Hull: It’s been a challenge

Last week I caught up with Arundel FC boss Simon Hull to gain an insight at how Step 6 clubs have coped with the lockdown period and this is what he had to say:

TK: When football was suspended by the FA back in March Arundel had nearly half a season to play in around six weeks, how much pressure do you think that would have put on the players to manage 3 or even 4 games a week?

SH: It would have been a real challenge and tested the depth of our squad to the limit. Considering our players have full time jobs and aren’t afforded the luxury of rest days it would have been tough undoubtedly.

TK: How did you approach the lockdown period once the season had been marked null and void?

SH: We (the coaching staff and myself) made multiple plans for various start dates, a best guess exercise really. I also kept in regular contact with our players advising them and updating them to the best of our knowledge. It was difficult but everyone has been in the same boat.

TK: Has it been easy or sometimes difficult to keep the players you have close and to approach players you want without a start date in mind?

SH: Our players have been first class, I can’t speak highly enough of them. Almost all have committed to the club for next season too, we have approached a couple of players with a view to adding to the squad and giving us more depth and quality, honesty is the only approach that works in my book. Fortunately, we have been able to offer 1 to 1 sessions and now group work courtesy of my coaching staff. They have been working around the clock to accommodate all the lads and deserve a special mention.

TK: Now that we have a tentative start time as September, is your planning now able to become a bit more through so you are ready to hit the ground running?

SH: Yes, we have things planned for the players which are now ongoing until the season commences, all things being equal let’s hope it is September. We have been training in small groups as per the guidance and also individually for a month now so we’re relatively in a good place.

TK: How do you think the football landscape will look at Step 5 when the season begins?

SH: Purely speculation and opinion, let the powers that be provide guidance and an exact start date ensuring safety is an absolute priority, lives come before football. I expect and hope we mirror last season with the number of promotion places up for grabs and being able to enter the FA Cup and Vase. Whilst I understand there may be time constraints for the Cup there has to be an element of common sense to work around this. Steps 4, 5 and 6 clubs place huge emphasis on being able to compete for prize money and to miss out would be terrible for clubs at the lower end of the pyramid. Whilst be financially important for clubs, it’s a highlight for players and coaches alike. Scrap all replays but don’t devalue the competition by reducing the entry.

TK: Has the club been able to maintain itself over the last three months and be in a position to begin once again in the next couple of months?

SH: It’s been a challenge! We have lost all revenue streams without the bar and clubhouse. Fortunately, sustainability is at the forefront of the Arundel model. It’s an expensive business but we have prudent people  who look after the clubs finances so we should get through it but it’s not easy.

TK: Given the make up of Division One should look the same as it did last season, what are you expecting to happen?

SH: I’m hoping it’s the top 4 being promoted again as was supposedly the case last season for the restructure. Time will tell and we shall see, but I expect to see the same sides challenging again.

TK: Finally, the lockdown period can be viewed as a great time for reflection and for re-set. What things if any have you yourself from a football perspective felt a good time to change?

SH: We have had a slight restructure with regards to the management set-up and introduced a reserve side instead of the Under 23’s alongside our existing Under 18 team. We analysed closely last season what we did well and more importantly areas we felt we could make improvements and have implemented some change we hope is for the better.

My thanks to Simon for his time answering these questions.

McKimm: In life you should always look to better yourself and not stand still.

Earlier this week I got in touch with National League South manager Steve McKimm from Tonbridge Angels to find out how things have been progressing for him and the club over the past couple of months, here’s what he had to say:

TK: Despite an early curtailment to last season, were you pleased with how things were progressing for Tonbridge Angels on the pitch?

SM: Yes definitely. With four wins, four draws and just one defeat in our nine games after losing to Dartford on 28th December it was becoming a very good run.

TK: Do you think it took a little while for yourself and the players to get used to the demands of stepping up a level?

SM: I had watched a lot of games at this level after I left Sutton Utd, so I knew what to expect. In all our games bar Welling Utd away we weren’t out of reach in any of those matches, what the players needed was to erase from their game the silly mistakes as we were getting punished for every single one.

TK: Once it was confirmed the season was to be cancelled, did you then begin to start planning for whenever a new season was to begin?

SM: I had a few weeks off and if I’m honest I didn’t really think about football because we had no idea when we’d be back again. The club were excellent with the furlough for the players and I gradually spoke to them after a few conversations with my chairman. More announcements will hopefully follow over the next few weeks.

TK: We’ve seen a couple already announced as leaving the club and bearing in mind the financial restrictions that we expect to see going forward for many clubs, are you expecting there to be a bigger pool of players to choose from?

SM: I believe so, but it depends on what or how you want to move forward. I have my own ideas after a lot of thought and discussion with other staff members. Sometimes a lot of changes don’t always help but we’ll have to see what we can achieve when we get going again.

TK: How great have the chairman and the board been given the need to raise money for the pitch repairs and balancing that with support for you and your staff?

SM: The chairman and the board are excellent towards us, always helpful and supportive, I’m happy with that.

TK: How is the pitch looking?

SM: Pete and the others there have been working hard on it and it’s looking really good, as good as it did until the Hampton game, which should never have been played on it, that ruined it for us and the season.

TK: How do you think the football landscape will look when the game resumes at non-league level?

SM: It could be interesting times ahead, some clubs will struggle, some will remain the same and some may flourish due to finances. Clubs run correctly will always prosper, not necessarily in terms of trophies but will keep running and be a home for their fans.

TK: Is the aim next season to stabilise the club at this level with a view to pushing on the year after?

SM: Last season the aim was to stay in the league and as a club/manager, staff, players and supporters we achieved that, early finish to the season or not.

In life you should always look to better yourself and not stand still, football is no different so we will be looking to improve on last season and try to make Tonbridge Angels an established club in the National League for years to come.

My thanks to Steve for his time and good luck for when the new season begins.

NB. Since the National League decision on Wednesday to conclude the season with play-offs across all three divisions, I contacted Steve with one final question:

TK: Do you think the right resolution has been found following the National League club’s decision on Wednesday?

SM: If League football are having play-offs taking place then non-league should as well. If they can afford the testing and everyone is safe there’s no reason why not. I feel for clubs below these levels though, it’s as if they’ve been dismissed.

Hinshelwood: I thought this club had so much potential and keeps showing me that

At the back end of last week I caught up with Worthing FC boss Adam Hinshelwood to find out where the club is at planning for the new season and his views on the fantastic Crowdfunder appeal:

TK: How have you found the lockdown period personally, a time to reflect, to look forward or a mixture of both?

AH: Initially I think a lot of reflection and I’ve done a lot of reading and studying and now I’m looking forward and planning for the season ahead.

TK: How early did you start to plan for the new season and how far in advance were u able to plan?

AH: Just meeting this Monday to start planning out pre-season, but its hard with not having a start date to work to at present but we know pre-season will be 6 weeks so we can start getting a guide together of what it will look like from day to day.

TK: Have you had good contact with the squad from last season and how many do you expect to return?

AH: Really positive talks with all the squad from last season so far, they all seem keen and raring to go. We also need to recruit for our youth teams so it’s going to be a busy period over the next few weeks, but I am looking forward to it.

TK: How fantastic was it to see the Crowdfunder appeal reach it’s target so quickly?

AH: It was amazing to see and just highlighted to me what a great community club we are part of, it’s definitely given me a buzz to get back and I’m working hard to make sure we are better than ever when the new season kicks off.

TK: What changes do you see coming for non-league football given the financial struggles for many during this pandemic?

AH: Well, clubs are going to have to call upon their local communities to come together and support their local teams. Clubs are going to have to support local businesses, its going to be a hard time for many but the only way through it is everyone sticking and working together. Hopefully coming to a revamped Crucial Environmental Stadium will go a long way to helping everybody.

TK: Do you expect there to be a bigger pool of players available as clubs higher up the chain cut back on squad sizes?

AH: Possibly, but we like to stick to local players as much as possible and developing our own, I’m excited by the young players we have coming through.

TK: As per last summer, do you think you might lose one or two players to a higher level?

AH: Yes, I expect one for sure will be leaving us for a club a few levels higher in the pyramid, but we are quickly getting a good reputation for giving younger players an opportunity and with that we are getting good young players coming to us. It’s something as a club we are starting to become accustomed to, obviously we want to move up that pyramid ourselves and start to hold on to players instead of them leaving to further themselves.

TK: We can’t finish without mentioning the Away Day Boys, 5 years old now from creation, what do they bring to this club?

AH: It’s a following that is just growing and growing and really are the backbone of the club. There was a game against Moneyfields in the FA Cup a couple of years ago where it felt like we had taken over their ground, like a league club heading to take on a non-league outfit. It was the first time I thought this club had so much potential and it keeps on showing me that.

My thanks to Adam for sparing the time to answer these questions.

Lockdown video interviews

As some of you know I’ve being doing some live video interviews with some Barnet FC legends and all have won a title playing or managing in black and amber.

First up was Martin Allen:

Martin Allen 2

Be warned, this one is 3 hours long!

Next up was Ian Hendon:

Hendo and Graz

And to take us to the end of May is Gary Phillips:

Sumo

Both Ian and Gary’s video’s are over 2 and half hours long, but please enjoy!

Here we are at the beginning of June and the first one in the chair is Guiliano Grazioli, 3 hours long this one so make yourself comfortable!

My 5th live interview on Saturday 20th June featured Lee Harrison, again another 3 hours long, its becoming the norm!

NB Up to 24th June, there have been 6518 views across the five video’s.

Dodd back in the management game

Terry Dodd 1

Early on Thursday, former Wick FC boss Terry Dodd was named as the new player-manager of local rivals East Preston FC. Dodd will lead his new side in the Southern Combination Premier Division when the 2020/21 season begins and I caught up with him after his appointment was announced:

TK: How delighted are you to be back in management so quickly?

TD: Really pleased to get straight back into it, to be honest I enjoyed it so much last year that I was ready as soon as the right offer came in! I thought about playing again and had a couple of offers but I really wanted to be involved somewhere managing.

TK: Is it the same management set up that you had at Wick last year?

TD: Yes it will be apart from Alex (Bryant) due to personal reasons, gonna miss him! I’ve got a goalkeeping coach lined up and that should be ready to be announced in the next week or so.

TK: What attracted you to the job at East Preston?

TD: The club is run right behind the scenes, it’s got a proper set up with the academy to Under 16’s and then Under 18’s and 23’s so the development and natural progression for younger players is there and they want to build a successful sustainable club for the future and it’s exciting to now be a part of that.

TK: How much do you think last season’s experience at Wick will help you going into this season?

TD: I learnt a lot from my short time at Wick and definitely made some mistakes along the way, that’s life though! I would like to think those things won’t be repeated this time around and it will help me to become a better manager.

TK: Have you been set targets for next season or have you some in mind yourself?

TD: We’ve sat down with the chairman and the committee and spoken about how we can take the club forward and progress. Our expectations for our teams will never be any different to what it is normally, challenge and compete in every game we play and to improve game by game.

TK: How do you plan for next season when as yet no one is sure when it’s likely to start?

TD: It’s hard don’t get me wrong, but you have to do it as the season will start on time. Most teams will tell you the same as that, if it does on time and you haven’t prepared properly, you’ll be caught with your pants down rushing around trying to organise things! Least with it planned out you can push it back as and when you need to.

TK: What do you think is realistic to expect from East Preston next season?

TD: We’re bringing in players that want to buy into the club’s ambitions and want to do well for each other, so we’ll see what happens, obviously we want to finish as high as possible! But I would like to think we’ll be in the top half, that would be a good season and something to build upon for the following year.

TK: Are you looking to retain any of last year’s team, or do you have a squad in mind?

TD: I would like to hold onto as many of the squad I had last year at Wick and add a few more just to make it a little stronger, I’ve no doubt that team will more than hold its own in the Premier Division.

Terry Dodd: I wasn’t expecting to leave

Terry Dodd

Earlier this week I popped a few questions across to former Wick FC boss Terry Dodd to find out how he felt last season went before it was made null and void, why he left Wick and what the future holds:

TK: Around a year ago you got offered your first job in management, what did you think when Kevin (Playle-Howard) phoned you up to offer you the job?

TD: A little bit surprised to be honest, I was actually thinking of hanging my boots up and getting back on the golf course! I thought about it for a week or so, spoke to ex-players and managers that I had played with for advice and then thought I’d give it a go and to be fair got the buzz back again for the game.

TK: Initially how did you find it having that responsibility off the pitch and how important was it to get a good backroom team?

TD: It was something totally different and I wasn’t expecting it to be as full on as it was, I was a bit naïve really! But it’s something that I really enjoyed and got a kick out of it! I knew I had to surround myself with experience as I was new into management and Julian (Curnow), Browner (Ian Browne) and Big Al (Alex Bryant) I had a whole load of knowledge which really helped, and we work well together.

TK Did you find it difficult or not to attract players to Wick given the budget wasn’t the biggest in the division?

TD: Between all of us we know a lot of players in and around Sussex football, so it wasn’t hard to attract players. I was straight with them from the start that there was only a win bonus but most of them weren’t bothered about money, they wanted to buy into what we were trying to do at the club which was progress game by game playing decent football.

TK: And before the season had been suspended how did you think the season had gone?

TD: Well considering we were a new management team and built the squad from scratch I’m chuffed with what we achieved, all the staff and players gave their all and I’m really proud of that! Our aim when we came in was to get promoted and at the time we were 4th in the table which would have seen us get promoted, so I’m really happy with how it went.

We were onto something special at Wick, I believe that there was a buzz around the team and I was gutted to tell my players who gave me 100% that it was all over.

TK: What moments from the season stand out for you?

TD: I enjoyed every minute of it, and I don’t think it’s moments that stand out for me, it was just the quality group of lads we had and everyone was in it together which is rare to find.

TK: Were u surprised to receive a phone call to say your services were no longer required at Crabtree Park?

TD: Yes I was a bit if I’m honest! We were going in the right direction as a club and that’s why I took the job in the first place, they were ambitious, and it appealed to me. They made themselves clear they wanted promotion and to push the club forward and we were succeeding in that!

Maybe the current climate had something to do with it but for whatever reason they want to do things on a much smaller budget next season and decided our ambitions didn’t match their own which is true. But there’s no hard feelings between us and I wish Wick Football Club all the best in the future.

TK: Had you already put a lot of plans in place for next season for whenever that is due to start?

TD: I had all of pre-season planned out, already I had players committed from last year’s squad and was also bringing in a few new ones to improve things, it was looking really good for next season.

TK: What next for Terry Dodd then?

TD: I haven’t really thought about it yet, I’ve had a few clubs interested thought in me playing for them, but if the right management job comes up I would be very interested in it! So, I’ll just see what happens over the next few weeks/months and make a decision from there.

My thanks to Terry for his time, all the best for the future.