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FROM THE ARCHIVES
JANUARY 1997
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WYCOMBE WANDERERS INDEPENDENT SUPPORTERS CLUB

INTERVIEW WITH JOHN GREGORY
(WWFC Manager)

Conducted by Andrea Lewis and Ian Lewis
of Wycombe Wanderers Independent Supporters Club
on Monday 16th December 1996

First published in The Wanderer Magazine December 1996
© Wycombe Wanderers Independent Supporters Club 1996

ASK YOUR QUESTION


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What are your first impressions of Wycombe Wanderers, both on and off the field?

My first impressions were of the stadium. I had been here a few times before and when the job came vacant I sneaked in a couple of times, as you well know, and I was very impressed with the stadium itself again, because I hadn't seen the new stand over the far side. That was obviously the first thing that hit me when I first came into the place, how beautiful it looked over there, with the executive boxes and so on. I was impressed with the way the place was run, because even though I had paid to get in and so on, it gave me a good opportunity to have a look at things without anyone knowing who I was, and just behind the scenes. I walked round the offices, I went into the club shop, I went to the hamburger stand and a couple of the bars and so on. Just generally had a look around the place and I thought it was a club that looked to be extremely well run and well presented. On the field I think it has been well documented that I saw the good, the bad and the ugly. I saw three matches. The first was Rotherham which we came from behind to win four goals to two, I was very impressed with the second half performance that night. Notts County was the second game when I think Steve McGavin scored after about 4 minutes then we hung on for the remainder of the game. Then I saw the disappointing display at Bristol City. So on and off the field there were lots of things I had to take into consideration. I felt that given the opportunity that I could try and improve things on the field. Off the field everything seems to be running pretty well.
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How hard was it for you to leave Aston Villa?

It was a big decision. I was very comfortable there, I had a cushy number, first team coach, I didn't really have any pressures on me to be in the job 24 hours a day, unlike now, where basically I never switch off. As first team coach you don't get to take home the pressures of selecting a side, having all those major problems. So I was very comfortable there, my brief at Villa was basically on the training ground, that was my domain, all the coaching and so on and generally making sure that everything was running smoothly at the training ground. Even down to things like in the kitchen, we had a canteen there, a dining room where everybody eats and even making sure things like that were ticking over properly. Generally the whole training ground area was mine. The way we played on a Saturday as well, obviously all the coaching sessions there. It was a cushy number, well paid, plenty of perks with it, car and so on, and all the other bits and pieces that went with it. So I had a major decision to make that when I was going to step away from that it had to be to the right club, and a lot of the people said to me that I must be foolish to leave. I might have been foolish to leave there to have gone somewhere else, but I felt that coming to Wycombe that I was going to have a good chance of coming to a good football club. You've only got to look round the place here now to know what it's like.
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Had you applied for any other positions, and what attracted you to Wycombe?

I hadn't applied for any other positions purely and simply because the ones that became available were out of my reach. I was very inexperienced as a manager obviously, any Premier League Clubs that came up would have been out of my reach, and likewise a lot of Division One Clubs would have been out of my reach as well, because of lack of experience and so on. Even though I was coming from a club like Villa, as I said in the previous answer, I had only been coach. So, in that respect I hadn't applied for any other jobs. I have sort of already answered the rest of the question previously.
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How long is your contract?

I have got 2 and half years, so I have got the remainder of this season and two seasons after that. I think it's a good period for everyone concerned, particularly for the club because I suppose they are taking a bit of a risk, well they would be taking a risk employing anybody I suppose, so we agreed on a 2 and a half year deal. It certainly gives me a chance, had it been any shorter I wouldn't have wanted to sign.
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What went wrong in your previous managerial position at Portsmouth?

I was too young really, and inexperienced. I though packing in playing which I did just before my 34th birthday and I wanted to finish on a high and all that. I finished my playing career and thought I would go straight into management. I felt I had prepared myself, but I felt I went to the wrong club, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons. I went there as an assistant, but the owner of the club was a guy called Jim Gregory (no relation to mine) but he was my former Chairman when I was a player at Queens Park Rangers, so there was bit of nepotism there I suppose, giving me the job. Six months later Alan Ball got the sack and he asked me if I wanted the Manager's job and I took it. I thought I would be able to turn it round, improve it and I wasn't ready. I wasn't able to buy and sell and manoeuvre the club round the way I wanted to do it. I wasn't given a free hand in that respect, so it was the wrong place. I shouldn't have gone there, I shouldn't have done it, but going through that experience has certainly put me in better stead for when I came here. I certainly knew what I wanted. In an obscure sort of way I'm glad it happened.
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Can you run through what is a normal day for you?

I normally get in about quarter to nine most mornings and I spend whatever time it takes to get myself sorted, normally before 10 o'clock. I try and cut the phones off at 10 o'clock, that's the last call, whatever that may be. It gives me time within that hour to get my head sorted, not only for the day but for the rest of the week. I get to talk to other managers, if I'm interested in players, or just generally to keep in touch with everybody, to find out what's going on everywhere to make sure you're not missing anything. Then probably some staff come in, we're all making sure we know everything for the day. My physio will come in at 10 o'clock and let me know exactly who's fit and not fit. The boys have to be in here at 10.15, that's the cut-off time for them. As you know, I've inherited quite a few travellers, so rather than be a complete and utter sergeant major I set 10.15 as a cut-off time. That gives them plenty of time to get in from wherever they're coming from. We start training at 11 o'clock on the dot up at Holmer Green. It's generally preparing for the morning, making sure we're well organised, that the boys do come in and we're ready to go. We know exactly what we're doing, who's training, who's not training. I've got a board on the wall with all the bodies on it to make sure we don't miss anybody. I'll organise the training, who's with who, then when the lads have finished we wind down a bit in the afternoon. Again, it's office work, there is a lot of admin we're made to do which is good in many respects because everything that is connected with this club I need to come through me so I know exactly what is going on. Most of the afternoon is taken up with that, appointments with you guys, that type of thing, the press, the media, not that there is a great deal of that, but we have to keep in touch with the Bucks Free Press, anyone else that has shown any interest in us. Obviously tomorrow night (FA Cup Replay 17/12/96) is a big night with Sky, so Martin Tyler is coming in today, just making sure he is fully aware of the players and so on. Very rare is it the same day one after the other. There is an opportunity this afternoon to get off and see a combination game, some of them kick-off at 2 o'clock, very often we get away from here sharpish, and see a combination game in the afternoon and then probably nip off somewhere again tonight. Last week myself and Richard jumped in the car and went off to Sheffield, which is bit of a slap from here, but it's part of the job. We went to Sheffield Wednesday Reserves in the first half and then after half-time we jumped in the car and went to watch Sheffield United Reserves in the second half. That's fairly normal for us, stop at a motorway cafe, grab a sandwich and a can of coke or something, shoot up to Sheffield and shoot back down again, get home at ten thirty, 11 o'clock. There's always Sky we keep in touch with through the week, pick up games at night, if we're not already out there looking. In our present position, and obviously I'm still sort of new in the job, we're still looking to improve, so we're spending a lot of time watching games, covering all angles, and if we see anything that we thing will improve the club, improve the standard, improve the team, then we will try and follow them up and see if they're available, never stand still.
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How close do you get to the players both professionally and socially?

Socially not a lot to be honest, I don't foresee that ever changing, but professionally we're very close. I would like to think we're close. We've got a good working relationship, I'm amongst them all the time which is good, but obviously I can only go so close. I was a lot closer as a coach which is normal, the coach I find always has to be somebody who can get amongst them, they can get closer than the Manager ever will, and obviously I had that in the previous job. I learnt to mix with the players a lot more, not socially, but professionally you get a little bit closer and they sometimes would rather confide in the coach than the Manager, or get the coach's opinion before approaching the Manager, that type of thing. My professional ethic is a lot stronger now as a Manager. I don't get quite as close to them as Richard would, but at the same time I don't hold any fears with them. I never have any problems with any of them, I am quite happy to sit in here with them, quite happy to sit out there with them, cups of tea and so on. We joke and laugh together, but ultimately at the end of the day we're all aiming for one thing, that is to win each and every game, so we need to be together in that respect. I don't treat any of them any differently, anyone not in the side, in my first team, they don't get any preferential treatment over anyone else, everyone is treated exactly the same. I don't walk past people in corridors and ignore them. The fact that they've had a row with me or something, anything that has got to be said we say it and then it's forgotten because we all need to work together. I will certainly never blank anybody. They are all extremely vital to me, and as you saw in the Barnet game, the cup match, we were down to the bare bones that day, in that way I will never stand anyone in a field and ignore them. I need them all and there might be the one day that I need to call on somebody that hasn't been involved for 3 months, and he suddenly comes into the side and has to play. If I've not treated him particularly nice he won't want to play for me, so I treat them all the same. They're all my little diamonds!
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How much patience do you have with players when they aren't playing well?

Not a great deal I wouldn't think, but at the same time I have to appreciate that not everyone can be 100% every week. They set their own standards. If someone plays a certain way one week and he's excellent then he's proved to me that he can play, so I expect him to reach that same standard because I know he can do it, but I don't ask things of people that they can't achieve. If people are not playing well then it's down to me to make sure that he does play well for whatever reason. One of our players didn't play as well as he could on Saturday, and he knows he didn't, but he was the first to admit it, when he came off he held his hand up and said "sorry gaffer, I just couldn't do anything right today", I said don't worry about it, it's one of those days. So I can appreciate that, but of course if that happens week in week out then they may end up not playing and will go and play in the reserves side. I have to pick the players in form. I'm prepared to wait a week or two for an indifferent performance, but generally I'm fairly impatient. I want to get there in a hurry, I want it done. It's like I can't wait for match days to come round because I get so excited about them, especially the way we've been doing OK in the last couple of weeks. I'm really looking forward to the game on Saturday at Bristol Rovers, I want to get up that league. I'm getting fed up with sitting and looking at where we are. You have to have a certain amount of patience, ultimately if you know the ability is there then it's down to me to get the best out of them.
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Do you see yourself as a disciplinarian, and if so how hard can you be when required?

I set certain standards, certain rules, certain habits that I expect them to maintain, and if they're not maintained then it's down to me to put them right. I wouldn't say I was a heavy handed disciplinarian, but at the same time the players certainly know how I feel about certain things, and I expect those standards to be reached. It's been well documented that I don't like the bare feet thing and I don't like swearing in public. We use shop-floor language in here, I'm probably one of the worst people, but at the right time and in the right places, when we're together on the pitch at the training ground and in the confines of the dressing room. The lateness thing as well. They are three things that really irritate me. I can't abide people being late, I think it's so ignorant to be honest. If someone says a time then you expect them to be there. Little things like that, that we need to be on time for things, out of respect. But disciplinarian-wise, that's about as far as it goes. I'm not heavy handed with it all, I just like them to turn up on time, like them to win our matches and don't like swearing in public. I've got kids and I know how bad it sounds. I've seen other football clubs as well. One of the biggest things I find is when we walk into another football club, the first thing you see is the YTS kids, hanging around outside the dressing room. I've walked into clubs where the YTS lads are there, they've got earrings, they've not shaven for a couple of days, they've all got different coloured tracksuits on, they're all leant up against a wall with their hands in their pockets. It portrays such a bad image for the club. I always like to think that when people walk in here they think that this is nice, it's well presented with the boys that are standing there, the YTS lads are well turned out, the footballs are clean, the dressing rooms are clean, it's well looked after and everything is where it should be. I like people to go away from here thinking that not only have we got a decent side, but it is also a well run club. I like things to be just so in many respects. I do strive for that kind of perfection. I'm just a bit old-fashioned in that respect, but I'm not heavy handed and if I need to get tough on them then I have to get tough. I get what I want in the end, whatever way I decide to go I get what I want.
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How much influence does Richard Hill have in first team matters?

Well, a lot really, he's obviously my right hand man. He hasn't worked probably with the first team as much at Reading as he is here, so he's on the learning curve as well. I didn't want a "Yes" man, that was the one thing I didn't want. I didn't want someone if I said he's a good player and he said "yes boss he is". I didn't want someone to agree with everything I said. Richard doesn't do that and that's a good thing. I could suggest another player at another club and Richard would say "I don't like him, I don't think he's good enough for us". Ultimately I can over-ride him, but it's good to have someone there who can just say to me, are you sure that's the right one, and, I don't think he's good enough. We watch the boys from the minute they walk through the door every day, we watch everything they do, we hear almost everything they say, so we're with our boys all the time. Richard is the same as me, we walk the job every day, we're up there, we see what's going on when they train, we come in here and talk about it, what was up with so-and-so this morning, he trained well, he didn't, he was rubbish, he looked like he'd been out all night. We watch everything they do in many respects. He's my eyes and ears and of course I need someone to bounce ideas off as well, and we're a very closed shop in that respect. Everything we do is kept in this room. He's got a big influence. Occasionally on match days I'll ask him which team he'd pick and he might have four different players names than me. I'd rather he did that than pick the team he thinks I would like. He's a very important member of the my staff.
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What is your favourite type of player and style of play?

Well, Platini was really my hero. He just had a certain swagger about him, he was just something else. He was fortunate in the role that he played that he didn't really have any specific jobs to do on the pitch apart from get the ball and then play. He didn't have any defensive duties. He played in a free role in many respects. Cantona is another one, funnily enough they are both French, but Cantona has a role. He has no defensive responsibilities at all, he can just go and play and enjoy himself, turn up wherever he likes on the park. They are both very fortunate to be able to do that. Platini for me was the one that I got very excited about. McManaman is another one at the moment, again he's got a free role, he can just do what he wants and he can hurt you. Then you go to the other side of it, when I went to Villa all those years ago, Andy Gray was there, he sort of became an instant hero of mine because of his attitude, the way he played, he just threw himself around. I was a Spurs fan as a kid, I was bought up on the double team back in `60-'61, they were an amazing side, they added to that the following year. The bought Jimmy Greaves back from Italy so Greavsie became the hero, he was the idol for me as a kid, he was the one that I watched. Being a Spurs fan I used to follow them everywhere I could, so I was an avid watcher of them. The Park Lane end at Tottenham I used to stand on, all them years ago. I've seen a few goals from him. He was probably my boyhood hero, the one I looked up to. Those players would tell you the sort of style of play I like, I like the free-flowing football. The French had an outstanding side in the early eighties, if you remember the `82 world cup when they got to the semi-final and got beat on penalties. They had an outstanding free-flowing side, well-balanced, I can't think of the centre-half's name, the stopper, he was a big out and out stopper. He had one or two good players round him and as he went forward there were people like Alain Giresse in midfield, Didier Six one side, Platini up front, Tigana, they were good to watch. Being European it was a bit unusual, usually that type of football came from South America. I would think the French in the early eighties used to excite me. The Germans were entirely different, straight up and down, solid, without too much flair. I like to see a bit of flair. With club football, Liverpool set standards, `70s and `80s Liverpool really epitomised everything about the style of play that I like. They had a bit of everything, but more than anything it was simplicity, two-touch football, and that's something that we're striving for here, it will take a while, but they're the standards we would like to achieve. That's why we're playing in red!!
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How difficult is it going to be to avoid relegation?

Extremely. We won the last two home games and you would think we're in the play-off position. That's the hard thing, trying to keep everyone's feet on the floor. We've got to win another eleven matches to make sure we stay up and that's going to be extremely difficult, and to stay up this season. If we continue in the same vain that we're in at the moment then we might just get there, but we're not going to be able to switch off at all. If we win another eleven matches before the end of March we might be able to enjoy the last month of the season, but if we don't get the points in the bag then it's going to have to go all the way. I'm anticipating, I'm geared up that we're going to go right to the last game of the season. Anything other than that will be a bonus. We're expecting a tough time, we've got a lot of tough matches coming up, but if we win our home games then we could be safe, but we don't know. It's away from home that's the biggest problem. We haven't won away from home all season. We've drawn three lost eight, which is appalling, but it's away from home where you win leagues, win divisions, win championships. Home games you're expected to win, away matches you're not, so you need to get a good away record going. Before I came here, one of the problems that we always had at previous clubs was that you had to win that first away match and the longer it went on the worse it got, and fortunately in the last couple of seasons we won away first or second game. Otherwise it becomes a bit of a stigma, you can't win away matches, it goes on and on and suddenly you get to December like we are now, and we still haven't won away. You start to become so negative away from home, you think you're going to lose just because you're away, and you begin to accept it.
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What really annoys you in football?

Wasting talent. That's one of my pet hates. People with talent that you don't get the best out of. Certain heroes of mine are the boring ones, the Faldo's, the Boycott's, the Steve Davies, all winners, Borg, people like that really. They have a certain amount of talent and they maximise it, they took it to extremes. Davies was one that he won a championship then he would go back on the table in the morning and practice because he wanted to win the next one. Faldo is exactly the same, even though he just won the US Masters, the next morning he was out practising and he would hit 500 golf balls at half-past eight in the morning. Boycott was the same, if he got 150 he would throw his bat across the room because he wanted 200. All those types of people who even though they won something they wanted to win it again the following year. Liverpool had that. Liverpool used to win the league championship one year and were disappointed when they came second the next year. That was the difference, they set certain standards they wanted to maintain. People that are very, very talented and abuse it, don't get to where they should do with their talent. George Best to me is not an idol of mine because of the talent that he had and he didn't maximise it. He should have been European Footballer of the Year for ten years, so to me he was a let down. He's certainly no hero of mine. There have been a lot of footballers through the years that have wasted their talent.
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Who, or what, has had the most influence on you as a person, a player and a manager?

As a person and a player, various people through my career I suppose. As a player, people like Arthur Cox, he was very influential, Terry Venables was as well, but in different ways. Arthur as a manager made you appreciate how lucky you were to be doing what you were doing. We would come in and start work at half past ten, he would just say that did we realise that some people had already been working for five hours and we were just starting, I suppose that's where the lateness thing came in. If some people had been working for five hours, why couldn't we have been in at five past ten, or even at 10 o'clock, what would we be like as a milkman or a coalman, was that what we wanted to be. He just made you appreciate how fortunate you were to be playing football. He had a major influence in certain areas, probably more as a person. I was 31 when I went to Derby and he got 2 years out of me there. I felt brilliant for 2 years and most of it was down to him. Obviously as a manager I've got certain influences from him. Venables again was a good coach and put a lot of my coaching ideas into my mind. When I was about 25 he told me to prepare for being a manager. He said don't wait until you're 38 and suddenly think `I'm going to be a manager today'. I've got reams of books where I just sat down and wrote training exercises. Richard Hill picked them up in the office here, they're all stashed away in briefcases and they're just little books where I wrote down training sessions, put a date on it and Richard noticed some were written in 1984 and that was while I was still playing. Terry had put a session on and I would go home, write it down, and I thought if I ever became a manager I might want to use it one day. We have 200 training sessions a year, 200-250 days where we have to put on a training session, rather than do the same thing every day, it's nice to have something different to do for the boys. I often go through the book, spot something, fetch it back out and use it. They all played a part at various stages and certainly some of the bad ones made an influence as well. I used to think whatever I do, don't ever let me be like that, don't ever let me talk to anyone like that. I've seen some managers absolutely humiliate players, absolutely humiliate them in front of a room full of people, and I would think then that don't ever do that. It was like standing with a big "D" on your head at school in the corner. When you're 25, 26 it doesn't have quite the same effect, you just want to stick one on them. They've played their part, I won't mention names. I remember one coach when I played at Queens Park Rangers, he came in at half-time, had only been with us about a week, and he shouted at us for ten minutes, and after the 2nd or 3rd sentence you became oblivious to what he was saying because it's just like somebody shouting at you for 10 minutes and you just don't want to listen. It's just garbage, just screaming at you, telling you that you're rubbish, telling you that you're losing 1-0. You know you're playing rubbish so you don't need someone to tell you. What you need is someone to tell you that it's only 1-0 lads, you've still got a good chance, keep playing the way you're playing, whatever, give you a kick up the backside, but in the right way.
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You have been applauded by many in the game as "one of the brightest managerial prospects in the country", how do you view these remarks?

AP built me up when I came to the club. He introduced me at the Press Conference and I thought "Oh God, follow that!!" So I've got him to blame for much of that. I'm not young, I'm 42 now, well, that's youngish. I'd have rather been in this position when I was 36 or 37, whether or not I would have been able to handle it quite as well I don't know. It's quite nice for people to say things like that, but ultimately it means bugger all if I don't produce the goods. I cannot afford to make mistakes here, like I said, I'm 42, it's not particularly old, but also it's not young, I don't think I'll get another chance if this ones not right. They are nice remarks, but they mean nothing 6 months down the line, we're bottom of the league and 20 points adrift, they mean absolutely nothing. All they do is make the people that said it look completely stupid. I've got a lot to live up to in that respect. I respect things that they have said, they're very nice, but until I produce some form of success here I've got a lot to live up to.
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What do you think of the atmosphere and supporters at Adams Park, and how to they compare to Villa?

It's difficult to compare because of size and numbers, but at the same time there is a hard core of supporters, the supporters clubs, and the members of the club. We've got, I think, an average here of around 4,500 at present, people will only go and watch successful football and I think sometimes people get the wrong idea that certain clubs have certain gates because they're a great club. It's all cobblers. If you're struggling, people don't want to come and watch. I don't want to watch a losing team. I would find it hard to go and watch a football team if I didn't think that they were going to win and the performance wasn't particularly good. If we can produce a good football team here, one that is winning first and foremost, people will come and watch us, if they like the product as well, they will come and watch us, but I think the winning thing is the important thing. If they're losing every week people won't go, no matter where you are. I would say that even the Premier League after a while if you've got a team that is struggling near the bottom, people won't come and watch. Chelsea are a club at the moment that should be packed houses every week, they're sort of finding it difficult to fill the ground each and every week, with the players that they have got and the money that the spend. I think the fans here have been terrific to me, certainly since I've come into the place. I'm obviously somewhat unknown to them but they've been brilliant to me, if I can produce a winning team then I think regardless of who's manager here, supporters will warm towards the club itself. With a winning team, a little bit of flair and entertainment as well, people will come from far afield, we will be able to pull in a little bit more than we're pulling in at the moment. You've certainly had a hard 6 months since the start of the season, not had a good start at all, so people are a bit reluctant to come if they're not going to enjoy themselves. You don't want to go anywhere where you're not going to enjoy yourself. You don't go to the Pictures to see a crap film, if you know it's crap then you won't go, same as the Theatre, if it's a crap show you won't go and watch. If you think it's going to be exciting and so on, you want to be there, be part of it. We need to improve our winning sequence and hopefully we will pull in the crowds. Supporters have been brilliant to me since I've been here, I get nice letters, I've met lots of nice people and it's a lovely club. As long as my players don't become too nice I could not be happier!!!
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In your career to date, what has been your proudest moment?

Well, a personal thing really, without a question, was putting on the England shirt. I was fortunate enough to get there, but that has to be the proudest moment. There have been one or two near misses, but that's got to be the one. I was disappointed that Mum and Dad weren't there, it happened abroad and they weren't there, obviously my wife and kids were at home. I managed to play at Wembley, that was about my 4th game, so they all managed to make it on that night. Just playing for your country, there's nothing like it, all the nostalgia bits. Then you actually get the shirt itself, it happened to me in `83, a long time ago, you didn't buy the shirts in the shops quite as much then, everyone wears them now, even wives and housewives, but all those years ago you couldn't just walk down the supermarket and buy an England shirt. To actually put it on, it was the first time I'd even touched one, ever seen one, then to actually go out and put in on.
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WWISC launched a Charter Policy earlier this year, containing an item about the quartered shirts, being that they should wear their quartered shirts both home and away, except when the team they were playing wore predominantly blue. How do you feel about this and also the return to the traditionally quartered shirts?

I've lived in this area for 15 years, just down the road, so I know of the club and it's history, and to me Wycombe Wanderers has always worn quartered shirts. If you saw one in town you knew it was a Wycombe shirt, the same as you know a Blackburn shirt and a Bristol Rovers shirt. If you were anywhere else in the country and you saw one of those things hanging in the back of the car, the mini-kits, you knew it was a Wycombe shirt. When I came to see them play the first time, they ran out in those blue shirts and for a split second I thought it might be the opposition, until I looked again and thought it must be Wycombe because of the Sky Blue. So, in my little mind, spinning around, if I happened to be successful the first thing I would try and do was get rid of that awful kit. I knew they wouldn't be happy with me, the Club, because of merchandise sales, and so on. I think it's awful, maybe navy shorts would have been slightly more acceptable, it's just not Wycombe. Wycombe is traditional quartered shirts. I know all about marketing, sometimes you have to change a strip because everyone has got a quartered shirt, you bring out a new one and it's no different from the one before. I appreciate all those things. Ultimately that is the route of it all, but to me Wycombe Wanderers is always quartered, so the sooner we can bring that back the better. I did suggest it and already I'm reading about it in the programme, about the red and navy quarters as an away strip, so we maintain the quartered theme. When someone sees a red or yellow and navy quartered shirt they will think it must be Wycombe. I would like something like that, although I've also seen something with a yellow and navy quarter at the ground, on a jumper. You can't really come away from the quarters.
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We appreciate your change in team tactics and the lack of the long-ball play, what is your football philosophy?

I think it's a mixture of both. If someone has got an opportunity to knock a 60 yard ball to put someone in to score a goal, then do it, but I want the ball played through midfield, taking it whichever way you like to get from there to there, if it only takes two passes to the goal then do it. I don't think we should be predictable, but at the same time, first and foremost, I want us to pass the ball to each other. The way I spoke about Liverpool, they were the greatest passing side in the country, and they are getting back that way as well, just playing controlled football. It's all about getting the right players to do it, but you've got to build a side, they can't all be John Barnes, can't build a team with 11 John Barnes, it wouldn't mean a thing, but there's always room for one, or two. We've got a few players who are comfortable on the ball and I shall want the ball passed through the team, but I won't say that occasionally it doesn't hurt to kick the ball from one end to the other, you have to have that air of unpredictability about your play. Generally I want a passing team, I want the ball played through midfield which is how I always played, how I thought it should be played. You can look at all the teams in the country, the world and in Europe and that is how they play. The long ball game is not for me, I won't change, regardless of what position we're in.
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What team did you support as a lad and do you have a favourite team that you follow?

Obviously Tottenham as a kid. I was brought up on them because they were the best team, well, one of the best teams in the country. The 1960 FA Cup Final was the first game I ever saw, not live, but the first game I ever took an interest in that I can recollect. Wolves beat Blackburn 3-0 I think, that was when I got the bug. The following year it was Tottenham, they were winning the League, the double, I just followed them. Then Greavsie came back, the following year Spurs won the European Cup Winners Cup in `63, beat Athletico Madrid in Rotterdam, Greavsie got 2. I just used to follow them full stop, everything was Tottenham. It was either Tottenham or Man United then. Today, I always look back at my old clubs. Obviously now I follow Villa, keep and eye on them. Leicester with Martin being there, I think we've all got an interest in Leicester, everyone at the club is keen to follow Leicester's fortune. Richard Hill is an absolute Leicester nut, not a day passes without him mentioning his beloved Leicester. My old playing clubs, Brighton were one of my clubs and they're in trouble at the moment, Northampton where I started, Queen's Park Rangers just up the road. I keep an eye on everybody, Derby who are doing so well in the Premiership this year, to everyone's surprise
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Do you have any superstitions?

No, I've grown out of them. As a player I was terrible, left boot first, I would put everything on the whole of the left side first, then the right side, then my shorts. I never put my shorts on until just before I went out of the door. I used to walk around with them in my hand until the very last minute, then just as we were going out I used to whack my shorts on. Stupid things like I would drive to the ground a certain way one day and we'd win, so I'd have to drive that way the following Saturday. I'd have U2 on in the car, I'd have to wind back to that particular track and as I went through the gates it would be "Streets Have No Name" or something, so I would have to do that exactly the same as I went through the gates next game. That was as a player, but then as a coach I started to grow out of it, it was getting ridiculous. I remember somebody saying to me when I invited him to a game, he said that we had won the last seven home games, and he hadn't seen us play at home yet and he didn't want to come. I said that did he honestly think that the fact that he was sat in the stand, all our players would know that he was there and throw the towel in, I said it doesn't happen like that, so he came to the game and we lost. We had won seven home games on the trot, he had never seen us play at home, and we lost. I purposely do the opposites now, if I wore a certain suit one week, I'll wear something else the next. There's just one little one now, the Captain's armband. I put that on on a Saturday when we're getting changed and I have that on my arm right up until kick-off when the Captain goes out and I put it on his arm then. So I've got one, just a little one, but only one at the moment.
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How do you communicate with players during a game from the bench?

Here it's slightly easier because of the lack of noise, you've only got 5,000 in the ground and it's a bit easier to talk to the boys. Really it should all be done on the training ground Monday to Friday. Communication is important, sometimes I can't wait for half-time to sit them down and get them to listen to me. During the game it's sometimes hard, you shout at the players, you're trying to explain something, then suddenly the ball has come forward and they go running off and I think "I was talking to you", so you have to be careful. It's hard, very difficult to communicate with them. You also can't tell the left-back to tell the right-back something, it never gets over there, by the time it gets to them, it's completely the opposite thing to what you said. More than anything sometimes you feel you can't stop shouting, can't stop the encouragement, kicks up the backside, whatever. In many respects you kind of become a supporter, same as you guys standing on the terrace, shouting at the players. I'm sat on the line doing exactly the same as any supporter would. You try and get certain things across to them, mainly football jargon that they would understand. You can only talk to the ones that are relatively close to you.
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What do you do in your freetime and do you have any hobbies?

I don't really get much freetime now, as I said before, as a Manager it's rare that you switch off. It occupies most of my time. I find myself driving home or to work and suddenly I'm driving through the gates. All you can think of is your team, getting things right, what the training session will be on today, and so on. I've got a little girl now of 18 months, we started a family again. I've got two grown-ups of 22 and 19, a daughter and son. With my grown-up children when they were kids I was playing, so I would take them to school in the morning, went to work, came home for a couple of hours, then pick them up again from school, so my kids don't know any different, Dad was always there, he was always home, unlike a lot of other professions where people tend not to see their kids grow up. That's why I can't get rid of them now, they don't want to leave home, cos Dad was always there. They had a brilliant childhood. To a certain degree with our little girl now, I want to be there for her, but it's obviously a lot more difficult now. I don't want to miss out on that. I was desperate for another child, a little baby daughter again and I was lucky to get one. I want to make sure I'm around with her, giving her everything the other two got. Once I'm finished here I want to get home and be with the family again, it's very important to me, I'm very much a family man in that respect. That's where I spend the majority of my time. I'm a music lover, like to get in a few shows, things like that. I've got a couple of friends in the music business which helps in getting tickets. I've got quite a music collection at home which I'm trying to get my daughter into at the moment. Other than that I like watching Sky TV, get home from here on a Saturday night and watch the Spanish football. Sundays is heaven when we're not training, I watch it all, the Nationwide at 1o'clock, then the Italian, then the Premier game at 4 o'clock, then the Spanish again.
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If you were marooned on a desert island and could take one person with you, who would it be and why, excluding your wife?

That's a hard one, if the wife doesn't count, I can't think to be honest. No, I can't answer that one. Hang on, Bruce Springsteen, there you go. I could listen to his music and he could teach me how to play the guitar. His last album was brilliant, it was a really good one, it had folk music, but he could even just sing Christmas carols, he's that good. As long as there was some electricity somewhere where we could get plugged into. He's God for me.
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If you could ask Father Christmas for any Christmas Wish, what would it be?

To get to the play-offs and win next May, that would be my Christmas wish. That's if I could have it next May as opposed to at Christmas. If I had to take it this Christmas then it would be for maximum points, to pull us up in the Division, we're in this one now and I'm obsessed with it, we've got to get out of trouble. My Christmas wish would be to get to the play-offs, win and be promoted. I've been there before, as have you guys, and there's no other feeling. To actually get promotion. To win the league, the championship would be brilliant, but to actually have the pleasure of winning the play-off and being promoted, to do it in that one game.
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Final Comment from Mr Gregory - "SKY BLUE ARMY RULES OK!!!!!"

Our thanks to John Gregory for sparing the time to do this interview with us.


First published in The Wanderer Magazine December 1996
© Wycombe Wanderers Independent Supporters Club 1996
HTML'd by Chairboys on the Net January 1997

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