After a somewhat sketchy run of results for Stevenage of late, it’s fair to say that Dino Maamria faces his biggest challenge since being appointed as manager at Broadhall Way; the team seeking to keep ambitions of a promotion push alive in League Two.
Stevenage haven’t graced the third tier of English football since the phenomenal run that started during the 2009-10 season, rising from the Conference, then concluded with a second consecutive promotion from League Two up to League One. Maamria was part of the coaching staff back then, but after honing his skills elsewhere for a few years, he’s back with more experience to see how far he can take The Boro, which is undoubtedly a challenge much closer to heart.
Of course, it all started for Maamria following his move from Tunisia to England as a raw prospect with Burnley back in 1996. That said, even he might not have imagined where they would be these days. Back then, the Lancashire club were habitual strugglers in the third tier, or what’s now League One. According to https://betting.betfair.com/football/premier-league/, however, the Clarets should be among the teams who safely avoid relegation from the Premier League this season. How times have changed; no doubt we’d all love to see Stevenage emulate that meteoric rise.
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After his time with Burnley, via a brief spell with Glentoran in Northern Ireland, the career of Maamria could best be described as one of the ‘journeyman’ in the lower tiers of English football; spells at Doncaster Rovers, Southport and Leigh RMI, before opportunity came knocking at Stevenage Borough. This was back when the ‘Borough’ was still very much part of the club’s name.
Taking to the club like a duck to water, it’s at Stevenage where Maamria arguably felt most at home during his career. During that first period as a player between 2003 and 2006, Boro fans soon fell in love with the Tunisian forward. He with them, too. Needless to say, when the managerial vacancy at Broadhall Way became vacant towards the end of last season, a return for Maamria always seemed on the cards; as the fan reaction indicated here.
Steadying the ship following Darren Sarll’s untimely exit was the first task at hand, and though results were a mixed bag, confidence at least began to grow through more determined performances from the team. With a whole summer to prepare for the 2018-19 season, there have been a host of changes in the squad. Thirteen departures, eight players loaned out, fourteen new arrivals and two additional loans in, as Maamria has shaped things more to his liking.
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Without a doubt, so many changes in a squad always requires time and patience for things to settle down. It’s also for players to adapt more fluidly to their new surroundings. This has perhaps been the biggest issue with the disjointed nature of some performances from the team. There’s still the sensation, however, this team can stay among those jostling for position around the play-off zone.
Nevertheless, after back to back league defeats either side of the forgettable demolition by Charlton Athletic in the EFL Trophy, which nobody really cares about too much, Stevenage need to get themselves back on track in League Two. Back to back wins by the minimum sent Boro into the play-off zone; now back to back defeats are putting that position at risk, as the league table shows after 13 games played.
Frustration is perhaps the best way to describe losing to a 90th minute goal at Newport. And it was just when it looked as though Stevenage had a valuable away point in the bag. Now it’s up to the team to turn things around; Maamria dipping into his wealth of experience, ready to have the troops motivated and fired up for the next game at the Lamex. Three points against struggling Crewe would be just the tonic; pushing things back in the right direction.