New boss Simon Lane explains Wingate & Finchley’s stellar start to the season

New manager Simon Lane says a combination of improved fitness, the rapid integration of new signings and an enhanced tactical awareness is behind Wingate & Finchley’s stellar start to the season.

Lane had big shoes to fill when he replaced director of football David Norman in April, just after the Blues had secured their record points tally (67) in the Ryman League Premier Division.

However, they have won eight of their first 10 games in all competitions – most recently a lucrative FA Cup triumph on Saturday when they won 4-0 away at Long Bucky AFC in the first qualifying round.

That followed a 6-0 league win against Needham Market, leaving Wingate with 23 goals already – eight of them coming from summer signing Billy Healey.

Lane told Ham&High Sport: “You’re never 100 per cent sure what will happen but I knew the work we did in the summer, so I did expect to start well – certainly from the fitness perspective.

“The good thing in addition to that has been the new signings and how well they’ve integrated with the group.

“They had a decent year last year, the existing guys who we kept, but the new ones have really joined them well and the spirit in the group is very good.

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“I think we’ve shown a better tactical awareness too. No disrespect to [the club] last year, but I can remember seeing at least four games where Wingate & Finchley were involved and were the better side and went ahead but then lost every single one of them.

“We had one game recently, away at Needham, where they changed their formation three times and we made a couple of tactical adjustments to cope with that, and the guys did it straight away. It didn’t take us 20 minutes to organise ourselves.

“I think their appreciation of how I work tactically has improved a lot. It’s them who do it, I might have an idea but it’s them who roll it out.

“The little tweaks I make from the side, our players can adjust and that’s really refreshing with the group we’ve got – and it’s because they want to do it and they want to learn and they can see the benefit of it, so that’s good.”

Lane was certainly well prepared when he took charge at Wingate, and he believes his early arrival helped to lay the groundwork for this season’s early successes.

“I’ve been in a situation before where I’ve taken over at the end of July and it’s been very difficult,” he said. “I think the other advantage is that I watched a lot of football. I wasn’t working in football last year so I watched a lot of Ryman Premier League games and I knew who I wanted, I knew what each team had and how that would fit in with Wingate & Finchley – I watched them a few times as well so that made the transition easier.

“I like the ethos of the club in terms of how they play, how they’ve always tried to play. The surroundings and the environment to play in, the pitch, it’s tremendous.

“I also had a sense that the people were really good people to work with, and that’s been born out from day one. Everything I’ve wanted to get in place, they’ve been supportive of and it’s great.”

Lane was named the Premier Division’s Manager of the Month for August – which was swiftly followed by a 1-0 home defeat against Tonbridge Angels, the only loss of the season so far.

Given the dreaded ‘Manager of the Month Curse’ which seems to afflict so many coaches, he admits he wasn’t entirely surprised that such a proud moment was followed by a fall.

“I’m very superstitious with ladders and all that stuff, and suits and ties – I haven’t changed that,” he said. “You kind of knew that was coming.

“We were just a little bit lethargic on that day, that was all, and it had to happen. That award was tremendous but it’s a team award and it’s often said that it’s for all the volunteers. It’s for the people on the gate, the groundsman, it’s everyone who’s contributed.”

Despite Wingate’s exciting start to the campaign, Lane is refusing to get carried away and is setting a modest target – “get 50 points and see where we are.”

He is, however, aware of the value of an FA Cup run. And, while Saturday’s trip to Leatherhead and Monday’s visit to Enfield Town – both in the league – are the more pressing concerns, he will have his side fully motivated when they host Conference South side Concord Rangers next weekend.

“A cup run would be nice, but the draw is a very tough one, they’re a very streetwise outfit,” said Lane. “But it’s at home and we’re playing well so we’ll give it our best shot.

“Every penny counts, literally, and getting the £3,000 [prize money] on Saturday was vital. The players were well aware of that and we’ll do the best we can when Concord comes around.

“It’s just the principle of getting something coming in. We have real loyal supporters but they’re not in huge numbers yet and we’d like more to come. The more successful you are the more chance you have of getting people through the gates. Our budget is tiny compared to everyone else in the league, so anything that comes in will help.”