Schumacher's Forest Green Preview
When Steven Schumacher was a young Evertonian, decked in blue at Goodison Park, he used to sing Duncan Ferguson’s name.
On Saturday, he will be in the opposing dugout to Ferguson, who is just two months into his first managerial role, as boss of Forest Green Rovers, the side currently bottom of Sky Bet League One.
Ferguson took time out from football after ending his playing career, before working his way up through the Everton coaching ranks, having a couple of stints as caretaker manager as well as assistant.
Schumacher and Ferguson crossed over as coaches at Finch Farm, and no lock horns as bosses for the first time.
“I'm looking forward to seeing him,” said Schumacher. “It's been a little while since I've seen him.
“He was my hero, my idol growing up. Hopefully we enjoy the game, and we'll have a beer with him afterwards in the cabin.
“It's not going to be an easy game at all. I know they're at the bottom of the division, but the games I've watched of them, they're in every single game.
“They always make it hard for the opposition. They should have won at Shrewsbury. They should have won at Morecambe. The only one that got away from them was Ipswich.
“I know for a fact Duncan's going to have them well wound up, they'll be well ready to come here and put in an organised performance. We need to make sure that we play well and any chances that we get, take them, because we need the three points.
“In all of the times he took caretaker charge of Everton, that's what his teams looked like. They gave 100%, were always well organised and fought for the shirt. That's the way he was as a player, and I'm sure he'll have his team doing exactly the same. They're not a bad team, I know they are at the bottom of the division, but they're not miles away from it.”
The game against Forest Green sees Argyle enter the final ten games of the league season, in second place, with two points in hand on third-place Ipswich Town.
Argyle come into the game on the back of a defeat at Barnsley, but have reacted well to losses this season, winning four and drawing one of the five games they have played immediately after defeats.
Schumacher is trying to temper the duelling emotions of expectation and restraint, ensuring everyone through the club has belief, but understands that there is much hard work to be done.
“For us to be in the top two with only 10 games to go in the season is a brilliant achievement, but obviously we're not finished there.
“We're not thinking: ‘this has been great, now let's just relax’. We know we've got an objective to try to get to.
“I remember being asked if I was excited after the first 10 games and I said: ‘ask me when there's 10 games left.’
“We are getting excited. We know we've got an awful long way to go and a lot of hard work to do, but the players have shown all season they are capable of getting big results, so let's just enjoy it.
“We've had six bad results they seem to get amplified, but we've always dealt with those results and reacted from it.
“We’re never pleased if we lose games of football. But we always come in, assess it, address it and say: ‘What's happened? What do we think? Is there anything that we can learn from it? We discuss it as a group and most of the time come out of that room thinking that know what to do to put that one right, which we have done on five other occasions. If we can do the same on Saturday, then that'll be perfect.
“You're going to lose games of football in the season. We've played 36 in the league and only lost six, so that's not a bad record. For us to be where we are this season, with what we've got, then everyone should be buzzing. I know I am and I know the players are, but we're not finished yet.
“We've got 10 games to go and if we can keep to the levels that we have done throughout this whole of this season, then it's going to be a brilliant one, one that we can remember. We've also got a final at Wembley to play. There's not too much that we need to say as a coaching staff.
“[The players] know what the motivation is and they know what the end goal is. If they can keep the performances as high as they possibly can, keep trying to play with that same energy as we have done all season, then we'll be fine.”
Saturday’s game will be Armed Services Day, the annual fixture where Argyle honours service personnel before the game.
“It's always an enjoyable day in the calendar whenever we have an Armed Services Day at Home Park,” said Schumacher. ”It's always a good occasion. It's a military city and we have to pay our respects. It's the 80th anniversary of the Dambusters so that's getting recognised on Saturday.
“It's always good hearing the anthem played. Everybody seems to enjoy the occasion, but then as soon as the whistle goes, it's business as usual and hopefully we can pull in a good performance, one that's worthy of three points.”