Bristol City Women prepare to face off against coach Tanya Oxtoby's former side Birmingham City - Full InterviewPosted on: 03 Oct 2018
Having made the switch from The Midlands to a Head Coach role with Bristol City this summer, Tanya Oxtoby has a point to prove in this week's fixture at home to Birmingham City Women. As well as being the first competitive meeting between the two since Tanya's move to Bristol, both sides are currently unbeaten in this season's WSL, meaning Bristol will be playing to keep that record as well as for the pride of their new manager. With a two-week break in which to train and prepare for the clash on Sunday 14th October, we spoke to Tanya to discuss the season so far, her switch to Bristol and her thoughts on her upcoming opponents.
We’re only three games into the 2018/19 WSL season but Bristol are one of five teams unbeaten so far – how much of a focus has been on defending during training and what positives have you seen on the pitch defensively?
It's no secret that we've been working very hard on being hard to break down and giving ourselves a chance at a result by trying to keep clean sheets. The players are really embracing what we're trying to do in terms of our principles, and the positive for me is that they're now starting to really step out of their comfort zone more regularly, and be able to adjust to situations more naturally because of that. It takes a brave group to do that, but these players are doing that every day which is a massive credit to them.
What were your thoughts on Bristol City’s preparation for the new season? Do you feel that it’s contributed to the strong start?
I started my role at the club pretty much as preseason was beginning, so compared to other clubs we were behind the eight-ball in terms of our recruitment and the planning for the season ahead. In truth we were probably about three weeks behind where we wanted to be after the pre-season period, however it’s a massive credit to all the staff and players who worked extremely hard to allow us to be in a position where we were ready for the first league game of the season.
You came up against two of the league’s strongest sides in your last two matches – did you expect to come out of those fixtures unbeaten?
As a group we have a very clear emphasis on our how we measure our success in a fixture, and that’s on our performances and our process. We had a distinct plan to tactically prepare for those two league games with our continental cup fixture against Manchester City, and whilst we knew it was going to be a tough ask given the nature of the fixtures, all we asked for from the group was to continue to improve in our process across the course of the week. To come away unbeaten from both those league games is a result of the players focusing on the right areas, and their hard work and discipline.
And how has that affected your outlook on the next few weeks of the season knowing that two of the most difficult challenges are out of the way?
We focus one game at a time and prepare the players as best we can for that fixture, and the beauty of this league now is that there are no easy games. It's vitally important we prepare the players as best we can from a tactically perspective, treat each opponent with respect, and that will be no different to our next fixture against Birmingham.
What are your aims this season? Do you feel that City are capable of challenging at the top of the table in 2018/19?
We have internal measures that we're working towards, and those aims include a points tally, but also other tangible areas based on our playing style and processes. We want to continue to improve our game as a club in all areas, and if we do that I'm confident we will achieve our targets of the season.
Your next opponents are your former club Birmingham – what are your thoughts going into the game given their strong start to the season and that it’s your first time coming up against them since leaving?
We played them once in pre-season which was nice to get that sentiment out the way as it can be a difficult one playing your old team (as a player or a coach). I will always hold a soft spot for Blues, as they gave me so much, but at the end of the day, there's no place for sentiment in professional football. We will need to prepare as we have done in our previous games to make sure we tactically get it right and then look to execute our game plan for 90 minutes.
And what will you be looking for from your team on the day? Do you think you can come away with a win?
It's no secret that Birmingham like to have a lot of possession and look to move their opposition around to exploit the spaces that have been left. We need to be structured, disciplined and aggressive out of possession, and then look move the ball quickly when we win it back and take our chances when we create them. If we do that then we are certainly in with a chance.
Birmingham did the double over Bristol last season while you were their Assistant Manager – are you expecting any stick from your current squad or the fans of either side in the build-up to the next match?
Not really no, I have such great memories of my time at Birmingham, I like to think I have great relationships with the players and the staff, and the fans have been nothing but amazing to me even after I moved to Bristol. They are the favourites going into the game that’s for sure, but we will do our best to put in a great performance, and see if we can cause an upset.
Bristol struggled last season while Birmingham finished fifth in the league, what was it that made you want to take on the challenge here rather than stay in The Midlands?
It was one of the most difficult professional decisions in my career to date to be honest. I was very happy at Blues, we were deep into the planning phase for the season and I wasn’t really looking for a move. When Bristol approached me for an interview, and we had discussions about their ambitions and setup I was extremely impressed and it seemed to suit emphasis on developing players and having a pathway for youngsters to come through. In the end I felt it was great chance to step outside my comfort zone and challenge myself, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.
How did you feel at first about making the jump from Assistant to Manager? And how do you feel now having settled into the role over the last couple of months?
Its everything I thought it would be, the good parts and the difficult parts. I’m learning every day, and its certainly a challenge but its one I’m loving at the moment, and all the players and staff at the club have been amazingly supportive.
You’ve spent a few years in England now with Doncaster, Nottingham and Birmingham – how did you find it getting used to life in Bristol? Was it difficult/easy to settle in?
I was commuting for the first 2 months of the role, driving from Nottingham to Bristol so it's been a tough start. But I’m lobbing it down here now that I’ve moved, and really looking forward to seeing everything that Bristol has to offer over the next few months!
Bristol City Women take on Birmingham City Women at Stoke Gifford Stadium (New Road, Stoke Gifford, Bristol BS34 8LP) on Sunday 14th October, kicking off at 3pm. Tickets for the match can be found here - for more information or to find out more about future fixtures, visit the official Bristol City Women website or check out their Facebook page.
Having moved to Bristol from Cornwall in 2015, Matt recently completed a degree in Journalism at UWE. He is keen on a wide variety of musical genres, as well as taking an interest in art and illustration, producing his own work in his spare time. Matt makes the most of Bristol's diverse nightlife and attends live music and club nights regularly. Get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.