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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

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TimmyH added 10:30 - Sep 17
Bit early to say this Toto...1 game in on Saturday and at times you looked a bit edgy, personally once Woolfie is back wouldn't want him to be a regular starter.

ShropshireBluenago09 added 10:43 - Sep 17
Good to hear this. His form did dip last season but he is a good centre back and potential captain.

ArnieM added 11:00 - Sep 17
Toto was a top performer in that high flying Shrews side, then he got his move to a bigger club : Us. Our fans or a section of them , as per usualy do their damndest to knock a player down. His confidence suffered and he ended up going out on laon.
If ever there is an example of just how destructive the constant snipping and back biting by a few on here and social media can do to a player's confidence and self esteem, its this one.

I don't know what it is about the new generation of so called Town fans that's necessitates them to constantly try and knock our own players down. They do read this forum and Social media and ARE affected by it .

What use does this constant player bashing serve other than to undermine the efforts of the Club staff who are trying very hard to building up unity and confidence I the squad?

I do ask people to think seriously about this player bashing. Is there really any need for this? I've actually met Toto personally , and he's a lovely unassuming lad , who is committed to this Club. Look what some Town fans have done to his confidence.. Its ridiculous really.

ShropshireBluenago09 added 11:11 - Sep 17
Totally agree Arnie. He was awesome at Shrewsbury, as was Nolan. Unfortunately for both, they walked into probably the worst town side ever. Hopefully along with Nolan we are beginning to see the players we signed. We are too impatient sometimes.

ArnieM added 11:20 - Sep 17
I know its difficult to stay patient . we've had nearly two decades of decline since administration. Hopefully the Club is starting to build on the back of younger players coming through now . But we could be so much worse off than we currently are, and as for Macclesfield , Bury , Bolton et al , there by the grace of God go us I think.

TractorRoyNo1 added 11:27 - Sep 17
Comes across as an intelligent man, can certainly handle himself in an interview, it's a long season, he might be a very handy member of the squad.

Pencilpete added 11:34 - Sep 17
I know we've had years of failure and i have been the first one to post negative / sarcastic comments but i'm actually starting to believe that during the break there has been some soul searching throughout the club and there is a positivity and a determination there

Last season it felt like the players felt they were a cut above and they could win this league without putting in too much effort, Lambert as well i think was almost experimenting with teams / formations ETC and they got exactly what they deserved

This year they are respecting the league, playing the right way, showing the right attitude so we should do the same

Lets jump on this positivity bandwagon and create a feel good factor that the team will enjoy playing in (when we are allowed back) and not booing, shouting, groaning when things don't go well. because lets be honest we will lose games, we will have the odd bad performance but we know there is a formation and a way of playing being adhered to which is what we all wanted to lets get behind it :)


BrixtonBlue added 11:43 - Sep 17
Well said Arnie and Shropshire. Typically, though, the first commenter has a dig directly to Toto. You absolute muppet TimmyH. Did you read and comprehend anything in this story? Unless you're a Norwich supporter, in which case well done!

Terry_Nutkins added 11:46 - Sep 17
Really happy for Nsiala. He seems a really nice guy but a beast of player physically when he applies it. He's an asset when he is in his groove and with everyones support and confidence flowing he's a strong L1 CB as he has proven before.

I think it has to be said particularly after his words: can everyone have a think before they put out personal abuse about players. They can't be immune from ALL critiscm but defenders will make the odd mistake but the level of abuse levelled at Nsiala was ridiculous. There was a terrible penalty call against him last season and people layed into him. There was even a pre-season mistake which wasn't even him and people layed into him this season. That has turned now with his performances and for him to do that against this backdrop is all credit to him. If he does make a mistake again (he will, everyone does) - let's get behind him and he can continue the improvement rather than effect him and the team downward.

Well done Toto. We're behind you pal!!

ArnieM added 11:54 - Sep 17
Spot on Pencilpete and Terry Nutkins.

NOW is the time to really get behind this Club and make the push for promotion. It really isn’t going to be that easy , and us fans need to be 💯 % behind them all the way through the season . Then we stand a chance .

bobble added 11:56 - Sep 17
i would prefer he was putting the effort in for the football club rather than an imaginary god...

MonkeyAlan added 12:01 - Sep 17
I'm all for giving anyone a chance. The thing the players don't realise is we have put up with utter sh!te for the best part of 20 years. I think it's a patience thing, and as fans we are one of the most patient bunch going. But most have lost it now, and you can totally understand that.

Bluearmy_81 added 12:19 - Sep 17
09:10 - Sep 17
Pretty happy with 0-1. Yes it's being happy with a defeat at Portman road but come on, we are Ipswich Town and they are Fulham...


heathen66 added 12:21 - Sep 17
Unfortunately, Toto came into a club where the players (and many others at the club)were sulking that the manager had been relieved of his duties and ANY change was not an option being contemplated.
I am not sure that Nsiala has been as bad as some would make out.
I would be more than happy for him to have an extended run in the side which would give him confidence and not try to overly impress every challenge or tackle.
Will be interesting what happens when Woolfenden and KVY are fit and whether he is just keeping the seat warm for the skipper ???
We (as a club and supporters) need to give him a chance and our support and with that I think we will see better things as he obviously has the potential. Let us hope he has the chance to fulfil it and not cast aside !!!

TimmyH added 12:28 - Sep 17
Get lost! BrixtonBlue (never seen you post on here before and I've been posting on here for years) - the old Norwich supporter thing comes up (what a surprise)!...just a lot of waffle in the story about weight, social media etc, the lockdown etc. Talk is cheap, what he does on the pitch is paramount to ANYTHING else!

He gets paid well and so far has played relatively poorly and that is the long and short of it...down vote me all you like BUT saying that if he does 'turn a corner' and plays better all credit to him, but yet to be won over.

Icantbelieveyousaidt added 12:31 - Sep 17
Bluearmy_81 - yet again you have missed the point. This story is about Toto. If you need help getting your posts attached to the correct story, then I suggest you give up.

Well done ArnieM and Terry Nutkins for bringing to light the fact that some of the abuse directed at certain players and employees has been well over the top. So many on social media platforms are just abusive and not aware of the damage they can cause as highlighted by Toto.
This does not make me a snowflake, just someone that can not abide bullies, cowards and ignorance.
Finally if Toto can be coached out of having the occasional rush of blood to the head, then there is a decent centre half in the making.

TimmyH added 12:35 - Sep 17
Seems like quite a few on here are now right behind Toto after 1 interview (give me strength)...yes I'll give him a clean slate as it's start of a new season and yes we should get behind the team by my patience is running pretty low.


BrixtonBlue added 12:52 - Sep 17
TimmyH, I've been posting here for decades. Maybe you're a bit dumb and haven't discovered the proper forum yet, but the idea I'm a newbie is laughable. You're collecting down-arrows like they're going out of fashion, maybe you should reflect on that. I'm clearly not the only one thinking you're talking unhelpful nonsense.

Try getting behind the players and see if that helps.

norfolkbluey added 12:55 - Sep 17
I don't believe you know the reason of patience Timmy. We are where we are through past results and we won't progress further unless we get the negatives out of what we say because the players read what we say. They have to think collectively and negativity certainly does no good. Praise builds confidence both singularly and collectively. Condescending comments which you added at 12.35 destroys any other positives previously made. Lambert is building a team from a very limited budget so we need to give him backing starting by cutting out all the negatives. We all want our team to get back up the leagues so praise is whats needed. Keep negatives to ourselves. and give praise where it's due. I have been following town since 1960 so I've seen it all, the good the bad and the ugly. Praise is the best way to encourage a team.

Freddies_Ears added 13:01 - Sep 17
Toto has had a really, really good pre-season and early season - the last couple of games he has been one of our best players. Long may it continue. If fans get allowed back, show him the support he deserves.

NthQldITFC added 13:41 - Sep 17
Good on yer Toto. Top man.

TimmyH added 13:49 - Sep 17
BrixtonBlue - decades? the site hasn't been going decades...no you haven't.

TimmyH added 13:53 - Sep 17
Seems to be a tidal wave of optimism on TWTD currently...not sure it's justified maybe it's down to covid and seeing football as the 'light' and that other things in life are more important (which is true) but come on folks lets be a bit grounded.

By the way if Toto has been affected by social media then maybe he should stay of it...really that simple, it's not a law.

Terry_Nutkins added 14:06 - Sep 17
Blimey it's the first time in a looooong time I've heard that there is a load of optimism on TWTD! I really think it's been a bit toxic at times to be honest and quite a lot of negativity.

For what it's worth TimmyH you are entitled to your opinion and whether he should be a starter or not. We do have other options. But it just seems unnecessarily negative given how well he has started. Not sure that particular story warranted it. Surely if he carries on like this he can win you over and why not phrase it more like that...

It wasn't abusive personal insults at least at him so I didn't down arrow you (even if initially tempted).

Terry_Nutkins added 14:07 - Sep 17
...right need to know. PHIL how long HAS this site been going?!

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