Stevenage Season Preview: Revell in success?

With the 2018-19 League Two season not far away, The Football Lab spoke to Stevenage fan Callum Jackson (@BIGC1236)…

You scored three or more home goals on eight occasions last season but, remarkably, still finished 20 points shy of the play-off places. How would you explain such chronic inconsistency?

Our away form. At home we picked up 36 points but then away we managed to get just 19. Something was going horribly wrong when we left the Lamex and even sometimes when at home we would let it slip. On more than one occasion did we have a lead and the let the opposition come level with us and sometimes beat us. Hopefully the defensive overhaul will change that!

Inconsistency is often linked to inexperience. Will new midfielders Michael Timlin and Joel Byrom, who have both won promotion from this level, offer leadership?

Both players are known by Stevenage supporters. Byrom being a part of the climb to League One from Conference and Timlin a part of the Southend team that stopped us going up. Both bring different qualities and experiences. We need that as we do have quite a young midfield with the likes of McKee and Ball. Last season we tried to bring too many through too quickly without a real midfield leader. I hope that with these additions that can bring the calmness needed to the midfield whilst also developing our younger players.

Early in the summer, 18-year-old Ben Wilmot left for Watford in a deal reportedly worth a seven-figure fee. Are you pleased that income freed up the funds to bring in a more battle-hardened centre-back in Scott Cuthbert?

It was a shame to see Wilmot go as it was nice to see his freshness in the centre of defence. Having said that, a club such as us need sales like Wilmot to keep us going financially. I think Cuthbert was an excellent acquisition. I was quite surprised that Luton released him, I know he had the injury but he was also the club captain, he is a solid experienced defender who I think will tighten up our leaky defence from last season.

Cuthbert joins fellow ex-Luton teammates Jonathan Smith and Luke Wilkinson. Do you see either or both being part of the side this season?

Luke Wilkinson, I wasn’t sure if he would be a part next season and then Dino got him to sign an extension and so now I would be very surprised if he wasn’t the first choice alongside Cuthbert. Smith, I’m not so sure. Dino has made it very public that he is not a part of his plans and so if he is not sold in the transfer window I doubt he will get much playing time.

Dino Maamria clearly wants to bring a fighting spirit back to Stevenage. How might his plans impact on the more technical performers like Mark McKee?

Dino is clever. He does look like he is rebuilding the Stevenage ‘Stereotype’ of ‘Big, Strong and Physical’ but then he has kept the likes of McKee, Kennedy and has spoken highly of Luke Amos who was on loan with us last season. I think Dino will ensure he has a good balance of technical ability and the strong fighting type.

All six of Alex Revell’s goals for you last season came after the change of manager. Given that Maamria was a target man during his playing days, do you think he sees something of his old self in Revell?

I think he may possibly see some of himself in Revell, but also I feel Dino has just managed to utilise Revell and get him to play to his strengths better than Sarll did. With Danny Newton alongside him I think that helped as they were able to form a partnership. Both can hold the ball up well and then release the other, I think Dino recognised this and kind of let them roam.

New goalkeeper Paul Farman came in for a degree of criticism at Lincoln last season. How do you feel about having him as your number one?

Honestly I do not know much about Farman. I saw we were linked with him and once we signed him I looked back at some of the comments from the Lincoln manager and also the fans. Most fans seemed disappointed with him leaving the club and the Lincoln manager gave lots of praise but with a younger keeper coming through couldn’t guarantee the game time Farman wanted. Maybe after six years at Lincoln he just needed a change, a new challenge. Even without seeing much of Farman play, just based on fans comments, I feel confident with him between the sticks.

Joe Martin started 39 games last season. Do you think Johnny Hunt, who joins from Mansfield, can put some pressure on him for that left-back spot?

Similar to Jonathan Smith I feel like the main pressure for the LB or LWB position will be between Johnny Hunt and Jamal Campbell-Ryce. Dino has also transfer listed Martin and so I think he will only play when and if we are short on players.

Ronnie Henry appears to have become a cult hero despite joining from Luton four years ago. Has he made right-back and the captaincy role his own?

Ronnie may have re-joined us only four years ago but he was also an integral part of the Stevenage history before that. I do believe the Ronnie has taken the armband and the position and made it his own. Into his 30s now he sometimes looks a bit ragged but seems to find a second wind to keep going until the rest of the game. With Dino at the top and now Jon Ashton back as a coach I have no doubt that Ronnie will continue his form and maybe even step up. That being said, I think this season he may well need to keep one eye over his shoulder with Terence Vancooten and Luther Wildin fighting for a starting role.

There were suggestions that Ben Kennedy was a tad below-par last year. With wingers such as Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Emmanuel Sonupe coming in, does he have work to do to secure his place against Tranmere?

I definitely do not feel Kennedy’s position in the starting 11 is a given. He had a couple of injuries last season that I think hindered his form and flow. But he was also played more on the wing whereas previous seasons he has been given almost the number 10 role behind the forwards. I think now we will truly see how he can learn, grow and adapt. That is if he doesn’t leave us in the transfer window, as at the time of writing he is linked with a possible move away.

Stevenage aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the League Two season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

I would not even want to have a wild guess at this question. With the ‘big’ clubs getting promoted last season I feel like this season could be anyone’s! All of the clubs that remain are strengthening their squads, the clubs that have come from League One are rebuilding and the clubs from the Conference will be full of confidence! This season is wide open!

Where will you finish?

The players need to gel, they need to learn each other. If they do that quickly then the sky’s the limit, but if they take too long that could be in the wrong half of the table! I definitely do not think we will be in a relegation fight. I hope for promotion, so I think we will finish somewhere in the top 7!

COME ON BORO!!!

Thanks to Callum for his answers. The Football Lab’s verdict on Stevenage can be found on We Love Betting from late-July.