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Sunday, May 08, 2016

From The Archives - Turner Reviews 2003/04 Season


BN looks back to May 2004 and an interview Graham Turner gave to the OS about the 2003/04 season which still remains one of the favourites during the time Turner was in charge.

Graham Turner has spoken exclusively to the club's official website and looked back at the memorable 2003/04 campaign. Although, the season was to eventually end in desperate disappointment, the style of football played by his team was second to none in the Conference and was the best seen at Edgar Street in many, many years.

First though, he focuses on the season that has just been completed and explains that he feels his squad can be very proud of the way they performed. “It is taking us a long time to get over the disappointment of losing in the way that we did but it will get easier with time I'm sure. In the dressing room following the game we were shell-shocked and it really was a desperate scene to survey. To come so far and get so close was heartbreaking and the only thing I can compare it with was our relegation back in 1997. It was that sort of empty feeling and you really don't know what to say and whatever I said to the players just felt hollow.

“However, since that game the amount of letters we've received has been fantastic and they really have acted as a great boost to our morale. Our own fans have been magnificent, telling us what a great season that we'd had and what pleasure they'd got from the football we'd played, but we've also received many letters from the supporters of other clubs praising us for our efforts. They've said that we were a credit to our club and to the Conference as a whole, whilst many have said that we were the best team they saw all season. That sort of thing doesn't make up for the disappointment of missing out, but it does make you feel that your efforts were at least worthwhile.

“I think we certainly entertained during the season and our attacking play will take some repeating, as will the amount of goals we scored. With the players we had here we knew we could play in a certain way, what we didn't know was whether the players could actually take that style in to matches and dominate. Pleasingly, on the vast majority of occasions we managed to do this and though we did slip up from time to time, to perform the way we did so often was a really fantastic effort.

“The players were keen to learn and took on board everything we said and then went out and expressed themselves. We encouraged them to do that but the way they played was probably beyond our expectations at times. Some of our attacking play was fantastic and we were able to pull teams apart with our pace and athleticism, and not least our technical ability. Unfortunately we just fell short in terms of catching Chester , but congratulations and full credit to them as they were worthy winners of the Conference this season. It took a very good, well-organised team to pip us and I wish Mark Wright and his team all the best next year and hope they fly the flag for the Conference as well and Doncaster and Yeovil have.

“Probably our most memorable performances were the ones at Dagenham and Forest Green and at home to Aldershot and Halifax in the League, as these showed what our style of play was all about. We played at a high tempo and created chance after chance and on those days our opponents couldn't live with us. The Aldershot game was much tighter than the other three, but even then we showed great character and played some great stuff to come back from two down early on to snatch a winner in injury time.

“When we finally get over the disappointment of our play-off defeat we will be able to look back with satisfaction to the season we had, but nothing will ever take away the bitter taste that the penalty shoot-out defeat to Aldershot left us with. I have nothing but respect for Terry Brown and his club because they have done fantastically well to rise in the way that they have, but it will take some time for us to get over the manner of our exit. If we had lost to his side on a day when it seemed a fair contest then I think we could all live with that, but to have our chances of progressing reduced significantly in the way that they were really has been difficult to come to terms with."

The Bulls boss then moved on to talk about the play-off defeat against Aldershot specifically and, with the pain and anger still very much evident in his voice, went into great detail about the events of that fateful day. “It's still a sickener and it is still painful to go back over things. Basically we always knew that the games against Aldershot were going to be tight, you just hope that the games reach a natural conclusion rather than with an outside influence having a big say. Unfortunately that was not the case, and though no blame whatsoever can be attached to Terry Brown and his team, we will always feel hard done by when we look back at the game.

“During my career I've always been someone who has tried to keep his counsel about referees and even on the day, post match I kept myself in check as much as I could. I realise what a hard job referees have and that is why mistakes are always going to happen. I think in football we learn to accept that, now and again, important decisions go against you and, though you're obviously not happy about it, you know it will happen from time to time. “However, on this occasion in the case of Andy Tretton's red card, for the referee to get a decision of such magnitude so badly wrong, really has been hard to take. Whether we'd have won the game with eleven men we'll never know, but what we can safely say is that by being on the receiving end of that decision, we had the odds heavily stacked against us when we shouldn't have had.

Having watched the video many times now, I just cannot for the life of me find a way that that incident should have been punished with a sending off. It's probably a yellow card because Andy did get caught out, but if you sit back and look at the incident, I would challenge anyone to tell me that their player is denied a clear goal scoring opportunity and at the end of the day that is what he has been sent off for. “Not only would their forward have had to have caught the ball, which is doubtful to start with as Matt Baker is on his way out to try and collect it, he would then have had to have cut in on goal, avoiding Tony James who was in a great position to come over and cover, and then managed to get his shot off on goal. With these points in mind, you explain to me how an incident that has that so many variables in it is a clear goal scoring opportunity. To say that the replays have only cemented my view is an understatement – I just cannot believe that any referee can make such an inept decision in such a crucial game.

“I actually try not to put too much emphasis on refs before a match and therefore didn't realise until afterwards who this one was. Post match I learned that he was the same ref that did our home game against Tamworth back in December. We deservedly lost that game but his performance that day was atrocious. He sent Ryan Green off for two yellows cards back then but as far as we were concerned, the two incidents combined were hardly worth one. “Following that game I was that unhappy with his performance that I actually wrote a fairly scathing letter to the League explaining that I didn't think he was up to the job. I can't help but wonder whether that was a mistake looking back now. There are stories throughout the season about this official and I find it irritating that he was put in charge of such an important match at a crucial stage of the season.

“I didn't speak to him after the game here for fear about what I might have said, but from the moment he turned up here at 1pm, I am told that he was nothing short of arrogant with the people who he dealt with. He seemed to be looking forward to taking centre stage and let's be honest about it - he wasn't disappointed was he? I don't like talking about referees but everything that I've learned about this one has only added to my annoyance about the way that day went for us. “He makes such an important decision and gets it wrong, yet then appears to have no understanding of what he has done. I suppose it doesn't affect him the following day in the way it does us though does it? “To then rub further salt into our wounds, he then has the nerve to send us a bill for damage that was ‘allegedly' done to his car outside our ground and I have to say that just about topped the whole incident off.

“The game itself was completely turned on its head by the dismissal but I still felt we competed well against a very good side for the following 100 minutes. Our players were understandably out on their feet at the end and that made the penalty defeat even harder to bear after they had given everything they had to make up for their reduced numbers. “The only criticism I can have of my players is that they didn't make enough of the clear-cut chances we created, especially the first half ones, and in the end that may have cost us. However, teams miss chances with their full compliment of players just as Aldershot did on the day; it was just that in our situation we really could have done without having to play all the extra time.”

Having got the above thoughts of his chest, Turner then rounded off his look back at the 2003/04 season by paying tribute to the squad of players he put together. “I can't speak highly enough of everyone who played their part during the campaign we've just completed. The coaching and playing staff all contributed greatly and whether an individual player featured in 40 games or just 4, each and every one of them did their bit. The loan players like Tamika and Anwar were excellent for us as were the likes of Simon Travis, Rob Betts and Mark Beesley who joined us at different stages during the season.
They came in and fitted in straight away and that's all you can ask. “The team spirit we developed was fantastic too and that was something that was very important in the tighter matches we played. Certainly a lot of our incredible end of season run was down to our team spirit and it's still difficult to believe that Chester held off our run of eleven straight wins to clinch the title. That's why they deserve all the credit though and as I said, they were certainly worthy Conference Champions.

“From our own point of view the season can certainly be seen as memorable, although it will always be marred by our play-off failure at the end. Our fans were fantastic once again and it was great that we were able to give them plenty to cheer about. We were gutted for them that we couldn't go all the way but hopefully, with the right additions this summer, we can build again and bounce back from the disappointment by going that one step further and clinching promotion next time round.”