Interview With Sam Dexter

Sam Dexter chats to Evan Seaman about summer recruitment, and  what’s in store for the upcoming season. 


Following on from Ilkley Town’s landmark season in the North-West Counties Division One North, how much are you looking forward to the new campaign?

I am really looking forward to it, the start of any season is always exciting, and this is one is no different. Our main aim is to get the players as sharp as possible whilst remaining injury free so we start the season with the squad at itsstrongest. We know we are in for another tough season as we continue in our aim to establish ourselves at step 6, but I have every faith in the players that we can meet the goals we set ourselves.

The Pre-Season friendlies also kick off at the start of July, how have you been preparing for them?

Our pre season training schedule starts next week and it will be great to get back with the players. We have 4 sessions before our first game, so it gives us a decent amount of time to focus on the basics. For most players there is always a certain amount of trepidation when coming into pre-season as the training usually revolves around fitness and conditioning, and although this is true to a certain extent, we always create sessions that focus on intense practices with the ball instead of endless running. It’s important that the players enjoy the sessions and not dread them, and I think we deliver on that.

Some of the friendlies include higher league opposition such as Thackley and Knaresborough. Do you think this will be good preparation for when the league season starts?

Absolutely, that is the reason why we have arranged these fixtures. It is so important that we continue to test ourselves against higher opposition who are going to make us work harder and push us further to increase our intensity levels and ultimately make our decision-making process quicker under pressure. It’s a great way for our coaching staff to see how our players respond, do they embrace the challenge and raise their individual levels? Or do they go into their shell against higher opposition? Either way we get valuable insight into our players mentality and where they are at collectively and individually.

The summer is always a time for speculation regarding transfers, so how has summer recruitment been for your team so far? Has there been many incomings/outgoings?

Recruitment is hugely important for any club in the summer,and we are no different. It’s important for us to keep the squad fresh and to recruit players who will fit in with the current group and improve us on the pitch. Recruiting the right players in the right areas is essential to improve us and to encourage the whole squad to raise their individual levels. I have been planning the areas we needed to strengthen and identifying potential targets since January, and we have invited these players into pre-season with us. It is important we attract the right type of character who fit with our principles and who see the value in what we do. Come the 1stof July we hope that it is us that they decide to sign for.

What areas are you looking to improve on to try and better last season’s finish?

I think the glaring and obvious ones are our consistency of performance over 90 minutes and our away form. We lost 15 games by 1 goal last season, and this is an area we must improve on if we are to finish higher up the table. Our away form was very poor, we faced a tough challenge of never having played at the away grounds and not knowing what to expect but I will not accept that excuse this season as we now have a years’ experience under our belt. Our home form was very good, but we can’t afford to sit back and expect the same things to happen, we must evolve and be a difficult place to come to.

What are your ambitions for the new campaign?

Our ambitions are simple in the fact we want to achieve as much as we can in 2022/23. I won’t be drawn into making bold predictions as I think that would be foolish at this stage. Our first objective is to get through our pre season schedule and assess where we are before the start of the season. We always sit down with the squad before the first league gameand agree our expectations, goals and objectives whilst also agreeing on what we need to do to meet them. This is so we are all accountable come the end of the season and so theplayers are clear in what is expected of them collectively and individually.

You recently reached the landmark of being at Ilkley Town for 4 years. How pleasing is it to be at the club for a good period of time?

It feels a lot longer than that I can assure you! I played for the club for a few seasons before I came on board with the senior coaching set up, so I have been involved quite a while and know the club from top to bottom. I have really enjoyed my time so far, after 3 years I am finishing with the 23’s who won the premier division title this season which was a fantastic way to finish. The senior section is in a healthy position and as the first team manager I couldn’t be happier with the staff we have through the senior set up, we have a mixture of youth and experience, and we are all pulling in the same direction. I am not one for chopping and changing clubs and believe in the project that the club have set. As long as the club want me and as long as I can contribute then I’ll continue to work as hard as I can for the players and the team.

Do you have long term visions for the club?

I think that is a question for the chairman! My focus is to improve the team each year both on and off the field and there is no reason why we can’t do that with the facilities and the coaching staff we have. I think we are a very attractive club to play for with a fantastic infrastructure for all players. For any young players, or players who want to experience step 6 football I think we have a lot to offer them.

How much do you think the club has improved over those past 4 years?

I think it has improved every year for the past 25 years! The obvious milestone was the installation of the 4G and the efforts that went into that were immense. Dave Houlston and Simon Armstrong both sent the club to new heights coming from the Harrogate League and into the West Yorkshire where we continued to improve whilst slowly building the infrastructure we have now in the men’s senior section before progressing into the NWCFL at step 6. The junior and women’s section are also thriving and hopefully we will see the addition of a women’s reserve team soon. So many people have contributed to get the club to where it is now and I’m proud to have played a tiny part of it.