First things first, your new contract, was this an offer out of the blue or something that has been bubbling for a while?
"No not particularly, there had been a few enquiries from other clubs and Tom let me know each time one had come along over the past month or so – and each time I had said that I was not interested and I was keen to stay. There had never been an offer put in place – normally it’s the case that you wait until the end of the season. After the game on Saturday, Tom pulled me in with the Chairman and said that we want to try and sort something out for next season as early as we can to put all the rumours and everything else to bed. It was basically done there and then within half an hour, it wasn’t dragged out."
So you didn’t have to think about it?
"No, I always had my mind set on staying as long as everything was fine with what the club offered. They were fair to me and I was fair to them and it was something that was done there and then."
Perhaps it was the two goals that day that swayed Tommy?!
"It might have been but he said he was going to do it anyway! But I reckon it helped my cause a little bit!"
Can I take you back to the very beginning when you first joined the Angels. You came from Dover with the other two lads (Lee Browning and Danny Walder) which was a fantastic acquisition for Tommy. Did you have plenty of other offers at the time?
"I did have a few offers at the time, I had two offers from Conference South sides. But I knew Lee Minshull well and he was still at Tonbridge (it was just before he left.) He spoke well of Tom and Lee Browning (my best mate) had signed a week before, he said about Tom talking about wanting a meeting with me. I went in and had a chat and liked what he said. The club was ambitious and wanted to go up a level which is what I wanted. I had a couple of meetings with him, it wasn’t something that was drawn out too long and I took a week to make my mind up and I made the decision to join and I’m glad I did."
And how do the Angels compare with Dover, is it a similar set-up?
"The way the club is set up is very much similar, the training is the same. One thing I would say is that the atmosphere at Tonbridge, the changing room and everything else is a lot different to Dover. At Dover you do enjoy yourself but Tom makes it feel more of a family club. Tom and Steve and the board down at Tonbridge just let you get on and play. A lot of the boys like that and everyone gets on well with each other and I think it’s because of that, that results have gone well on the pitch."
So this season how do you feel it has gone, do you think we have surpassed expectations?
"It’s a tough one, the team we had at the start of the season compared to the team we’ve got now is a lot different. At the start of the season, having just been promoted, our number one aim was to make sure that we don’t come straight back down again. I was confident and the rest of us were confident that would not be the case anyway.
We’re on a good run of form at the minute and I think it’s the strongest side we’ve put together since I’ve been at the club and the next three or four games will make or break our season. We are the same distance from the playoffs as we are to the drop zone. So if we can get three wins out of the next three it will push us to have a chance of chasing that last playoff place. Until it’s mathematically impossible it’s what we will be aiming for.
There is always a team in this league that makes a late charge for the playoffs and sneaks in a week or so before the season finishes. If we can get three or four wins on the spin in the next few games we will probably be looking at the table and find ourselves five points off the playoffs with something to really go for."
And would you say that this has been your best season so far?
"I’ve had seasons where we have won things, from a team point of view you want to be winning things – but this is the highest level we have been at, so we’re pleased how it has gone.
Personally, I’m on course to score more goals than I have done in a season before, if I carry on. So from a personal point of view it’s looking like my best season yet. I’ve been delighted with it - at the start of the season I just wanted to better what I did last season and I’ve done that in February, so I can’t really complain."
Have you or Tommy set a target (of goals)?
"No, I don’t really like setting an actual figure or target. Each season I tell myself I want to better last season. Last season was cut short for me with injury, I missed the last two and a bit months, but I got 21 goals and we went up a level, so I just wanted to get to 21 again. Now that I have passed that I don’t really have a target. I suppose 30 is the next target and I am 7 off that – I just want to get as many as I can and what will be will be."
You would have had a nice hat-trick (on Saturday) if it wasn’t for the substitution!
"I know! Funnily enough as soon as I came off and Mainy had gone on, I sat down and put the coat on, OB said to me ‘You watch, we will get a pen now’! And a few minutes later we got one!"
What do you think has been your most important goal this season?
"I suppose the most important goal was the penalty at home to Hampton. It was 0-0 and although it was one of those games where we were on top for the whole game, it didn’t look like we were going to get the points – and then a pen came along with a minute or so left on the clock. That was the most important as it got us the points, but it wasn’t the best goal I scored."
No, in terms of best goals, you have quite a portfolio this season. Especially Salisbury home?
"Yeah the Salisbury one is my favourite."
How about Sutton away?
"Yes Sutton away was probably the most important one to be fair, I’d forgotten about that one!"
So looking back to last Saturday, the Weston-Super-Mare game was quite comfortable in the end?
"Yeah, we looked at it before the game and they were one place outside the play-offs and we were not on a bad little run (Dartford game aside) and it was a good test of where we want to be.
First half was a scrappy game, neither side really did anything. We got in at half-time and thought that they were no better than us, so if we could up the quality a bit in the second half, there was no reason why we couldn’t come away with the points. In fairness to them, they maybe missed a couple of chances. But second half we deserved the 3 points, a 3-0 win against a team who are up there in the table is a good win and we were delighted with it."
And that free-kick, was there a bit of a Roberto Carlos bend to the ball?
"There was a little bit yeah! The keeper did well for me, but there was a bit of movement yeah! It was one of those where it’s that far out and it’s middle of the goal that there is no point tipping it up into the box because you haven’t got the angle to do it. So it was one of those where the wind was there so you hope to get it on target and get a bit of movement on it. Fortunately it dipped away from the keeper at the last minute and he made a bit of a mess-up of it, but I wasn’t complaining!"
Yes it was quite amusing. So looking forward to Farnborough this week, they handed us a bit of a drubbing at Longmead (1-5) back in September. What are your memories of that game?
"We all knew that it was our worst performance of the season. We never really turned up. They had a young side and maybe it was a game where we underestimated them. We saw the team sheet and the youngsters and maybe it was one of those where we thought we could turn up and win. It was a bit of a kick up the back side for us that we needed. It was similar to the Cray game last season. Since then it made us change our ways a little bit and the points tally we have picked up since then proved that it was something we needed. We definitely owe them one for that and hopefully we can go there and put one over them and get the three points."
Many thanks to Frannie for giving up his time to speak to us.