EXCLUSIVE: New Soham boss looks to adopt high-pressing game
Newly-appointed Soham Town Rangers player-manager Robbie Mason is aiming to instil a defend-from-the-front approach during his tenure at Julius Martin Lane.
The 30-year-old was appointed on a permanent basis at the Ryman League Division One North club on Sunday following a two-game interim spell in joint charge with Will Lawton — the pair having stepped up following Robbie Nightingale and Dave Theobald’s switch to Cambridge City.
The high-pressing tactic — designed to win the ball back deep in opposition territory — is in fashion at the moment, with managers like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola deploying it at the highest level of English football.
And after causing problems for second-placed Thurrock while using a similar strategy at the weekend — a game that Soham scored in first before losing 3-1 — Mason believes it is the way forward for his team.
“I played that way under Steve Castle at Royston and that has brought a lot of success, especially this year now he has got the players in to play it,” said the experienced striker.
“We played 4-1-4-1 at Thurrock and while we will not play that every week, it worked really well.
“They could not live with us during the first half and even their manager admitted that after the game.
“To have the manager of the team in second say that shows we have the players to play that way.
“You need good wingers to play that way to turn it into a 4-3-3 when you have the ball — thankfully we have those options.
“I was very pleased with the way we pressed for 45 minutes at Thurrock. We just need to turn that into a 90-minute thing and that is something we are working on.”
Given his lack of coaching experience, news of Mason’s appointment is likely to have been a surprise to many.
The man himself has conceded that it is a scenario he initially poured scorn on, but during his two-week stint as caretaker a burning desire to try his hand at management arose.
“When I was first asked by the chairman if I wanted to apply for the job I ruled it out,” he admitted.
“But as time went on I started to think why not? It is an opportunity I might never get again and I did not want to miss out on that.
“All of the lads have been hugely supportive and that helped make my mind up as well.”
Now comes the challenge of dealing with the stresses of being a manager.
It is often said that players can shrug off defeats quickly, only switching their attention back to football when the next match arrives.
In contrast, managers are often left to stew on a negative result, while also having to juggle tasks such as player recruitment and training plans.
However, Mason, who has a young family, is confident the transition will be a smooth one.
“In terms of bad results, they really bother me as a player so that is going to be no different,” he said.
“If we have lost and I missed a good chance, that bugs me until we win and I get a goal or two.
“I am lucky because there is a great backroom team at Soham, which takes some of the worries off me.
“Obviously I will have to take a step back from the lads and look at things differently from now on.
“At home things will not change much either. I am already out a few nights because of football and while it might mean a few more phone calls, it will not be too bad.”
* For more from Mason, including his target from now until the end of the season, see this Thursday’s print edition of The Newmarket Journal.