Confident Comrades are flying high as things begin to fall into place

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Berkhamsted FC have ‘turned a corner’ as they look to launch a challenge for top honours in the SSML Premier Division this season, according to coach Tommy Garratt.

The Comrades have been in somewhat of a period of transition at the start of this season, with Garratt and team manager Andy Stratford coming in at the helm, with long-serving boss Mick Vipond also adding his insight.

They’re such a talented group and it’s really tough competition this year which is always good. There’s a lot of pressure that comes with getting in the team and so far they’ve dealt with it well.

Berkhamsted FC coach Tommy Garratt

But, following an inconsistent beginning to the campaign, Garratt believes that the new-look Comrades management team is starting to find the winning formula.

“Both Andrew (Stratford) and myself have been busy as a unit pushing the players’ fitness and concentration levels when fatigued, as it seemed to us that little mistakes were costing us goals at the end of the games,” said Garratt. “We seem to have turned a corner, touch wood!

“Fortunately, this year we’ve got young Josh Hart on the coaching staff who looks at the player-analysis side.

“We’ve since sat down a number of times with video evidence and have shown the players what we’re seeing from the sidelines. We’ve then gone back onto the training field to correct things we felt needed improving.

“Having this available has been really key to justifying to players what we’re asking them; there’s no argument with video.”

Berko are currently enjoying a five-game unbeaten run, including a 5-1 victory at Oxhey Jets on Saturday, and Garratt was full of praise for the unity within the squad at present.

“Andrew and I have seen the squad grow stronger together in the last few weeks and the atmosphere around the place is buoyant,” he said.

“The boys know they need to train hard and bide their time to get a chance in the team, then when that chance arrives, to take it. It’s a strong squad and we’re extremely happy with it.

“The result at the weekend showed that. None of the boys moaned, no-one put any notion of negativity into the game and we beat a rejuvenated Oxhey side 5-1.

“Seventeen-year-old George Carberry started again and again impressed us all massively; if he continues his work-rate and application like he’s doing, we’ll be doing well to keep hold of him this year.”

Next up for Berko is an FA Vase clash with Northampton ON Chenecks at Broadwater on Saturday (k/o 3pm) – a tie which the Comrades are eagerly anticipating.

“The club has, as always, some important games coming up and none more so than the FA Vase on Saturday,” said Garratt. “Our opposition Northampton ON Chenecks put out Sun Sports, who came very close to beating us this season, in the earlier round.

“But like I always tell the lads, it’s about what we bring to the table – on our day that squad is capable of beating anyone.

“They’re such a talented group and it’s really tough competition this year which is always good. There’s a lot of pressure that comes with getting in the team and so far they’ve dealt with it well.”

Garratt continued: “I’ve not looked at the league table since the opening week and I don’t really care who’s top or bottom right now, all I know is that our job is getting the very best out of the team every single game.

“If we do that we’ll no doubt have a great season but right now it’s one foot in front of the other and we’ll continue to work hard in training and take each game as it comes.”

Berko have brought in some experienced faces this season, and Garratt was full of praise for ex-Kings Langley man Nick Jackson, as well as club captain Jim Baldry.

“Nick Jackson has been another important signing for us and has fitted into the team well as you’d expect with someone of his calibre, having captained Kings Langley to the league title last season.

“We’ve also announced Jim Baldry as this year’s club captain. Jim is one of those people that players look up to and both Andrew and I can bounce ideas and thoughts off him and get a straight-talking, sensible answer.

“I like that in a person; you know where you stand and it enables you to make the necessary changes to improve quickly.

“Jim’s worked extremely hard over the close season with his fitness and I’m extremely happy to see him playing the way he has been – it’s a just reward for him to take the responsibly of the captaincy.

“Injury-wise, we had 12 players injured or unavailable on Saturday, and the day when everyone is fit and available Mick (Vipond), Andrew (Stratford) and I are going to have some very difficult decisions to make. I look forward to that day!

“We’re are, though, slowly seeing players return, with Adiel Mannion getting his first competitive minutes this season on Saturday and capping it with a goal, which none of us were surprised with as he always adds a goalscoring threat when on the pitch.

“Ed Canham, who has been missing with injury for a month, returned and played 90 minutes with the development side; we’ll see how he’s feeling this week and make a decision then.

“Lewis Rodrigoe is still a couple of weeks away, as is Jamie Gavin. Dales Sears, who adds a vital element to the team, is still struggling with work commitments but Josh Chamberlain should hopefully be fit this week as will Jermaine Mitchelle, who has been extremely impressive in the heart of midfield with Max Farrelly this season.”