With the Mighty Shane's OTPL season still waiting to be kicked off, we were fortunate enough to catch up with team captain, Jamie Smith, and ask him a few questions about football and playing with the Mighty Shane.
MM: Jamie, what are your thoughts on last season?
JS: We can be pleased with how we did last season. It was an improvement on the season before, and I thought there were a lot of positives to take from it. It ended disappointingly, with us conceding a few late goals in our last few games to drop points, but we showed resilience and character in other games which had been missing the season previously. It was a difficult season for us with key players leaving the country halfway through the season, but I thought we coped really well. Credit to the new lads who settled really quickly, and became key players themselves.
MM: What did we do well? Can you elaborate on some of those positives from last season?
JS: As mentioned before, I think we showed great character as a team, and a spirit which will serve us well. We were more patient when attacking, and linked up really well in the middle of the park. I think as a defence we have really improved, and Shane has benefitted hugely from the additions of Ronan, Pete, and Rory Foye. There were some really memorable games last season, and we showed a great desire to get results when they didn’t seem likely. Beating the Eagles after playing with 10 men for 50 minutes or so was an example of this, and only happened because of our determination and organization. High scoring draws with the Magpies also showcased our team spirit and willpower. We played some amazing football in spells, but need to do that on a more consistent basis this season.
MM: So what do we need to work on for the coming season?
JS: A big thing for me is communication. Talking to each other during a game is such an easy thing to do, but fundamental to a solid defence, for example. I think we are improving in this area, but there are still times where we make life difficult for ourselves and put ourselves under unnecessary pressure by not communicating properly. Also, I think we can improve our movement off the ball. We’ve shown that when we play short one-twos and pass in triangles we cause other teams real problems, and by being a bit more pro-active after playing our passes we can do this more often.
MM: Well said. Now, on a lighter note, are your days of getting booked behind you?
JS: <laughs> Well, my days of being booked so frequently are definitely behind me. The standard of refereeing came as a bit of a shock when I first arrived, and I wasn't very accepting of many of the referees’ decisions. I guess now I expect less from them and expect bad decisions to come at some point, so I don’t get as frustrated. I made a big improvement in this area last season, but I think to improve in such a fashion again might prove difficult.
MM: Only one suspension last season. That is definite improvement. So, moving on, what is your favorite aspect of playing for Shane?
JS: I think the best thing about playing with Shane is definitely the social aspect. I’ve genuinely never played with such a great bunch of lads, and it means the football is always enjoyable, irrespective of the result. There’s a great mix of countries and cultures, which always makes for interesting banter after the games.
MM: Definitely. Speaking of the different countries and cultures, who are some players to keep an eye on this season?
JS: From what I’ve seen so far, I think Romano could have a big season. He really impressed me in the pre-season tournament, and he is growing in confidence with each game. There’s also Spencer in goals who continues to amaze with his saves. Luis Queso, who I think will score a lot of goals this year. Also, Daniel looked really sharp, and protected us in defense really well. Having Sam back [who missed the end of last season through injury] is a bonus, and he brings out the best in those who play around him. I’ve heard a rumor that Phi might return too, which is an exciting prospect.
MM: We're certainly excited to see those guys in action over the 2016 season. Which team do you think will win the league this year?
JS: Carnegies will be tough to beat this year. They’ve got a really impressive midfield, which isn’t much fun to play against. Last years champions Red Lions haven’t seemed to have improved, and we finished above them in the recent Taipei tournament. I think the battle for the next few places will be really tight, with a lot of good teams that seem to be evenly matched.
MM: Now the million-dollar question: where do you think the Mighty Shane will finish?
JS: That’s a really tough question to answer until I see each team in action. I expect us to improve on last years position, but it’s really hard to say. I think our aim should be the top half of the table, and I would consider that a successful season.
MM: That would surely be considered a successful season, but with the players at Shane's disposal, a top four finish isn't out of the question. Time will tell. Anyway, that's it for now. Thanks for sitting down with us, Jamie. See you on the pitch!
There you have it. The Mighty Shane's talismanic captain has high hopes for the coming season, targeting at least a top half finish in the league. He has also tipped a few of the new players to have big seasons this year. With his days of receiving weekly bookings behind him, it seems likely he will have a big season, as well.
You can catch him and the rest of MSFC in action in the OTPL starting March 27, 2016.