As Tommy Widdington builds towards next season the Eastbourne Borough boss reflects on his time in the Priory Lane hotseat and his hopes for the future.
QUESTION: Securing the clubs status in the Blue Square South was the mission on your arrival. It was achieved, but how do you feel about the way the players, squad, and club responded to you during that period ?
TOMMY: I have nothing but thanks and appreciation for the reception Alan and I received upon our arrival.
We were both made to feel very welcome by everyone connected to the club and, on reflection, so many people behind the scenes played a part in turning things around as the season progressed to its conclusion.
Looking back what many people probably don’t realise is that although I had a free rein I only had the tools that were available at that time.
Any new players had to be funded from within the existing budget. As such, with the people I brought in, fairly quickly some players may have realised that their future at the club was limited.
We had to mange that realisation, but everyone who was at Priory Lane as the season wound down contributed to the survival, so thanks to all those players and staff. Without doubt relegation was a real possibility and I believe that change, and the changes we put in place, is what kept the club in this division.
QUESTION: You brought in several players in those early days and weeks, and you continued to do so right up to the transfer window. Some may be coming back for the new season. With the established Boro favourites already signed up do you see your job as wholesale change, tweaking the players/tactics, or a gradual evolution ?
TOMMY: As a club we need to start by doing what’s necessary. Next we move onto to what is possible. Then we move onto trying to pursue the impossible.
Of the players here at the end of the season I have, and am looking to, retain those that I believe can contribute to that, to this clubs future. We “are” making wholesale changes.
Albert Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The last three years have seen a decline after a huge climb. That is why change is needed, to arrest that slide. With the budget as it is I am looking at a player profile of younger, hungry players to mix in with older, experienced quality. I want younger players who feel they have something to prove.
Prove they are good enough for this or levels above. That said the budget is realistic at this level of football. As such we need the expectations to be so, but do what we can as a squad to exceed those expectations.
Longterm the aim is promotion, but we need to stabilise first and then build - the necessary, the possible, the impossible. Day-time training is a big change for this club. This runs against the process of most non-league clubs but I have found that day time training brings huge benefits from performance, recovery and injuries.
We get the players at the start of the day when they are fresh in mind and body as opposed to the end of the day after a long hard day at work. It allows us a wider variety of sessions but will also help financially as we will not need to find floodlit locations for every session. Access to the players on Friday, the day before a game, is also important, and I hope to see reactions from our players.
QUESTION: What do you hope to achieve this season ? Do you set short, medium, long term targets or is it an ‘each game as it comes’ approach ?
TOMMY: My big target for this year are decent cup runs. I have, as has Alan, had great times in cup competitions. We want to bring the excitement of a strong run in a national competition to Priory Lane, and of course in non-league the cash that comes with a run is always welcome.
QUESTION: You are soon to move to Eastbourne. This is obviously a big step. Apart from saving on travelling what other advantages will this bring for yourself ?
TOMMY: I’m looking forward to discovering Eastbourne and being part of the town but actually I won’t save on travelling as I will still need to travel out for covering games.
That said it’s obviously better to be closer to the club. As well as the day to day training etc I can now start to see what is happening locally from a football perspective, in the town, but also in and around Sussex and beyond in this part of the world.
I hope Boro fans will see this move as a commitment from me to this club, the start of a new era even. I have been impressed by the clubs ambition and I want to be part of that, to be part of a lasting legacy for this club.