Boro Player spoke to new Assistant Manager Dino Maamria after Monday’s victory over Hartlepool United at the Lamex Stadium, first welcoming him back to the club where he says his heart remains, and also discussing bagging three points at the first time of asking.
In an honest interview, Maamria spoke passionately about his decision to leave Stevenage with Graham Westley and John Dreyer in January 2012, and admitted that it was a tough choice to make.
When being welcomed back to the club, Dino replied: “I’ve never been away actually.”
He continued, “I’ve been here a few times and my heart has always been here anyway so I am absolutely over the moon to be here. It’s where we belong, where I certainly belong anyway. It has been a long journey for me with Stevenage, I was here when we were non-league and I was part of the football club to be in League One last season and left the club in a great position last season to move on somewhere else – honestly, my heart was never on moving to Preston but it happened and as a management team we decided that it was the right thing to do at that time.
“It has been a learning curve but honestly, personally, it has been a mistake, I have to say that because it has been, but we learn from that. You go to a club like Preston North End and it makes you appreciate what a club like Stevenage Football Club has got. Some clubs are big with their name, with their history, with their fan base and a nice stadium but I think the infrastructure of Stevenage is a Football Club that is going forward and I’m delighted to be back with a club who is ambitious and will go forward.”
Coincidently, his visits to the Lamex Stadium as a spectator this season have always ended in a home victory, but on Easter Monday he came to the ground knowing he would once again be in the home dugout.
It was a special journey into work for the 41-year old, who revealed it gave him a feeling he had missed in recent times.
“It’s funny, it’s the first time in 12 months where I’m driving down to the stadium and I’m actually quite excited. I had butterflies in my stomach and all that and it’s nice to see a friendly face as soon as you turn up in the car park and it has been a great day. I am so excited to come back to the club and to finish that with a 1-0 win and a clean sheet tops it off.”
Since Westley was announced as the new manager on Saturday Dino has had a chance to meet his new side; they trained that day and again on Sunday before taking on the Pools a day later and the Tunisian spoke of the high quality he sees on the training pitch.
in the Conference and I made a journey with them and when I left those players last January it was a really sad day.th“I’ve seen the group of players in the last 48 hours and I think they are a really good group of players and I can’t wait to work with them and make them better. When I first came to the football club [as a coach] we were 17
“If I can have that same connection with this group of players from League One, where we are now, in two or three years then impossible is nothing. Who knows where we will end up if I have the same connection with those players and that is the challenge for me – to work with this group of players, to improve them, unite them, give them a little bit more hunger and who knows where we will be in two years time. That is the challenge for me and I am looking forward to it.”
When he left the club last year he departed the Shephalbury Sports Academy Training Ground, now amazingly a second-choice facility for the first team, they inhabit Bragbury End during the week and that is just another sign of the progression Stevenage Football Club is looking to make.
Dino commented, “It’s absolutely different class and that is another reason that it is great to be back. Like I said, we have been on a journey with this club and to come back only 12 months later to that facility – well the Chairman has done a brilliant job.
“We improved on the pitch the last three or four years and we all learned that we had to improve as well with the stadium and with the new training ground and if you go to the new training ground it is Premier League standard really.
“You can see from the outside that the stadium says ‘Stevenage Football Club’; we are proud to be Stevenage Football Club and I think that’s where we need to be recognised because I have been to other places where they still think we are ‘little non-league Stevenage’ but it’s not any more. Let them think that if that’s how they’re going to think, but we’re going forward and this football club is going places and I am delighted to be part of that.”
Analysing the result form earlier in the day a little further, Dino spoke of a confidence from the sideline. When asked if he was worried at all during the game he replied: “We’ve been in a couple of days and we had to unite the group of players, I think they needed a little bit of direction and a little bit more motivation, a little bit of an arm around them to get the best out of them because they are really talented footballers as they showed this afternoon.
“Today’s game was always going to be difficult, it was scrappy and a little bit windy but today showed the qualities we have and I think they showed a lot of leadership to finish a game like that because it’s never easy when you’re playing the bottom of the league team this time of the year, when they’re fighting for their lives, but I thought we showed a lot of steel and determination to get that clean sheet and to get the win as well.
“It’s great to come back and get our first win - 1-0 – it’s like the old days really, sometimes you don’t play all this pretty football but what matters is the three points and we did that well today.”
Lastly Dino spoke about the reaction from the fans to his return, and the reception he was given at the game, saying: “I always connected with the fans, they are a great part of this great football club, like a great family together and that is the special thing about our fans; you even know their faces. It’s really good to be back and I thought their reception today before the game was touching so hopefully we repay them with the results this season and next season.”
The full video interview is now available on Boro Player.