Monday, 13 August 2012

INTERVIEW: Liam Enver-Marum

Liam Enver-Marum's renaissance last season not only helped Ebbsfleet United consolidate their Blue Square Bet Premier status, it also earned him a trial at League One club Stevenage; among the most impressive non-league graduates of recent times.

At the end of June he was off to Hertfordshire, seemingly leaving north Kent behind for good. Twitter followers waved him goodbye, Fleet boss Liam Daish issued a statement of disappointment and when Moses Ashikodi arrived at Stonebridge Road soon afterwards, it looked like a one-in, one-out arrangement of sorts.

Fast-forward a month, though, and the status quo had been restored. Enver-Marum was no longer in Stevenage's plans, but the Fleet were very much in his. The 24-year-old was back in DA11.

For the Fleet, everything had worked out very nicely. But I had some questions. Fortunately, Enver-Marum had the answers.

How did the Stevenage trial come about and what happened while you were there?

I finished the season knowing I had a few clubs watching me, just through my agent. They were calling me while I was on holiday, asking if I wanted to go down there. I was in talks with them, over the summer, through my agent. I was under the impression that I was going to be offered a contract there. I was shown around by the manager, really liked it, and then all of a sudden they said “oh yeah, it’s only going to be a short-term deal”, so I was a bit bemused by that. I thought it’s a big chance, so I’ve got to take it, so I went for it and it didn’t work out how I thought it was going to.

The manager, Liam Daish, was obviously disappointed when you went off to Stevenage but he accepted this was a chance you had to take, didn't he?

I spoke to the gaffer a lot in the summer, he wanted me to stay and I was planning on staying. This came along and I had to take it and he was absolutely fine with that. I asked him “what would you do if you were in my shoes?” and he said “I would probably take it as well, Liam”, so he totally understood. I made it clear to the gaffer that I wouldn’t sign for any other Conference team, because I did have a few other Conference teams offering me contracts. I said no straight away, out of loyalty, because I felt like I owed the gaffer. I had to take the opportunity at Stevenage but some things just don’t work out the way you want them to.

Did it make it easier to go, having the manager's blessing? It wasn't like you were parting on bad terms...

That’s the one thing I didn’t want, I didn’t want to leave on bad terms, because I got on well with the gaffer last year. I spoke to him, man to man, we had a chat, like normal people would do and it was fine, he totally understood. He made it clear that if it didn’t work out, then just come straight back to him and we’ll see if we can sort something out.

What did the trial actually involve?

It was an experience I really wouldn’t want to do again, put it that way. You’re treated not as an equal, I suppose. I played 45 minutes in all three of the friendlies, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. I wouldn’t want to do that again.

Was there anything in particular that made you feel uncomfortable?

I wasn’t made to feel part of the team. When you go to a new team, the last thing you want is to feel like an outsider because you’re not going to be able to perform to the best of your ability, if you don’t feel you’re welcome. That was a down side for me but it’s life and you’ve just got to get on with it. There’s been trialists at every club I’ve been at and some clubs treat them differently to other clubs.

Was it your decision to leave or did they tell you it wasn't working out?

I was actually contracted until the end of August but I wasn’t enjoying it and they had pretty much made it clear that they didn’t want me there, so we came to a mutual agreement to terminate the short-term deal straight away.

At that point, were there options for you - other than going back to Ebbsfleet?

Yes, there were some decent options for me. But I would have found it hard to turn round to the gaffer and say “I’ve been offered this by this team and can you compete with that?” – I would have found it very difficult to say that to him. I know they’re not the sort of club that can get into financial wars over players and I just wouldn’t do that to the gaffer because of the way he treated me last year. It was an easy decision for me, really.

Are we talking Football League clubs or Conference clubs?

Because of the time, I’d missed out on a couple of League clubs, they’d already made some signings. There were still a couple of Conference clubs that had deals on the table for me but I opted to come back to Ebbsfleet because I enjoy it there. I had the best year of my career there, so it was an easy decision for me to go back there.

To speak about the gaffer like that, it sounds like you've got a really strong bond.

All the players like the gaffer. He’s not like any gaffer I’ve ever worked for, he’s obviously got the authority which is there for everyone to see but he can also be like one of the lads. He speaks to you on a level, he says it how it is and you know where you stand with him, which isn’t the case for some managers. I think the players respect him for that and that’s how he gets the most out of the players. It’s obviously worked for him for so many years.

How important is it for you, as a player, to feel valued like that?

In previous years, managers haven’t stuck with me if I’ve had a bad game, they’ve dropped me straight away, and that knocks a player’s confidence. Some players can’t recover from that in time for the next time they’re thrown in the starting XI. Last year, with the gaffer, if I’d had a bad game, he’d stick with me. He believed in me and the next game I’d be back playing well again. Even if I was having a bad first half, he’d stay with me, he wouldn’t get on my back and that’s how you get the best out of players. If you stick with them and get behind them, obviously you’ll get the best out of them but if you chuck them out of the team and shout and swear at them, they’re not going to be able to play to the best of their ability because they’re not going to respond well to that.

What have you made of the rebuilding job the gaffer's done over the summer?

I was still in touch with a few of the players while I was at Stevenage and from what they were telling me, the gaffer had done really well bringing in the right players. The team, to me, looked quite strong. When I was speaking to the gaffer about coming back, he was explaining that he’s made some really strong signings and he thinks we’re going to be a surprise package this year. From what I’ve seen so far, I totally agree with him. I definitely think we’re going to be a surprise package this year.

Do you think you - as a team - can be better than you were last season?

I think so. It’s nothing against the players that have left, because they’re obviously good players. I think the gaffer's done a good job of bringing in the right players. What he does is he doesn’t just sign any old good player, he signs players he knows are going to play well together and who are going to get the best out of each other. That’s what I think he’s done well over the years. I think we're going to do quite well. If we can stay injury-free and sign a couple more players, I think we’re going to do really well this year, even against the bigger clubs like Luton.

Does it help that you've had a year's experience of this division?

A few of the teams that have just been promoted to the Conference haven’t made any experienced signings and I could be totally wrong, but for me, that could go against them. I know it’s only one league up but it’s a big step up, from Conference South to Conference, there’s a big difference in my eyes. Going into the second year, if you’ve signed a few experienced faces that’s going to go in your favour because they know what they’re up against, they know what to expect and they know what’s expected of them. I think that’s definitely a benefit.

Do you know much about the two new strikers, Moses Ashikodi and Nathan Elder?

I’ve played a few times against Moses but I’ve never played against Nathan that I can remember. They’re both good players and they’re both different players. From what I’ve seen, Nathan’s more a Calum Willock-type player, he’s a centre-forward, he’ll hold the ball up, win his headers, battle the defenders and he’ll get a goal as well. Moses is just off the striker, a bit like myself, in a way, he likes to get at players and he can obviously score goals as well. I think it’ll be a good battle for places up front this year, I don’t know what formation the gaffer wants to play, either two up front or three attackers.

What is your favourite position? We've seen you play out wide and through the middle.

I feel most comfortable up front, I feel that’s where I would score the most goals, playing on the shoulder of the centre-halves. At the end of the day, though, football doesn’t work like that, sometimes you have to play in positions where the manager wants you to play. I feel comfortable out wide, on the right or left of a three, just behind the strikers, but my favourite position is striker.

Now that you've had the trial, how do you feel about the new season? Different to how you felt this time last year?

Last year, I wasn’t very confident going into pre-season. I’d had a few knocks when I was at Crawley, I wasn’t getting in the team, so I came into the season not a very confident player. The gaffer quickly resolved that, I don’t know how, but I went into the season feeling really confident. I don’t feel any different this season, I had a good year last year, I’ve had a little bit of a negative but it’s totally gone now in my mind. I want to build on what I did last year and see if I can get a few more goals and build on my performances.

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