Chris Bass is a legend of the Manx game. A serial trophy winner, a builder and leader of numerous great teams on the Island. He’s even managed on a global stage with the MiFA Island team, but now he is looking forward to perhaps his greatest challenge. Manager of FC Isle of Man. The first Manx team to be granted a place in the English Non-League System (NLS).
Chris’ enthusiasm for the game is endless but since his appointment in February 2020, because of the global pandemic of which we’re all a part, he’s had little to get his teeth into. Yes there were the two friendly games against Guernsey FC which were both fantastic events and attracted great support but the real cut and thrust and dream of playing competitive league football was ultimately thwarted, not just for FC Isle of Man but for every club in the NLS.
However, we are now close, so close, to achieving that dream as we prepare for our inaugural game in the North West Counties Football League (NWCFL) this Saturday against Maine Road FC. After a month of theoretical rhetoric we can finally start looking forward to, and talk about, the reason everyone has worked so hard these past 18 months or so … the game of football.
Chris and his management team have had the squad (to be announced tomorrow) working their socks off with three early morning sessions per week since early June and now he is the throws of planning and preparing to announce his first match day squad ahead of our trip to Brantingham Road this Saturday.
FC Isle of Man Media (FCIOM):
So Chris here we are just days away from our first competitive league game. After all we’ve been through as a club, the false starts of last year, covid-19 and border controls it now looks as if it’s finally going to happen and we’re finally going to get to play our first league game in the North West Counties Football League. How do you feel about that?
Chris Bass (CB):
I’m really excited and I am so proud to be leading this team and looking forward to trying to do the best we can for the Isle of Man. I am also looking forward to seeing how the players perform not just on Saturday, but the whole season ahead and I’m hoping that we can give our fans something to be excited about.
Yes, these are exciting times for the club, but it’s been a tough pre-season for you with some players having to isolate and because of the island’s border controls we have had no pre-season games to help prepare.
Yes the last couple of weeks have been a challenge, but I have to say the lads have been very positive and despite the effects of Covid we have been able to train with most of the squad during the last six weeks and the intensity has been impressive and every player has given everything they can. Missing out on those planned friendlies was a blow, but thankfully we’ve got a big squad so we’ve been able to play a couple of inter-squad games which have been helpful for both the players and obviously, also myself and Lee (Dixon, Assistant Manager). Now, everybody is just looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a really exciting season for FC Isle of Man.
So have you got a dilemma about who you pick or has players returning from isolation and injuries, more or less made those selections for you?
(Laughing) in a strange way (Covid-19) has made my decision in selecting the team a little easier, particularly for this week and we’ll have a very competitive team on the pitch on Saturday. When everyone is fit and healthy it is going to be very, very difficult in selecting a match day squad because we do have in excess of 30 players who are all of a very good standard, which is obviously really good for us going through the season.
So the first few games are all going to be away from home. Does that affect your thinking in terms of squad and player availability?
In terms of the squad, what it means is, we have to ask the players on a fortnightly basis whether they are available for the next two games? Or we might even stretch that, to check availability for the next three games, because that will allow us to pick sides with a little bit of consistency, rather than getting to Friday and saying, “who’s available?” So we’ve got to be proactive and organized as much as possible.
And so to Saturday and Maine Road FC? What do you know about them and what sort of match can we expect?
We’re expecting it to be very tough. I think a lot of people in the Isle of Man are expecting it to be easy, but I completely disagree with that. I think that we’ve got to go into that game on Saturday prepared and expecting the hardest challenge. Upon saying that, it is going to be the best experience because I haven’t been to any of these grounds and I don’t think any of these lads will have either. On top of that it will be nice to meet new people in the game and share new experiences.
And finally, for the season as a whole, do you have any particular expectations or will you literally be, to use that oft quoted cliché, be taking it game by game?
(Grinning) it will be game by game. There will be no egg on the face here.