Q&A with Eastbourne Borough’s new manager Lee Bradbury
Welcome to Priory Lane Lee, you have been here a few times, but in the opposite dugout!
Exactly. It is a job that came up which interested me. I was very impressed by the board and the directors. I am excited to be here, in the home dugout this time.
If I were asking you, if this is your life? The answer would be – football, wouldn’t it?
Yes, in a word. I originally joined the army, when I was 16. I was in the army for four and a half years. And then I got out to play football. Since then, I have been in the game for 25 years. Playing and then managing for the last eight years. I like to think I am experienced but young. I have managed 350 games now and I know this level inside out. I am looking forward to working with the players here as I know they have some good talent.
Somebody has probably done a plus and minus for victories and defeats in your seven years at Havant. I’m pretty sure it’s on the plus side, isn’t it?
Hopefully. We won a couple of leagues back-to-back in the previous two seasons. That was a fantastic couple of years for me. The year before that we got relegated and this year as well, but this year was tough on them as a club. Financially it was going to always be a tough ask. And, as one of the only two part-time teams in it, Havant and Braintree, both got relegated. It was always going to be hard. But that is gone. I draw from that experience and look forward to my next challenge.
How much difference is there between National South standard and National League?
It is bigger than I thought to be honest. Obviously full time teams that is what they do – they train every day. Travelling is a major part of it as well. All my players at Havant used to work as well. All the travel when you are playing at the highest standard you can outside of the league. It was very testing. It is a big jump and I feel, Havant as a club and me as a manager have certainly learned from.
Getting out of National South is a challenge. You have done it successfully. Looking at the coming season, it is looking a very strong league.
It is probably the strongest it has ever been. There are going to be three, four probably even five full time teams this year. And a lot of clubs with some really good budgets in there as well. So it is going to be tough, but we are going to try and be as high as we can. Try to put some smiles on the faces here, get the lads playing free flowing football and they are going to be a hard working team. Every team of mine has been a hard working team and a together team. That is something I want to install in to the players.
What makes a successful Lee Bradbury team –between the style and the hard work?
It is getting that mix right of senior players and more youthful ones that are willing to learn the game. And also risk assessment, playing in the right areas of the pitch. We all want to play good football, but we are not going to get caught on a ball or play anywhere around the goalkeeper. We are playing an attractive style of football. But we play it on the right areas of the pitch. As long as you can come off the pitch, knowing you have done all you could and given 100 per cent for yourself, your team mates and for the football club you play for – then nobody can ask for any more. That is what we are going to demand from the player week in and week out.
Have you set yourself targets and have you talked with the board about targets, how soon will success come?
Well, it is work in progress.You go in, and there will be people who leave, new people who come. That will be the standard, no matter who came in this year. I think for a club of Eastbourne size, where they came this year is probably not acceptable and we need to do better. Without putting any pressure on myself, I think I can do better than that next season. We have got to be pushing to get in the top 10. I don’t think that has happened in the South since 2008. We need to get to the right part of the table. Get the fans back here, enjoying themselves and feeling part of a great community club in a great area and hopefully that can go from young to old.
What about the wider aspects of the club. It is known as a community club, do you see yourself playing a role?
Yes, certainly. Managing for me is not just getting the success for the first team. It’s trying to get the best for the football club. Growing the club off the pitch, as well as on it. I will obviously be judged on my results on the first team. But that does not mean I cannot help out in the youth sections and try to drive the community forwards with other peoples’ help. It has got great scope, big area, lots of kids, lots of clubs, community schemes need to be pushed. I think if we can do that, then that can also help the first team be successful.
You have not even met the players yet. But you are coming in at the right end of a close season – in terms of team building, deciding who stays and who you bring in.
You have to assess them. I am lucky enough to know the majority of the players. I have seen them play a lot recently in the last couple of years. I know what they are capable of. I want to speak to each player individually. I want to see if they are hungry and want to be in the side and do whatever it takes to be successful. And people that are not, I am not interested in them at the football club. I want people who will wear the badge with pride and push this club forward.
And lastly, what is your message to the Eastbourne Borough?
Get right behind me and the team. I know they haven’t had a lot to cheer on this season. From first day preseason, everybody is in it together and I am a big believer of that. From supporters all the way through the football club, everybody needs to be pulling in the same direction. The more people that do that, the easier it is to move in the right direction.