Just over a month ago Ash Hawkes and Richie Boxall stepped away from full time secure jobs to set up their own football coaching school called Pathway. Some would call it a risk and others would pat them on the back for having the confidence to trust each other in a new venture.
Both guys I know from Wick FC and Wick & Barnham Utd days at Crabtree Park, both have the drive and determination to make it work and I can see this being a huge success. Anyway, enough of me, here is their story so far and links to where you can find them in the South East:
TK: You and Richie (Boxall) were both working at Pompey (Portsmouth FC), so what prompted the move to Pathway Coaching?
RB: The name idea came from one we had called Stepping Stones. There is a big gap between an Academy player and a grassroots player just starting out so our ‘pathway’ is that; everything in-between. If you are talking about elite football we’re the bit in the middle of that, we can help them get there whatever their age.
What we want to try and do is create a pathway for every player to move up and onwards. The PE lessons we cover in conjunction with school teachers helps kids prepare for tournament football as well and other sports.
It’s all about recognising the individual child and working out what goes best for them, some just want to play for fun and some want something more serious but there’s a pathway for each one, that’s the main idea really to have that for everyone.
TK: How does the new venture sit alongside Mutri-Prep?
AH: It sits nicely alongside. Pathway is Monday-Saturday while Mutri-Prep is only on Sundays. It’s absolutely flat out but that’s the way I like to be. Two things I am very passionate about and they work hand in hand.
For those who don’t know I also run a nutritional meal preparation business called Mutri-Prep which began around two years ago and we cater for all dietary requirements, you can find us on Facebook.
TK: Where is Pathway based and what times do you focus on running?
AH: We are based in West Sussex, predominantly Bognor Regis and use the Arena as our base. We do branch out towards East Wittering and the outskirts and we are looking to expand further as the future takes us.
We also travel to Storrington and Pulborough and offer courses there which takes us that much further out. Timewise, we cover PE lessons at schools, we do afterschool clubs and we do our evening centres. When it comes to half term’s we do full week course and one-to-one coaching as well, full details are on our website which is linked below.
TK: Is it a full time thing for you and Richie? Are the other coaches part time?
AH: Yes Richie and I both own the company and are full time. We currently have four part time staff looking to recruit more in the next few weeks. We’re looking for young, driven enthusiastic coaches with the same philosophy as us and making sure they can deliver a great time for every single child that attends our coaching school. Fun and progression is what we stand for.
TK: What are the future plans and goals for Pathway?
RB: They are basically exactly what it says on the tin, ‘provide a pathway’. We want to build up the girls side of the game too and there are plans to put on sessions for them as time goes on.
We want to build as many relationships as we can with schools and clubs in the local area and provide those pathways as we move forwards and to help as many children as we can in years to come.
Here is the second and final part of my interview with former Barnet FC Head Coach Rossi Eames and in this part he talks about his time in charge of the first team, what went wrong and what could have gone better:
TK: The year we got promoted back into League Two in 2015 you became Under 21 Development Coach; did you still have a lot of those players under your tutelage?
RE: Yes, we took about nine of the Under 18 age group who were too old to play at that level but also Jack Taylor and Matty Stevens playing well above their age groups. A smaller group meant we could push more into them to get them ready and Martin played a few of them that first year, Harry Taylor, Fumi Shomotun scored against Hartlepool and then when we trained Martin would send some down to me and then from the academy some would step up, it was a real togetherness.
The loan moves were very beneficial in helping their development, we sent Harry to Hampton & Richmond and he did really well there which got him his first team chance.
TK: Martin then goes to Eastleigh, was it something you saw coming?
RE: No, I didn’t see it coming at all, in fact he rang me that morning. I think we were nine unbeaten at the time and although as you said some fans weren’t happy at the style of football winning games is what everyone wants whether as a player, manager or supporter.
Martin is a champion, he won promotions. The things I learnt off him were unbelievable, the way he sets up teams to get results, some methods are mad but there are methods to madness, just done in a simplistic way.
Going back to that morning, he rang, said I’m off to Eastleigh and did ask if I wanted to go with him. The money would have been great, around three times more than I was on at the time (below 20K), but I did say I’d think about it.
Then Henry and I got a call from Tony Kleanthous to take the team for the time being and what a whirlwind first ten days. We were out of the FA Cup so had time to prepare but so much went on, there was certainly much more to the job than I envisioned.
Sam Togwell wanted to join Martin at Eastleigh and we had already planned on him playing right back at the weekend as we were short, Gavin Hoyte was out with injury, so we had to adapt and threw in Jack Taylor to that position and he did alright to be fair.
But it was very much a ‘smash n grab’ at Yeovil and on the coach on the way home I was shattered thinking is this going to be how it is every week, my god!
Some great pro’s in that team though, Michael Nelson, Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Curtis Weston but the one I would love to have worked with and didn’t due to his injury was Michael Gash, such a shame he didn’t get his contract renewed.
TK: A reasonable spell in charge with Henry, what changed for that partnership to not work out?
RE: I did hear rumours that there was lots of infighting between us but that was never the case really. There was a game I missed when I was ill, Colchester I think it was and the chairman I think had been mulling things over after the Mansfield defeat and I went back to work after the Colchester game and Henry had gone.
The chairman already had Kevin Nugent lined up to come in, that deal was done and he travelled up to watch us at Morecambe. My regret from that time was I didn’t enjoy it; we were too focussed on keeping that run going to get into the play-offs.
TK: Can you clear up the rumours around that time of Kenny Jackett coming in after Nugent kept the seat warm almost.
RE: We heard the rumours as well but we never knew what the chairman was planning to do, we wanted the clarity as well after five wins, five losses and a couple of draws. But he kept his cards very close to his chest on that one so I don’t know either way.
TK: Kevin Nugent then has the job, one win in twelve and it appears to all fall apart, can you put your finger on why?
RE: I don’t quite know; the players were playing for him working hard in training but late goals we conceded meant momentum didn’t follow and I think that was a lot of it. He didn’t change a lot of things, of course he wanted to embed his ideas and philosophy, but it just didn’t go his way.
The biggest thing I think is the number of players there from Christmas to the end of the season. We signed a few, but not many left the club but keeping them all happy was a problem as it always is. It was unfortunate it didn’t work out and I had the last four games again that season.
TK: Tony then offers you the main job, head coach for the first team. Did you think been here long enough it’s deserved and the chance might not happen again so I’ve got to take it?
RE: Pretty much yeh, I felt it was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities and you have to take it, I’m sure if you asked any Barnet fan they would jump at the chance. I did ‘um’ and ‘ah’, thinking after the first spell is this me, you know.
TK: Did you also think looking at the squad and with the additions of Shaq, Craig Ross and later Dave Tarpey, I’ve got a play-off team here if not better?
RE: You look at the sum of the parts and you would think yes. You’ve got goals, you got defence and a good midfield, young players emerging but there were too many players in the building. I was told send me which ones you want to keep and I’ll move the others on, the latter didn’t really happen.
Some you miss out on too, James Alabi was in while I was away on holiday, then I get a call saying his medical wasn’t completed and the agent had walked out with him, gone. Others too, Marcus Bean, Hiram Boateng, and a couple of others I can’t remember. We did get Richard Brindley in through the door though, great right back.
Shaq initially didn’t hit the ground running but then scored against AFC Wimbledon in the Checkatrade Trophy and off he went. He’ll kick on again, he’s had a lot going on I know, but a great lad and I’m sure it will come good for him.
Tarps was done very late on deadline day. I had a call from his agent Lee Cook (the ex-Barnet winger) and I thought he was on his way to Coventry but seemed not so I said, ‘yeah I like him, proper goalscorer’. I spoke to the chairman who did the deal, agreed a fee, he came for his medical and we sent the paperwork at 10.59:45, 15 seconds to spare!
Confirmation didn’t arrive until we pulled up at Swindon on the Saturday lunchtime and we’d done our prep with Tarps up front with Shaq, that was close! So much was going on that night, Fuad Sale which didn’t get over the line nor Simeon Akinola to Lincoln.
Injuries though then began to cause a problem. Tarps only managed the game at Swindon, then Cambridge the following week and a challenge with Leon Legge saw him land awkwardly, his ACL goes seven minutes in and that’s it.
Going back to Luton first home game of the season we lose Elliott Johnson with an ACL as well, Harry Taylor off injured needing stitches, that’s both our wing backs. Brindley of course had his injury problem which meant we never saw him until the back end of the season.
The way we wanted to play that year with wingbacks meant it caused us a massive problem not having either of them available. John Akinde out from pre-season as well was a very big miss for us for a while, in hindsight did I bring him back too quickly? Yes I probably did. He wasn’t destined to play long at Carlisle but that wet pitch, his leg gave way and his hamstring went and put paid to the plan of him and Shaq together. We weren’t allowed loans at all and I do understand those reasons of not wanting to develop other club’s players, but some of that was down to the bloated squad size.
I can say now I did make mistakes, there are things I should have done better at the time in terms of players, players who weren’t playing or injured and in training but at the time you try and take a stance on it. There are always things going on behind the scenes that aren’t known about that you have to deal with, mentally I wasn’t in the right frame of mind myself.
I was going through quite a traumatic time away from the club, away from the game and it wasn’t pleasant. We drew at Yeovil and then got smashed at Colchester and at the time I felt that was it for me. I’d driven practically home to Bromley and then I get a text ‘come and see me in the office please’ so I had to drive all the way back to The Hive.
The chairman decided he wanted to change things up a bit, my head was pretty much gone anyway. With what was going on away from the game, the team not winning I was really struggling to see the wood from the trees so to speak. Was I out of my depth? Maybe I was, but I felt I had contributed a lot to the club.
Paul Tisdale said to me after the Exeter time of Jack Taylor, ‘that kid will win you and lose you games, but he’ll be your best player’. He’s done it himself with Ampadu and he who I won’t name who wins penalties now at Villa.
TK: In hindsight now looking back, would you have done anything differently like a change in formation against your beliefs or going to see Tony about what was going on away from the game?
RE: I spoke to him three or four weeks beforehand but no conversation was allowed, was dismissed straight away. But in hindsight yes, Dan (Sweeney) Alex (Nichols) and Ryan (Watson) should have been back in the team earlier. I trusted Jack (Taylor) and saw a future there. Fair play to Nelse (Michael Nelson) he said why don’t you play Dan at centre half, I should have done, he’s a good player, but there were other things like we needed to get on better.
You have to look at it and hold your hands up at times to making mistakes but there are some non-negotiables as a manager which you can’t go back upon which don’t happen on the pitch. I learnt so much from that time but it also took a long while for me to get back to me, it wasn’t how I wanted my nine years at the club to end.
TK: So then Mark McGhee comes in and you move to Head of Player Development?
RE: Well a title! Fair play to Mark he asked me a few times to come and work with him, but I was in such a dark, dark place is the best way to put it so the weekend after I took a few days away.
Gamedays I didn’t want to be around as it didn’t feel like it was me anymore and I needed to get away.
Most of the fans were brilliant throughout my time, I’ve no idea what actually happened after the Blackburn FA Cup with someone and my dad, that was supposed to stay within the club but then got portrayed in a Q&A later on, that wasn’t right to me.
I basically went back to the Academy side of things to see what players were coming through I had lost sight of that. James Callen was Under 12 at the time and has now come into the first team squad.
I didn’t really have a job spec as such so I took the Under 18’s with Lee Johnson till the end of the season, Antonis Vasiliou was in there and reminded me a lot of Luke Gambin, we had Rio Connell, Dwight Pascal, Benji Aghadiuno, Martyn Box, had a good little group there again.
I stayed well away from the first team when Graham (Westley) came in and then of course Martin (Allen) came back.
So first day back I’m in early as I knew he would be, he asks me to come and work with him, so I was honest and said no, too much going on and not really enjoying being around The Hive. Martin said that’s fine, just do the weekend game for me against Crewe, sit behind the dug out and give me the feedback.
We won 1-0 I think (2-1 win), and that week he knew my heart wasn’t in it. He was great about it and I still went for meetings with him as he wanted to know about the youngsters coming in etc.
The final game against Chesterfield I made arrangements with him to leave five minutes before the end of the game just in case there was any backlash from the fans towards me so I made sure I was out of the situation.
Then I was given my notice, went away for the summer and then got a call to say we need to sort out you staying on, which confused me given the first part, but I’d already had an interview lined up at Manchester City, got told though the club would want compensation for me if I went despite the fact I was on notice.
I didn’t get the job however and then had a call from a mate at Chelsea, so I went there to coach the Under 8’s and do a bit of scouting for them.
I look back now and a lot of good memories replaced more by the ones from the end, but I appreciate the support I did get and the staff and players I worked with.
TK: Are you surprised to see the club where it is now or do you think it’s been a never ending spiral?
RE: No I’m not. I think it’s been going downwards since Martin left for Eastleigh. We went through four managers that season, then another four when we got relegated and now four is it this season? No consistency, that’s what you need to be successful and progressive. At the end of the day though it’s the chairman’s football club and his money and in theory he can do what he wants.
He does have some good ideas but you need to stick with them. I haven’t really taken too much notice of this season, a covid year for everyone and tough for every club without fans inside watching them.
Going back to Underhill times, the Tuesday nights under lights were fantastic. I can go back to Edgar’s (Davids) debut, the place was bouncing. Another one was when Martin first came back and we drew 2-2 with Chesterfield, that bounce again.
The business model for The Hive is correct, it just lacks that soul that Underhill had. Underhill was nostalgic and reminded me of growing up as a kid watching Chesham Utd, but with The Hive being so open it takes away a lot of the acoustics which doesn’t help, but it needs to become somewhere, find it’s place.
My thanks to Rossi for his time, there are a lot of stories on the audio but converting all of it into blog’s would have taken about four pieces instead of two so the fantastic Beespod will be hosting the full two hour audio over the next week or so.
A couple of weeks ago I sat down with former Barnet FC Head Coach Rossi Eames to talk about his long period with the club, his time with the academy and getting the big job with the first team whilst also finding out why and where it didn’t go to plan. Here is part one and part two will be out later this week:
TK: Now I’ve got you down as joining Barnet in 2009 as a video analyst, but prior to that Chesham Utd, Amersham Town and Leeds Utd as an academy coach, is that right?
RE: Yeah, that’s pretty much it, I think though more 2010 when I properly started with Barnet. 2009 I was helping out the two clubs you mentioned above whilst at The Hive, played for Chesham as well in their reserves.
I originally went to Leeds to university to study Sports Coaching Science and it went from a one month placement to being employed at Leeds Utd in the space of three months. The club was going through a difficult spell in the early Noughties and as I was doing sessional stuff rather than full time employment they could offer me what I wanted so I left and went to Malia for the summer to DJ and work behind a bar.
My mates were all 18-30 reps out there so it was just a summer of chilling out, having a laugh, not treating life too seriously. Then I had a call from Aaron Chester who was alongside Paul Fairclough at the time and explained The Hive was in the process of being built and they were recruiting for roles in the new academy structure.
So I went along and was blown away by the facilities, granted the stadium hadn’t been built yet but everything else was a good vision of where the club wanted to be direction wise.
When I started there it was on £30 a week coding games for Aaron and for Jeremy Steele with the Under 18’s. And then a month into it James Thorne asked me to get involved on the coaching side which I jumped at and within three months I was running the college programme which sat alongside the academy.
It’s where Jamal Lowe came from, he’d been released from QPR and was head and shoulders above anyone else and was picked by James to train with the youth team. Iffy Allen also came into us via the college route as well, but Jamal was the one who stood out and he’s done very, very well for himself in the game.
Whilst attending college they trained at the same time as the scholars and we could pick and pull them from that group to step up and train with the youth team it was a conveyor belt of talent coming through.
TK: Was it from there that it took you onwards to coaching the Under 16’s and 18’s at Barnet?
RE: I think it was Mark Robson was in charge at the club, I was given the Under 12s-16’s but actually coached the 16’s. Some really good players in that time too, Kier Dickson, Alfie Cain and of course Jack and Harry Taylor. Jack was a 13 year old playing under 16 football, Harry was my captain at under 15, 16, and 18, very, very bright as a footballer.
That age group though were very talented as individuals but as a team they only won one game all season so our task was to get them playing together. It can be a difficult age where they’re doing their GCSE’s, understanding life as a young adult and wanting to be a professional footballer.
The incentive for them was seeing the first team players training at The Hive on a daily basis, they could see a pathway. Luke Gambin was with us at the time and caught Martin’s eye in a reserve team friendly which got him his chance in the first team.
TK: Was there any player you thought you work their way through Barnet and go on to have a good career? I know we’ve mentioned Jamal already, was there also one who you thought would make it but hasn’t for whatever reason?
RE: There were three lads I got Jeremy to look at from Chesham and the best one from them was a lad called Tom Fouhey. All three ended up in our youth team, but Tom was the stand out player a midfielder who could go box to box, comfortable on both feet and scored goals.
He got offered a pro deal at the end of the season but was also offered a scholarship in America to study medical science and of course took the latter. I wouldn’t say he was Premier League but good enough to have a league career, possibly Championship.
Jamal we knew would get there, he had all the qualities and took a different route to make it. Iffy Allen is probably the one, but in this game it doesn’t always work out how you expect it to.
I’ll mention Kai Mackenzie-Lyle who went to Liverpool and has now won promotion with Cambridge Utd, Dillion Barnes another keeper who went down to go back up as well.
The catchment area for Barnet is so vast you will always pick up some good talent and it’s a shame there is not academy currently for the club.
That period though was my favourite time in football, the staff we had around myself and Henry (Newman) like Dean Selvey and Ian Lowe who was our psychologist around the boys and he was great around the boys especially when it came to the time they were being kept on or released, that’s a tough time mentally.
Hakeem Odoffin was another who came into us, as a striker though but he was never going to make it there, so we moved him out wide as a winger but his end product just wasn’t there either so we moved him again this time to right back, Martin saw what he liked one afternoon and we signed him up.
Matt Stevens came to us as well from Reading having scored 30 odd goals from central midfield, he came in pre-season and did well, we thought we like that. So in he went as a striker but didn’t score in the first three games and missed a hatful of chances, we thought hang on what’s going on here!
But we offered him the two year contract as a scholar and promptly banged in a hat-trick for the youth team that afternoon, what a finisher though! The goals he scored, just made it look so easy and it was the year when the first team were doing well in the National League so Martin took a very keen interest in needing one or two for odd games.
That was such a fantastic time to be around that football club, loved working with and under Martin. I got on really well with Nursey (Jon Nurse) and still speak to him now, it was just a great time for the football club.
What a lot of people won’t be aware of too is the money we got from selling on some of these youngsters before they played first team football, the money we got Malakai Mars from Chelsea was unbelievable! A lad called Rui Costa went to Norwich, Anton Hooper to Aston Villa, Hakeem was only here for eight months before his move to Wolves, it was one or two going every year.
Here is part two of my interview with Barnet keeper Scott Loach on his new venture which kicks off on Wednesday night:
TK: Where will the school be actually based, just in Southwell?
SL: Yeah, based there but not exclusive to people just living in Southwell. I’ve got people from Newark, Chesterfield, Derby so it’s open to everyone. It’s on a Wednesday night and will be split into age categories, I’m not separating genders so we all work and learn together.
On the launch night there will be 18 keepers split into three groups of six and we will rotate every 15 minutes to do a different drill, to get a good feel of things, none of this waiting around to do something, that’s the young keepers.
I’ve got a young lad called Harry Chapman who is the youth team keeper at Chesterfield who’s going to be my right hand man, good for me and good experience for him too. He’s only 17, but his passport must say he’s much older, he’s massive, like Aymen a rare breed!
There’s Philipa Davies who’s at (Nottingham) Forest at the moment and she’ll pop along too, I think it’s good for both the boys and the girls to have people there to look up to and aspire to.
So there will the first group from 5pm-6pm up to age 10, then 6.15-7.15 up to age 13 and finally 7.30-8.30 the older ones around 15-16 year olds who you can really put through their paces.
I’m lucky to have a lot of contacts within the game so Steve Cherry who used to play for Derby and Notts County I’m friends with his son and others so I’m aiming to get a guest down every four or five weeks as well just to bring a different voice in really and also different styles.
TK: You’ve got 34 keepers ready to go so far, what’s the maximum you can accommodate?
SL: At the moment it’s 36 so I can aim to split into three groups of 12 at each level. The youngers ones it’s not so bad, but the middle ones I’m more keen on as they’re just starting secondary school so you want to keep their focus.
If the numbers increase then we would add another night, not for being greedy but for their development, you don’t want to be making a save then having to wait ten turns to make another save.
Eventually it’ll be one drill, then swop between Harry and I, if you have too many then it becomes harder to keep them interested.
TK: You mentioned the youngest keepers are six years old, what age groups are you going up to?
SL: Honestly, I’ll go up to adults that’s not a problem, it would just mean a separate night because you wouldn’t want to move the kids sessions around to put the eleven year olds with the fifteen year olds.
I wouldn’t write anyone off, write any gender off, even if a four year old wanted to give it a go I’d obviously have a look at them and be honest with the parents if they’re not quite ready yet, but I think anyone over the age of 16 would need and want more from a session so I would look to do a different night with them.
TK: Is this the full time aim for you once you decide to hang up the gloves and stop the goals going in?
SL: Erm, kind of! My ideal scenario would be like Rhys and Darren were doing at Barnet, into a club two or three days a week daytime and then my coaching school in the evening for two or three nights.
Of course I’m talking at the lower levels though and if you work your way up the ladder it becomes full time the higher you go obviously. But, definitely looking at least two nights a week for me and something part time, but I’m not ready to give up playing yet.
One thing I have loved this year is working with Aymen (Azaze) and James (Callen) where younger keepers are of the age still wanting to learn but I wouldn’t rule out working with first team experienced keepers, I’m open to everything.
TK: Final one, what can young keepers expect to learn from Scott Loach?
SL: I am massive on not teaching a kid how to catch the ball, that’s not goalkeeping. I think I’ve said to you before my style is different to Aymen’s, to James, so with the aim to keep the ball out of the net, my teaching is footwork.
Not your Eddison footwork where you take a back pass, Cruyff it and ping it out to the fullback, but speed across the goal. The quicker you get into line the more shots you save and how you keep it out is up to you. If you watched De Gea at the weekend, shots hitting him everywhere, unorthodox but effective and that’s huge for me.
I can show them how much distance they can cover in and around the goal, that’s my main objective besides keeping that ball from crossing the white line.
My thanks to Scott for his time, Scott Loach GK Coaching School launches on Wednesday 12th May at Southwell City FC at 6pm.
On Wednesday 12th May former Watford, England, Hartlepool and current Barnet goalkeeper Scott Loach launches his own goalkeeping school. Last week I caught up with the experienced stopper to find out why he ended up at Barnet, how the coaching school developed and his plans for the future when the gloves are finally hung up.
Here is part one of the interview, part two follows on Tuesday evening:
TK: What set you on the way to being a goalkeeper?
SL: Haha! Well two reasons, it happened when I was eight and on trial at Ipswich. I wanted to be a striker really, but the keeper got injured so I went in goal and it was one of those games where I dived the wrong way and still saved the ball, deflected shots etc, all kept out so the scout watching said ‘he’s a keeper’. So back on trial as a goalkeeper and here I am.
The second reason is a die-hard Manchester Utd fan growing up with the Class of ’92 and Peter Schmeichel, not fussed about anyone else but have never met him. He’s the only one I’d be a fan of and ask for a picture!
TK: What was it that brought you to Barnet where you are now?
SL: Two reasons here also and you know already one of them. Firstly, the infrastructure there. I’d always played well at The Hive for opposition teams, location was just about ok for travel for my family and I.
But the biggest reason I signed was Darren (Currie). I can remember exactly where I was when he phoned me, I’d just dropped off my wife at our friends place and nipped to Sainsburys to grab some bits, Daz phoned me and by the time I was back from shopping I knew I was going to Barnet.
I had some league interest but logistically with my daughter starting school, my son there too, it would have meant moving but Daz sold it to me, not the dream but wanting me as a player which is big, was honest and straight up and made me want to come and work for him. From what you see on social media I’m not the only one to say things like that.
TK: The coaching school which launches on Wednesday evening, has it been something on your radar to want to do or something that’s come up as an opportunity?
SL: I’ll be honest, I had a little dabble at it a few years ago and hated every single minute of it. I’ve always loved working with kids, got a big family and means you never have to grow up!
Ask Sparksy (Dan Sparkes) Elliott Johnson or Cal (Callum Reynolds) our car school I’m a coffee addict so it was always coffee shops, coffee shops. Then lockdown hit and it was Adam Collin the ex-Notts County keeper who has his own coaching school and asked me to come to help him out and I literally fell in love with it.
In my local village there are 40 teams ranging from age 6 all the way up to men’s teams and women’s teams as well so I thought I’d see if there was any interest and since that first lockdown last year it’s just taken off and taken off and now I’m obsessed with it!
This year at Barnet we had firstly Rhys Evans and then Darren Acton for just a couple of days a week so that gave me time with Aymen (Azaze) and James (Callen) so I’m taking the credit for those two this season!
Have to say though Darren was first class, but a massive shout out to Rhys, I wish I could have worked with him full time the way he was set up, brilliant. We also had Jamie Stephens coming in as well, what a player! Aymen will tell you the pair of us could just watch Jamie glide through training.
TK: Given your current situation at Barnet has that allowed you more time to get things in place ready for the launch night?
SL: Yeah, for the last three weeks or so I’ve been training elsewhere so I’ve had more time at home to plan and get in more sessions after school. Not being big-headed but I do have a bit of a name in the game with Watford and the England stuff but I’ve never really used it and kids now are looking up to it and thinking ‘wow’.
It’s not going to be built in a day but hopefully we’ll start with two evenings a week so I split the kids up and that way smaller groups you can work more intimately with to get the best out of it.
They’re coming down for me, I’m not one that’s going to be trying to sell his gloves, kit etc if your hero is David De Gea you come in a De Gea, if it’s Aymen Azaze then you come as Azaze, had to get his name in here somehow!
I’m with them on their whole journey, I’ve had my nephew recently with me whose seven and at Nottingham Forest and another lad whose 12 but both get the same workout, I don’t believe in dumbing it down or up depending on age.
TK: Why Southwell? Is it the nearest village to you?
SL: It’s my village! If you’ve seen Hot Fuzz it’s exactly like that village, in fact I’m sure it was based on it! It’s a little posh village just outside Nottingham, everyone knows everyone it’s one of those kinds of places, I grew up here, its given me great memories and my best friend here is the first team manager, they’re doing very well at Step 7.
They’ve said to me I can use all the facilities, floodlights in the winter etc in return for a free session every now and then, we’ll help you raise your profile at the same time so they’ve been brilliant so far for me.
I really want it to be the hub of the community on a Wednesday evening, families can come down, siblings can play in the park next door and parents can come and have a drink and as the club itself grows with a new ground then it becomes more nights a week.
Here is the second and final part of the interview of YIR Louis Clark as he talks about the struggles during the recent lockdown and the hope for the future:
TK: When we got to September last year and the season finally started again did you get an increase in the number of clubs wanting games filmed or did you stick with the amount you already had?
LC: We had a small bump upwards but nothing major, around five more games a week. We came back originally with around 10-15 games a week, that’s after rain offs and clubs not playing for whatever reasons, the weather of course is a massive problem outside our control, when you look back to the winter before this one it was awful for rain so that was a knock on effect before covid.
For us it was more the pipeline of work that were hoping to come on board that disappeared which caused us a massive problem. But of course with the return of grassroots football from the end of the month we’ve been getting a lot more bookings again which is great and what is needed.
TK: And to the November lockdown where I saw you guys up at AFC Varndeanians on a Monday night, went to two games myself by Wednesday and Thursday down we went again. How much of a setback was that once again?
LC: A big one! We were lucky that we had the National League still going, for us that is Dorking Wanderers and latterly Eastbourne Borough. Dorking though are a great club to work for, their media department is very professional, they wanted a stream that makes money right from the very beginning which we did for them.
Before them we hadn’t done a lot of live streaming at all, it’s tricky as you well know, if I mention Barnet of course where we had issues trying to help them out and there is a lot of stuff that can be out of your hands, but it’s a learning curve all the time.
We also were doing Lewes Women too, but we found out the hard way by using club’s wi-fi and power is not the way forward, have they paid the bill, does it cut out part way through and re-set, is there a power trip to the supply etc, all these things and more.
So now we bring our own wi-fi and our own power so we know that if anything goes wrong it’s us and it works of course so much better now. As I mentioned we also have Eastbourne Borough, a great well run club too and clubs who of course wanted to play on during the rest of the season.
The feedback’s been great on both streams and they both understand we’re learning at the same time they are.
TK: Both clubs are now not able to play on with their division null and void, how does that affect you for the remainder of the season?
LC: It means a big struggle for me, where they were still playing friendlies for a few weeks awaiting the decision we had something to do and they were earning money a little bit, I’ve now been going out and doing removals for Darren Budd (Moving Buddies) to get some cash coming in, something different as a lot of people have been needing to do over the last 12 months.
TK: Streaming games has become a part of the norm at the moment, do you think going forward it will remain such a big part?
LC: That’s something that is out of our control with the 3pm blackout rule. I’ve spent of lot of time and money into getting the streams going equipment wise and I just hope they use some common sense at non-league level that there will still be people who won’t want to return to grounds when the season kicks off and will still want to watch and contribute to their team’s finances in some way.
If capacities are still capped next season then it’s a vital revenue line for clubs to compliment those that they can get inside the ground. Can it be around for a long while? I’m hoping so, not just for us but for the clubs who need every penny they can get their hands on.
TK: You’ve started up your online shop with your t-shirt range (link at the end of the article), what does the future hold for Your Instant Replay?
LC: The merchandise stuff is tough; we’ve nearly sold out though. Whether we do more with it I’m not yet sure, I mean we did well out of who we’ve sold to but we’ll see.
My aim though is for Your Instant Replay to not just be a production company, much more to it than that which is why I started off with the t-shirts. But I want to add more as you know, just the timing is awful currently.
I’m looking at podcasts, talk shows, weekly shows for league competitions in the very near future, I did want that off the ground over the next few months but some of that will have to wait.
I am wanting to do an NFL RedZone style where we go to a league and stream all their games on the one day to their website and then income by means of a match day ticket or monthly subscription.
The beauty of it would be like RedZone where you can be watching say Worthing vs Bognor and flick out onto Lewes vs Burgess Hill for instance. With that I’d also want to work on where we could become a non-league Soccer Saturday and flip to goals around our games, to give the whole experience.
The tech is there for it to be done, it’s just someone out there agreeing to make it happen and we go from there. Of course there is a bit of cost involved as you would need more people to run it but that is the goal ultimately.
Once we have dates etc for a new season then I can start to plan things a lot more and hopefully it’s relatively uninterrupted next year and we can push on again as a company, it’s all about timing though.
My thanks to Louis for his time and some great ideas for the future in there, if we can get a decent football season once again, his company should prosper.
In the last couple of weeks I sat down via Zoom with Louis Clark who runs Your Instant Replay to find out from him how they began, what the effect of the pandemic has been and what the future holds. Here is part 1:
TK: Louis, thank you very much for your time for this. Now I came across you and Your Instant Replay (YIR) when I was at Wick FC, but you guys began in 2016, was it something that you always wanted to do?
LC: To be honest mate, I didn’t have a clue when we first started! I’d never held camera nor done any editing, nothing like that, but I played abroad for like ten year or so and everything was filmed out there and I mean everything.
I had mates back here playing County league, Sunday league and Isthmian level and there was nothing like that and as a player I think you want to watch yourself play, I certainly did and was always searching for highlights that evening.
So I felt there was something there, some companies were doing it but it wasn’t consistent. I had to the idea then to come home, I was playing in Manilla at the time, I wasn’t ever going to be a big time professional player or anything and thought I really wanna try this.
Armed with one camera, I signed up at Worthing with Jon Meeney, they were the first club shortly followed by Steyning Town and of course then the first problem if they were both at home on the same day!
So I learnt the hard way it was going to be some expense to start with before I made any money back and I was playing while trying to do it as well, but my head was always on after the game picking up the cameras etc so I gave up playing and been full time at this since 2016.
I won’t lie, it was tough for a year and a half, losing money, trying to pitch it to people who couldn’t see the value in it. We made plenty of mistakes but learnt on the job to improve. We had a good relationship with the Sussex County FA which gave us some early exposure, but what is really great is 90% of the clubs who started with us in 2016 are still having their games filmed by us.
I still don’t think we’ve cracked it we’re surviving at the moment like a lot of things are in this current situation but pre-covid it was my dream job, it still is. It’s still the buzz of being around football, but the last year has no doubt nearly set us back to square one again.
TK: If we go back exactly twelve months from now, how many clubs did you have on board when the pandemic struck?
LC: I can’t quite put a figure on it because we had so many clubs saying ‘can you come and film this one game for us’, so the metric I use is how many we do per week which was 30 games per week and when I say games, Under 7’s Patcham and women’s football on a Sunday, County League and Isthmian plus National League South on a Tuesday night, college games on a Wednesday we do a lot of work with RMA run by Russell Martin and then games all round everywhere on a Saturday.
That was all pre-pandemic but we had lots in the pipeline too. We have a good relationship with the full FA as well, I don’t know if people have seen the ‘England reacts’ videos online that we put out and we had just started do to international friendlies for them. We were booked in to do England Under 21’s Lionesses at St Georges Park, but it all went just like that once the season stopped last March, it didn’t happen.
We were in a really good spot and the aim for this season was to be doing 50 games a week, the demand was there and I had clubs ready to go and now we’re facing fighting battles again, clubs are inevitably going to say next season sponsorship is down so they’ve got to cut costs etc. but the message I try and get across is the footage can pay for itself if you can find a sponsor or more than one or depending on your level the pay per view route.
It can be a real revenue earner for clubs and inevitably it will change when fans are allowed back into stadiums again and there will still be lots of opportunities but for now it’s tough, tough, tough.
TK: Did the first lockdown period change how you were going to do things going into the 2020/21 season?
LC: Yeah massively. As I mentioned we had planned for the 50 games, equipment to buy, getting people in place, and bang all gone! There are no contracts to this, most of it is done on a handshake. We’ve tried service level agreements but of course county leagues we can’t hold to that if they’ve run out of money.
So we kept most of the ones from last year but the ones who were going to come on board it really screwed things up for them and us and it didn’t help with not knowing when the season was actually going to kick off.
Here is the final part of the interview with new Billericay boss Kevin Watson:
TK: Contract termination at Ebbsfleet and despite everything that was going on around at the time, had you one eye on planning for next season?
KW: I had more than one eye on it yeah, pretty much before they decided my contract wasn’t being renegotiated. We had the Zoom call between Damien (Irvine), Steve (Lovell) and me, deciding who we were going to keep and who to let go. Steve had the easy job; I had the six difficult phone calls for those we weren’t retaining, something that has to be done if you don’t want to be in the same scrap the following year.
But those boys then messaged and called me two weeks later when I received the same phone call I had to deliver to them, that’s a measure of their attitudes despite not being involved at Ebbsfleet anymore, a sign of the relationship I had with them.
It was a call I wasn’t expecting, I wanted to stay at the club and have another crack at it with your own squad if you like, but it’s football, I was disappointed at the time and everyone knew that. It was then a case of getting over that disappointment and dusting myself off for the next opportunity.
TK: Being an out of work manager during a pandemic can’t have been easy and as I mentioned I chat to Darren (Currie) quite often, he is quite keen to get back into the game as you yourself were.
It’s no secret I championed you, Ian Hendon, and Andy Hessenthaler for the Barnet job at the end of the summer pretty much because I saw what you did at Ebbsfleet in the way you turned them around from a fractured team into a togetherness as a group of players. Did you actually get a call from Tony (Kleanthous) or not?
KW: No! Barry Neville who I got to know through Teddy, represents me and I got through the CV reading stage but that was it, you, and I both know how football works though and I have to say the Billericay one was done so differently and well. I think it went over five weeks in all, three Zoom calls and various interviews with each of the five owners there but they made me feel at ease throughout the process.
And to get yourself in front of 50 or 60 other applicants makes you feel good as a manager or coach especially when you go for a job and hear of some of the other names linked with the vacancy.
The set up though is fantastic, from the first team through the Under 23’s to the ladies’ team and the youth set up each owner has a vested interest in one part of the club to bring to the table, it’s a club that now is moving in the right direction.
TK: The likes of yourself, Darren, Hendo out of work during a pandemic how was it watching football going on but not being involved yourself?
KW: It was difficult yeah I had set myself a target of late November early December when things might start to happen and as it was turned out to be a little bit after that, but there was very little happening. I think there were only one or two jobs coming up in all three divisions, Gloucester I didn’t get to the final stages there, Barnet of course as we mentioned and that was it until I went for Billericay.
TK: Did you get around to many games to watch whilst you were waiting for an opportunity? And when you’ve been in a job do you feel some added pressure when you see out of work managers sitting behind u in the stand?
KW: Oh yeah I had that at Ebbsfleet when I was in interim charge, it was like a who’s who of managers sitting behind me, but then I was thinking what will be will be. Luckily for me the players did well for me and got me the job, but you know why those people are there, either a manager is under pressure or someone is in that caretaker role.
I did get to games, as many as I could but I really wanted to be back in that dug out and for me I was pleased I wasn’t out of the game for longer than a few months.
TK: And of course now back in the game at Billericay Town and despite of course doing a lot for talkSPORT did you feel at any point that the route back into the game wouldn’t come?
KW: At times you do, you don’t want to be out of the game for too long. May to November/December is a fair amount of time and you don’t want to feel you’ve like fallen off the map and will people still remember you and what you’ve done but it’s good when people like yourself who know football still put your name out there and into people’s thinking its then not me spouting off or anything.
In the current conditions we’re playing in, it’s strange, very strange to not have fans inside the stadium, twelve months ago we had all that. You have literally two teams, your staff, their staff, people who work around the ground and the media guys and that is it!
But, as you mentioned when speaking to Smudger there are still three points to play for and of course the games are being streamed so people are still watching despite not being there, but it is weird and I think fans are something that have been taken for granted, we certainly can’t wait to have supporters back in the ground and I’m sure that can’t be any different for any club up and down the country.
TK: The current situation we have with the National League vote and not to get too political with it all, how do you think it will pan out? All three divisions finishing or just the top division carrying on?
KW: I’ll be honest, I have no clue, no clue at all! It changes on a daily basis it’s impossible to predict. I try not to get involved with the technicalities of it all and as a manager and players as players we’d all love to carry on being out there but it literally is politics with the government.
If the funding comes through though as grants we carry on, I have heard murmurs of fans being back in grounds before the end of the season which would be fabulous to see and as we seem to be coming out the other side of this pandemic slowly it’s something we’d all like to do, to welcome them back.
As you are aware our club have gone down the route of fielding our Under 23’s and Under 18’s to protect the future, the first team players are furloughed until things are resolved and they gave a great account of themselves at St Albans, really proud of them for how they played that day.
TK: Is there an eye on what happens beyond this season with all the uncertainty and expectation that the vote will go against playing on?
KW: No, not yet. I think once we get to that point where the decision is made then we decide that we move on and with our thinking too. If we null and void then it begins and of course my players contracts will be up for most in the summer, those I’d want to keep, to bring in. The young lads who played in that league game have given me some headaches to come into the thinking too, but that’s what I’m paid to do, make tough decisions, and put together a good enough squad for next season.
TK: Touching on that performance at St Albans and having to use the players as you did, are you a bit surprised at the time more haven’t gone down the same route? (since the interview, clubs are now starting to explore the same route)
KW: The owners decided to go down that route as not to impact the future of the club whilst we wait for decisions to be made and resolved. So we have five non-contracted players who we put together with the selected boys from the Under 23’s although the oldest one there is only 20 years old, trained on Thursday and played the game on the Saturday.
I’m open and honest enough to say I didn’t expect to get any kind of result there, but I feel I did them a bit of a disservice as to a man they were brilliant all afternoon.
There are a couple within that bunch that I want to tie down for next season, if we carry on this season I’d like to think I’d have them involved.
And if others decide to go down the same route as we’ve chosen to then we might get to finish the season as a whole with everyone playing but not everyone is going to have an Under 23’s to use so we’ll just have to see.
My thanks to Kev for sitting down and putting this all together with me, fingers crossed the next time will be face to face in an office rather than the endless Zoom calls we’re all involved in at the moment.
Part two of my interview with the new Billericay boss Kevin Watson is below, Kevin talks about his time at Ebbsfleet and what happened in and round the time the season was halted last year before we went into the lockdown:
TK: I watched you three times last season, firstly at Barnet when we won 5-2.
KW: That was a going over that night!
TK: I think it wasn’t long after that game things started to come together for you.
KW: Yeh it was, that game though! We got back to 2-2 and I thought we looked like the only team to go on and win the game, but we conceded immediately after equalising which deflated us and I had turned to Trist (Lewis) after we scored and said we can go on to win this now because we’d started so well but that third goal really did it for us.
I wouldn’t say it was a one off night either as we got a good tonking at Barrow as well but they were a very good side and that game was probably my lowest ebb in football, sitting on the train on the way back was just the worst.
TK: Then I saw you at Maidenhead, they were going downwards you were heading upwards in the table, the performance that night was very strong and the momentum carried forward into the Halifax game which I sat and watched on TV as it was the only game going on in Europe let alone England.
KW: The boys’ strength of character in that Maidenhead game on a Tuesday night not long after we’d been beaten 4-0 at Chesterfield was excellent. I’d made a point for the Chesterfield game in leaving out both forwards, I felt they were stale, Gozie Ugwu and Josh Umerah, and it was a bit of a kick in the teeth for them but also to the detriment of the team that day.
It was 0-0, nothing in the game until the last twenty minutes. Then Nathan Tyson who I played with at Reading came on and scored a hat-trick and it looked like a real thumping on paper but it wasn’t, a capitulation at the end for sure and the goals we gave away were poor, the final score looked far worse than it was.
What I liked though about that game was Gozie only got ten minutes so no time to affect the game at all, Josh I left out of the sixteen completely but after that game he was sweeping and tidying our dressing room and I thought then he recognised he needed a break, his attitude was superb that day.
Both of them were back in on the Tuesday night at Maidenhead and as you saw they were both unplayable, so I took a little bit of credit for dropping them and losing for the response in the next game, That first half at Maidenhead was special no doubt about it.
For the last few games after that they were fantastic as a pairing and as a result Josh got his move to Torquay and Gozie is up in Scotland doing well.
TK: Watching the game on that Tuesday night you see the togetherness that possibly wasn’t there when you go back to for example the game at Barnet and at Barrow.
KW: Yeah, we definitely ended up with that. We were a work in progress that did get better and better until the season was stopped. We had setbacks, but we always bounced back from them, I think from the 29 games we played from when I took over we never lost two in a row and that shows some resilience from the players.
It’s a very, very tough league as it’s shown again this season, the top 8 will comfortably compete in League Two. We ran Notts County close in the FA Cup, Stockport at home played very well but lost in the last minute, we competed well in most games, just the odd ones like the Barnet’s and Barrow’s in my mind where we came a cropper.
TK: And then waiting to find out you’d been relegated by 0.002 points to the National League South must’ve have been the toughest point to take after the run of form you had put together.
KW: Regardless of what happened to me leaving the club, I felt everyone’s hard work had just gone to waste, where was the integrity in that when we still had seven games to play?
We were fourth in the form table and were due to play Bromley on the coming Saturday and I said to Smudge (Neil Smith) as they were going the opposite way down the table that he wouldn’t have wanted to play us at our ground at that time, he was probably doing handstands at the time!
Great lad though Smudge, have got a lot of time for him, we were together at Spurs and we’ve shared a few phone calls over the last few months, he did invite me down to Bromley to share ideas while I was out of work, very kind of him.
It’s been a long time coming but this week I finally sat down with Billericay Town boss Kevin Watson to talk about his time at Ebbsfleet Utd, how it was being out of work since his recent appointment in Essex and what it’s like being a manager under the current conditions, here is part one:
TK: One of the things I noticed is on your CV you’ve got a lot of promotions as a player and a coach; do you think it’s something that surprises a lot of people?
KW: Yeh I think so. My playing career was very successful, four promotions at three different clubs, captained Rotherham Utd to back-to-back promotion campaigns, went to Reading and got another one there as well and ended up at Colchester where I picked up the final one.
I was never brash or ‘out there in your face’ as a player and just did what I had to do, all in all nearly 500 games if you all count all the mickey mouse cups as well, so not a bad career overall.
I finished up at Luton Town under Mick Harford with a six month contract around the time they had the money troubles and financial irregularities but ended up retiring as a player there in Dec 2009 after my achilles and calves had had enough so I became assistant to Mick there, we went to Wembley and won the Johnstones Paint Trophy in front of around 52,000.
From there it was Soccer Saturday with SKY for five years and onto Stevenage with Teddy Sheringham which was an eye opener for me, the first real foray back in the coaching game. Then followed a stint as Bishops Stortford manager where I brought a lot of academy kids through having also worked with them whilst managing the first team, the last matchday squad I had there contained seven boys who had come through with four of them starting that day, that was pleasing to see.
After Stortford it was teaming up with Ronnie Moore at Eastleigh, we were going really well there, 7th in the table and having just beaten Swindon in the FA Cup who were a League One side at the time, and then Ronnie was relieved of his duties which we only put down to a clash of personalities with the chairman and that was me done there.
Hungerford was my next stop as assistant to Ian Herring who to this day has become a really great friend of mine despite us only knowing each other about two and a half years, I actually looked forward to doing the two hour drive there and back on a Tuesday and Thursday night getting back at 1am, and on Saturdays because I loved the place and the people there.
For us to stay in the National League South on the budget we had was like winning promotion and we told the boys that, staying up on the last day of the season.
Then November 2019 I had a call from one of the lads I knew at Ebbsfleet Utd who said he thought Ian Hendon was leaving and there might be an opening there and would I be interested. So I went along, had a chat with Garry Hill, drove to Hungerford that evening and told Ian I would be leaving, it was an opportunity for me.
I took training that night and Ian nicely dropped me in it with the lads ‘Watto’s got something to say to you all’. It was a bit emotional I’ll admit as I felt very comfortable there and grown with those boys but there it was and the next day I was in at Ebbsfleet with Gary.
Then literally ten days later Garry lost his job and he said to me not long before ‘there might be a chance for you here, I’m a couple of defeats away from losing my job I think’, but that’s not the reason I wanted to go there, it was a National League club and I wanted to progress back up the ladder.
I was in interim charge for I think five games, winning three and drawing and losing one each off the top of my head. There were loads of impressive CV’s on the chief executive’s desk, some good names in there and I think that those results put me right at the front of the owner’s mind and that’s where the job came from.
TK: And definitely not the easiest time to be involved at the club either.
KW: No, it wasn’t. We had ups and downs I think it’s well documented, and I don’t think I need to go into it too much but it was a challenge, a challenge that I enjoyed and having taken over when we were on ten points from sixteen games I think we finished on 42 points from 39 games and that last win at Halifax effectively pulled us out of the bottom three.
We knew it was only three going down due to the Bury situation and we felt it was such an achievement for not just me or the staff but the players as well as we worked hard on the pitch, in training, we had a settled team and formation of 3-5-2 which I like so much and we nailed it, won the last three away games and from the last nine that we played we had a better record than Barrow who went up at champions. It was a really good time and we were just disappointed that lockdown came about just when it did.