Nsiala: I’ve Come Back Different Mentally
Thursday, 17th Sep 2020 10:26
Central defender Toto Nsiala feels he benefited from having a break from football during the lockdown and says he’s come back “different mentally” this season and with a changed perspective on the game and also any criticism that comes his way.
The 28-year-old had a difficult 2019/20 campaign having suffered a hamstring injury in pre-season which sidelined him for the first few months. When he returned, he was unable to match the form which led Paul Hurst to take him from his former club Shrewsbury along with Jon Nolan soon after he took over at Town in the summer of 2018.
A loan move to Bolton followed in January and the DR Congo international’s Town career looked likely to end this summer.
However, he impressed during pre-season and has continued that renaissance now the campaign proper is under way and was handed the captain’s armband for last night’s Carabao Cup tie against Fulham with regular skipper Luke Chambers on the bench.
Reflecting on that game, which ended 1-0 to the Premier League side, Nsiala said: “It was a good challenge, I think we stepped up well. They played great football, they did it in the Championship and they’re doing it in the Premier League as well.
“I think we were really disciplined in the way we went about the shape. They were always going to have most of the ball a team like Fulham.
“I think the boys coped really well. Everyone that played in this team tonight stuck to the game plan and what the gaffer said and came out feeling proud of themselves.”
The Kinshasa-born, Liverpool-raised defender hopes it’s a performance which he and his team-mates can take into their League One fixtures.
“That’s always the idea, when you come off the pitch after coming up against a team like that and coping,” he reflected.
“But league games are completely different in terms of the style of play you come up against.
“If you can keep your discipline against the likes of Fulham, you’ve given yourself a great chance to do it in the league.”
Nsiala has played alongside James Wilson for the last two matches and the two have formed a solid central defensive partnership. He says that’s the result of work on the training field and everybody in the squad knowing how the team is expected to play.
“Anyone who plays will do well in this team,” he insisted. “It’s just what’s being driven in every week of this season now, the shape and the way we play and that you’ve got to stick to it. No matter how it’s going, just stick to a game plan.
“Everyone who comes in knows exactly what they’re doing. JD [Janoi Donacien], Willo [Wilson] and just anyone who comes in will do well. I’m just buzzing to be playing really.”
The one-time Everton trainee says it’s key for players to be ready to come in when required, while at the same time those in the team trying everything they can to keep hold of the shirt.
“I didn’t really play that much last season,” he continued. “Myself personally, I’ve got to try and stay in the team as long as possible and keep putting in the hard work. If I’m out of it then I’ll be putting in the hard work just to get back in it.
“It’s a long season, but there are players who are going to come in, play for a long time and then come out of it as well.
“I think the main point is to get promoted and if we stick together and support each other in the downtime when players aren’t playing or are injured, we’ll do well, we’ll build a good team spirit, which is exactly what we want to do this season.”
Nsiala said he enjoyed the responsibility of captaining the team for the first time against Fulham but he says plenty of other players are also showing leadership on the pitch this season, including some of the younger members of the squad.
“Yes, but it’s just an armband, everyone in this team are leaders, even the younger ones like Doz [Andre Dozzell],” he said. “I’ve heard him abusing the referee a lot lately, so everyone seems to have a voice in the team right now. I don’t know whether that’s because it’s a bit quieter that you hear it more.
“In training everyone’s pushing each other. Obviously you’ve got Skip [Chambers], who’s just a born leader and someone that we look up to and takes the armband with pride. But in terms of anyone else, it’s there for anyone really, everyone deserves it, everyone is a leader in the team.”
Looking back at his tough 2019/20 campaign, Nsiala says even from the start of pre-season all wasn’t well.
“When I first started pre-season I didn’t really feel myself in terms of weight and the way I came back,” he recalled. “I probably overworked and I got injured and then I just couldn’t get a rhythm, didn’t do myself justice.
“It’s one of them this season where I’ve just tried to shut out the noise and not really listen to anyone, any sort of messages or anything else.
“Let’s be honest, I’ve had a lot of them, but it’s one of them where I enjoy them really, just keep them coming, it just pushes me to do well, it pushes the boys to do well.
“Whatever gets said, whatever gets published around the club, we as a club, we as a team put it behind us and just perform and do our job, and that’s exactly what we’re going to try and do. Put it all behind us and do well this season.”
Nsiala admits that criticism from supporters on social media got to him last season but feels the lockdown and the months away from football have given him a different perspective.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it did bother me, but the time off I had was probably the best,” he said.
“I was away from football and just got to spend a little more time with family and found myself mentally and I’ve just been thankful I’ve had God on my side and I’ve come back different mentally and whatever gets said now literally doesn’t bother me anymore because I’m not really playing for anyone else apart from God.”
He says it was a period of reflection: “I think it was just the time away from football and spending time with my family, just acknowledging in life that there are better things to worry about in terms of your family and whatever’s been going on around us in these hard times. There’s more to life than just football.
“It just made me think that I was worrying about things that might not mean as much as staying alive and being around family, it was a good moment for me.”
From the start of pre-season this summer manager Paul Lambert has praised Nsiala’s performances in training and in games and the defender feels he and the rest of the squad were able to start again with a clean slate following last season’s disappointments.
“When we all came back the message to us was ‘Boys, it wasn’t good enough last season, obviously this season we have to put it right’,” he said.
“And the message was that everyone will play, if you do well you play, you’ll get to keep your shirt. And I think it was a freedom to have a fresh start and to start again.
“The club have really helped me with things like sitting down with the owner [Marcus Evans] and [general manager of football operations] Lee [O’Neill] and the club have really helped me to get settled again.
“There have been a lot of personal things that they’ve really been [there] to sort out for me, which has made it easier for me to be around and do OK.”
He admits there were times he thought his Town career would be coming to an end with Dundee United among the clubs understood to be interested in signing him earlier in the summer.
“At the start of the season I thought I was off,” he said. “There was a lot of news around that but I was always hoping, and am still hoping, that I stay and just get on and, it might sound wrong, but just shut a few people up.”
Nsiala says he’s enjoying his football again but is aware there will be bumps in the road at some point in the season.
“I’m always going to enjoy my football when I’m doing well but there’s always going to come a time where we as a team won’t be at our best,” he said.
“There are going to be games where we’re not at our best, but I’m pretty sure the team that I’ve got around me and the players will always keep me going and keep me happy, and I’ll do the same for them and keep them motivated and stay in a good mood.”
Is there plenty more to come from him as a Town player? “There’s much more to come from the whole team really. Honestly, I’m not just saying it because they’re my team-mates but what I see in training and the ability of some of the players here, Bish, Nolo and Judgey and others, it’s a joke.
“It’s a really good and I’m hoping that they’re able to showcase it more this season so the fans and everyone else around this club can see what they can achieve, what they can do because the talent we’ve got in the squad is unbelievable.
“I feel challenged being around such good players. There’s more to come from everyone in the team.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s League One match at Bristol Rovers, the Blues’ first away game of the season, he says it’s important to add to the three points gained against Wigan last Sunday.
“Every game is vital to us, literally every league game is vital to us,” he added. “We’ve just got to play for a win. We’ve got to go into every game and get those three points as early as possible.
“If it’s not meant to happen then it doesn’t happen, but we’ll put in a good fight to get every three points.”
Photos: Matchday Images/TWTD
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 270 bloggers
Climbing Up the Walls by Mullet
The world has undoubtedly changed and with it, until some indeterminate point, football has done too. Not only have we seen another club disappear as the fans of Macclesfield joined those of Bury in being locked out of the game, we might count ourselves lucky to only be locked out of Portman Road for our own good.
A Head in the Right Place by NormEmerges
A nice victory against Wigan, well played the Town, and you achieved it without what many consider our best player. For the second match in a row, Flynn Downes was left out because “his head wasn’t in the right place”.
Pyramid Strong by Mullet
On Friday the members of League One voted by majority to instigate a salary cap. In doing so they not only limit everybody in the division to spending £2.5m per season, but they limit themselves in making the transition to established second tier side or beyond.
We Should Encourage the Club and the League to Stream All Games by rugbytomc
In an ideal world, all League One clubs for next season would take the extra steps of temperature checks at the turnstiles with entry refused for anyone with a temperature and also insist on every fan entering the ground wearing a mask for the entirety of their time in the ground.
Euro Glory for Town by clivebleedingthomas
This was the season in which we had a realistic chance of winning the Treble - it sounds like complete fantasy now, but it happened. Our hopes of FA Cup glory had been finished, along with Kevin Beattie’s career as a Town player, at Villa Park.
Ipswich Town Polls
[ Vote here ]