified as needing to be strengthened. Everybody is a lot more positive and upbeat, and the vibe around the club is good. We will, of course, continue to work hard and make sure we are ready to compete week in, week out and try to improve each time out. Please keep up the tremendous support - it really does help us through some sticky patches, such as the later stages on Saturday.
“We cannot be perfect, but we can strive to be excellent.”
Up the Terrors!
Tooting & Mitcham v Fleet Town
27th January 2024
Happy New Year everybody, and thank you for attending todays game between Tooting & Mitcham United and Fleet Town FC - our first home game of 2024.
We go into the new year in a positive frame of mind, even though we had a very tough December. Results have not been good enough, and this is something myself and my management team have been working very hard to put right. We really struggled, especially during the Christmas fixtures, with many players down with COVID, injury problems and other illnesses took their toll, and we also missed key players due to suspensions and some travelling home to see their families for the festive period. It was just my luck as manager to have to contend with these issues!
We returned afresh in January, with a squad free of illness, determined to start the new year in positive mode and get some points on the board. However, we have been thwarted in our efforts by factors beyond our control - mainly the weather, but also (ironically on a milder weekend) by Cobham’s continued participation in the FA Vase, that fixture taking precedence on the weekend our league game was scheduled to be played.
I’m writing these notes before the midweek fixture against Colliers Wood, but hopefully we’ve taken something there and given ourselves a platform to build on this afternoon.
We have signed some players to give us quality in areas we have identified as problematic, and hopefully they will give us the boost that we need. The whole squad has been training hard, and we have been working on some new ideas which we believe will help us turn the corner. Despite recent results, there is a very positive feeling within the squad, and I am very happy with everybodys application - especially with so many U23 playes joining in our training sessions. They have integrated well, and their attitudes have been excellent, which has pleased me greatly.
“We cannot be perfect, but we can strive to be excellent.”
Up the Terrors!
Tooting & Mitcham v Colliers Wood United
23rd December 2023
Welcome, everybody, to our last home game of 2023, and we fittingly end the year with a local derby against our near-neighbours Colliers Wood United FC.
I’m writing these notes before Tuesday’s game against AFC Croydon Athletic as the print deadlines are tighter as we run up to Christmas, but hopefully we’ll have given a good account of ourselves there, and gone some way to wiping the slate clean after last weekends game against Horley Town.
We went into that match in very good spirits; the players were up for it after a good week with the squad, but we went behind when Horley benefitted from a huge slice of luck and a wicked deflection that wrongfooted our new goalkeeper Jack Minchin on his debut for us. Horley had started well, and had the better of us in midfield early on but the guys settled and began to get their heads together when we fell behind. Deji really came into the game and he was our catalyst as we started to play a bit. I was very disappointed with the referee, who failed to deal with a Horley player after a clear and dangerous elbow on Callum - punishing the offence with only a yellow card. Then, in the second half, Callum was a victim of a two-footed challenge, which I’m sure the referee would have dealt with but Callum was frustrated and retaliated which resulted in a straight red card! This disappointed me, because it shows a lack of discipline and this has cost us before. We really need to cut this out and I am trying to take steps to do so. However, it would be easier to eradicate if the referee had been on top of the game a lot earlier. Had he stamped down on a couple of the first half incidents then I don’t think our frustration would have boiled over. But, at the end of the day, we must be responsible for our own actions; be ready for challenges such as this and be intelligent enough to keep our heads in the face of provocation.
In the second half, especially after the dismissal, we did work hard and eventually got the equaliser through Blake Loyza, but almost immediately gave away a free-kick which was whipped in, evaded everyone and that was that - three points to Horley.
The message is simple - sort out our discipline, focus on our jobs, keep supporting and pushing each other to be the best that we can be and things WILL get better, I have no doubt about that.
Before I turn my attentions to Christmas and the New Year, I would like to say something about some of the comments that go around on Social Media. It is very disappointing for me, my management team, and the players seeing some of the things written on these pages when things aren’t going well; it doesn’t help at all for us to read some of the comments so I would ask you all to try and keep things positive going forward because the level of work behind the scenes is incredible, and I don’t think people understand this. It is very frustrating - we know when something has gone wrong and we try to deal with the problems and learn from them. It is my job as the Manager to know what needs doing, and I am working very hard for the club and for you - the fans. There are a lot of genuine people who come and support us at games and if they have a question to ask about something, I am always there in the bar afterwards and will answer to anybody who comes up and wishes to speak to me directly. I will always be transparent, and honest; those of you who attended the fan’s forum back in September will understand. Of course, everybody is entitled to their opinions, but some of that which is written goes beyond constructive comments.
So here we are, two days before Christmas Day - the ideal time for loved ones to come together, so I would like to say a big thank you to some people at the club. Thank you to Steve and Jackie for all your support - you have been a massive help to me and I am very grateful to you for the confidence you have shown in me - both through good times and tough times - your belief in me drives me forward and helps me to keep striving to do my very best for this club.
Thank you to Nick Shaw, Chris Woolley and Edward Parlett for their constant support and hard work.
To all the staff at Tooting & Mitcham - Emily, Daria, Luke, Josh etc. - thank you for all your hard work and efforts, and to Ric the Groundsman for looking after the pitch for us and giving us a good surface to play on. Thank you also to the Member’s Club and the Supporter’s Club for all their help and support. Thank you to all the stewards, and the volunteers who give their time on matchdays to ensure we are able to put games on. Also to the supporters who follow us through thick and thin, home and away - your dedication is amazing and the noise you make is truly something. It means an awful lot to us all.
I would like to say a make a special mention of my partner, Kirsty, who is my rock both at home and now at the football club, too; she works very hard and has been bringing some great ideas to the club. For me, it really feels like one big family working together for the good of Tooting & Mitcham.
Also to the Academy team - Dan, Ashley, Tony, Miguel etc. - a massive thank you to you for your support, and a big thank you to all on my management team for all their hard work, and - of course - to my players for their dedication, continued commitment and hard work too.
Lastly, I would like to say a big thank you to all of our sponsors for their continued support for Tooting & Mitcham United. I would like to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
“We cannot be perfect, but we can strive to be excellent”.
Up the Terrors!
Tooting & Mitcham v Horley Town
16th December 2023
(Blog written by Assistant Manager John O'Conner)
Game day! You can’t beat a good football match on a Saturday, so welcome to you all as we take on Horley Town today.
I love a good Rocky movie - Sly getting hit with plenty of punches, blood everywhere, his eyes all closed up, face smashed to bits - no hope for him! He lost his big fight to Apollo Creed but we all fell instantly in love with Rocky, because he just wouldn’t give in. He proved all the doubters and the critics wrong. In aother outing, he gave an inspirational speech : “It’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” The human mind and mental condition is something to behold when faced with adversity, but true leaders don’t give up; people who have that fighting spirit but also the patience to try and make the right decisions at the correct times, and learn from those decisions that don’t work out. To keep moving forward, and show a ‘never give up’ mentality in both victory and defeat because, as the Gaffer says - ‘you can never be perfect but you can strive to be excellent’.
When I managed in the past, I was sometimes more annoyed with my team after winning a game, and sometimes so proud of them in defeat - it’s a weird feeling that! Winning helps, obviously, but you can always look to where you can improve and, conversely, there is often much to be taken from a setback. defeat doesn’t automatically mean you did everything wrong - you can extract and build on the positives. It is never a case of ignoring the problems, because that is impossible to do when you are feeling the pain inside of you - it absolutely ruins your weekend, your time with those closest to you, and you even feel the need to stay away from Social Media because the negativity can often only bury you more into despair - and that is not healthy for anyone. But, like Rocky Balboa, you take the hits as they are doled out, absorb the lessons that come with them, and return to the fray for more, to show you have learned the lesson and are prepared to undertake the hard work to improve Last Saturday saw a coming together of management, staff, supporters and volunteers - united in their desire to get the pitch playable. It was touch and go whether their efforts would have been enough, but thankfully we got the game on. It was a great feeling of coming together with everyone pulling to achieve the desired outcome.
The result of the game was, unfortunately, not what we would have wanted but - again - there were positives to be taken, plenty of them before the late decisions which led to us surrendering our grip on the points. These moments in football can definitely change things, and that they did. Tadley were given a lift while we were left to rue the vagaries of football once again. Should we go nuts on our return to the Changing Room? “No need’, says the Gaffer; we sit everybody down, and talk about the 90 minutes productively and proactively. There is a realisation and an acceptance of the areas where the issues were, with no room for excuses or recriminations. The players had a night out planned and we saw no reason to deny them this opportunity to relax together. It turned into a great night for them, players dancing, bonding, singing - sticking together. Sometimes this is needed - a bond that is crucial, and can build an unbreakable spirit and we saw that on the Monday night against Carshalton.
There was an instant difference despite the tiredness that still prevailed from the weekend. Some changes to the starting line-up were necessary to counter the heavy legs, and some squad players stepped up to the plate as we went toe-to-toe with a good Step 3 side in Carshalton. PASSION, PURE PASSION was to the fore in that first half, a reflection on the character that Jamie is bringing to the club as we took the lead and more than matched our hosts. In the end, Carshalton stepped up the pressure in the second half, but we kept fighting right to the final whistle and that bodes well for the second half of our season. If we can take that fighting spirit going forward, build on the bond that they are creating and feed off the support we are getting from you - the FANS! - who are backing us every step of the way and applauding the boys from the pitch. The players care, the management cares, the fans care - we all care SO MUCH and are desperate to win. Enjoy todays game, everybody, as we strive to do just that.
Tooting & Mitcham v Tadley-Calleva
8th December 2023
We have a very busy December schedule with seven games in four weeks - two cup matches, and five league outings.
With no game last Saturday, we are back in league action and we know this will be a tough outing. Tadley sit just above us in the table, and our encounter at Barlows Park in September was a very tightly contested affair, which we managed to nick with a late goal. They’re a good side, and do not give up easily, so I must make sure the team are prepared and ready today.
I was disappointed with the Epsom & Ewell and Redhill games, especially on the goals we conceded. We need to tighten up at the back again, and be harder to break down. We need to be savvy with when to play out from the back, and when to adopt a more direct approach; finding that balance in the right decisions collectively.
The Cobham game was also disappointing, because we didn’t get the win that we wanted, the game finishing 2-2. We had a good structure to how we wanted to play and, even though there are areas to improve on, I found many positives and on the back of the last two league games I’ll take that point, as both sides will feel they should have won the game, especially near the end when both had good chances to take the points in the dying minutes. I suppose under those circumstances, a draw is fair. A huge thanks to all the supporters who have been singing throughout games, always coming in the bar afterwards even after a few bad results. It’s so good that you stay around to clap the players, and it is good to see you in the bar, having a drink after the games. All the support is very much appreciated by all of us.
As you’ll have seen, there are one or two people who have decided to move on, and I wish them all the best. Obviously, a few new people have come in also and there’ll be more in the future when the right quality becomes available. I know what’s important for the club and the fans. I’m patient in what is the right thing to do on and off the pitch, and we want what the fans want. They know this. A great question was asked at the forum: ‘what do we see as success?’ Well, to start with it is getting people together at the club, entertaining the fans - it is good to see them smiling, new faces coming, and old faces coming back. Seeing the lads work hard even when results are not great but most people understand the full rebuilding process of a squad - “If a wall gets knocked down, you must rebuild it starting with the first brick.”
I must make a special mention of the youngsters who have been doing really well in training with the first team. It’s the right environment to have them around, and when the opportunity arises, give them an outing in the first team squad. There is some great talent there, you only have to look at the results the U23s and U18s have been getting. Please do go along and give them your support. You’ll find fixture information on the website as well as our Social Media channels.
“We cannot be perfect, but we can strive to be excellent”.
Up the Terrors!
Tooting & Mitcham v Redhill FC
18th November 2023
We go into the game with a big point to prove to ourselves after last Saturday’s defeat to Epsom & Ewell. First of all, I’d like to apologise to all our supporters, as this performance was by no means acceptable. The team and myself have set ourselves higher standards than that and we fell well short on the day. I knew Epsom & Ewell would be up for the game, and with a recent change in management and some experienced players brought in, I thought they might find their feet quickly and so they have under Steve Springett - all credit must go to him.
The first half performance was lacklustre and we found ourselves 1-0 down from a corner. That angered me, as Mark had identified these set-plays as one of their strengths having scouted them. Yet they still took advantage exactly in the way Mark described and that frustrates me very much as we didn’t implement the necessary defensive tactics he had set out for us. Still, 1-0 down at half-time is not something we haven’t overcome before but this time it was not to be. I did tell the players that eventually a half-time deficit would come back to bite us, and that proved to be the case, though not without controversy. Jayden Hutchings was, in my view, wrongly dismissed for a challenge that was turned into something worse than it was by the reaction of the players around the referee. It was almost identical to a situation in the first-half where an Epsom player put in a challenge on Sonic, yet only a yellow card was issued. To sum up both of those challenges - either they were both worthy only of a yellow card, or both a red. Anyway, it changed the game for us as Jayden has been in excellent form and with him gone, it affected the balance and shape of our side.
Their second goal was then the killer blow to an already difficult situation - a back-pass that evaded Tom in goal. Once that went in you could feel it wasn’t going to be our day; we’d created only one shot on target ourselves! Their third was a well-worked move and secured them the points late on.
There were one or two positives - some good individual performances, such as James Reed who got the man-of-the-match award. James shows relentless courage and has a great fighting spirit all over the pitch. I expect much from him and believe he will get even better as he develops.
I want to thank those fans who stuck around after the game and created a good atmosphere in the bar. There were some words of understanding and support and it helps give us all the strength to get through the rest of the weekend - especially for me that day, as I was suffering heavily from illness. I don’t take defeat very well, especially if my team have not worked hard enough or played with the intelligence I know they’re capable of - but there’s no point dwelling on it; myself, JOC and Mark had a sit down and a good chat and identified the areas we need to work on. We always evaluate these things as a team and acknowledge that there are definitely ways in which we can improve. Any manager working for success must always strive for improvement, in victory or defeat.
I must make a special mention to Ed Parlett, our programme editor who reached a milestone birthday recently - 50 years! I was delighted to present him with a signed ball at the end of the game which he was very happy with. I hope you had a great birthday, Ed, and love also to Lisa and Bailey! Thank you for all your hard work, it is greatly appreciated by us all.
Finally, I would like to wish Sam Orisatoki all the best for the future as he leaves us. Sam felt it was time to move on and I respect his honesty and decision. I cannot fault him for the commitment he has shown since the start of pre-season. He had to drive a considerable distance each week to train and play with us. He has always been respectful and humble, and best of luck to him. Thank you, Sam.
“We cannot be perfect but we can strive to be excellent”.