Crewe Alexandra: Steve Davis revived my fortunes, says Matt Tootle
MATT Tootle credits Crewe manager Steve Davis with helping restore his drained confidence and putting his career back on track.
The 22-year-old boasts a growing pile of man-of-the-match awards as the in-form Railwaymen edge their way up the League One table.
But he admits it was not nearly as rosy just over 12 months ago when the club were sinking towards the bottom of the basement division.
Tootle says he was so depressed by his performances in one of the country's leakiest defences that he started to dread pulling on his boots each day at training.
But something clicked back into place when Davis took over as manager last November.
The full-back said: "I'm conscious that I over-analyse my game sometimes, and even when people tell me I've played well I'll be thinking over how I could have done things differently.
"It was tough for me at the start of last season because I wasn't playing well and I wasn't enjoying getting up in the morning to play football, which I know is ridiculous.
"I wasn't dreading coming into the club, but because of how deeply I think about and love football, I just wasn't enjoying how I was playing.
"Steve came in and changed the whole place. I can't explain it, but I can only thank him for it.
"He's been terrific with me and it helps with how the team has done too."
Tootle, who injured a toe in the summer, had to wait for a place in the team as Gregor Robertson filled the left-back berth, while Harry Davis and then Kelvin Mellor starred on the right.
He got his chance further up the pitch in midfield at the start of September and filled that role for a month before replacing Robertson in the back four.
The bustling utility man then switched to the other flank when Mellor (knee) was ruled out of Saturday's thrilling 3-2 win over Colchester United. In his nine games to date, the winger Tootle has been up against has been substituted six times.
"There has only been one game when I thought we've been run ragged, and that was the Oldham match," he said.
"For the rest of the time I've really enjoyed myself playing at a good level – and I'm very fit at the moment.
"There have been a few games when the man on my side has been taken off because they haven't been able to cope.
"I've been pushing them back rather than them worrying me."
In all, Tootle has now made 132 club appearances, third behind only captain Luke Murphy and winger Byron Moore in the Alex's regular line-up.
And his readiness to embrace senior responsibilities has been shown in his relationship with loan boy Chuks Aneke.
He explained: "The first day Chuks turned up for training we saw his skills and thought this boy from Arsenal was on a different level.
"Then a couple of weeks later he was being booed off the pitch by our fans.
"After the Oldham game he was gutted, totally gone, and I put my arm around him and said 'I know you're a player' and hopefully I helped because that can make or break you.
"He's now gone on and scored three and set up five in nine games, and you can't ask for more. And the supporters have really taken to him now too.
"Neil Baker kept on at him to take fewer touches, and he's done that, but he's working hard to keep on improving. We've got a good player on our hands."