It has been 287 days since the Rooks lost away at Lowestoft Town in the FA Trophy on a wet and wild day in Suffolk. But on Saturday we finally see the return to competitive action as the 2021/22 Isthmian Premier League season kicks off with a trip to Bromley to face Cray Wanderers, kick off 3pm.
New Rooks manager Tony Russell sat down with Chair Stuart Fuller and gave his views on the pre-season preparations and the campaign ahead.
“Pre-season has come and gone in what seems a blink of an eye. I have to say it’s been one of the most challenging times in my management career. Leaving Cray probably had more of an emotional affect than I anticipated. Walking away from 6 years of hard work was tough but then along came Lewes! I had some interest from a Step 2 club but after one zoom call I knew deep down that Lewes was the place for me. There has been a huge undertaking in the back ground from:
– Creating the back room staff
– Building a complete new squad
– Preparing how and where we train
– Planning Pre-season sessions and carrying them out
– Arranging Pre-season games
It’s been a lot of hard work that myself & Joe had to do at the start, but we had fantastic support from Stuart Fuller & John Peel throughout. Also, Ed “Scanner” Briggs for making sure we look good and sorting out the kit logistics.
In terms of the back room staff, Nathan White (first team coach), Grant Hall (goalkeeping coach) & Vikram Dogra (match day support) followed us over from Cray, then we added Shaun Harrison (video analysis), Scott Mason (strength & conditioning coach), Lydia Woodland (physio) & Adam Drew (part of the management team & head of recruitment), not forgetting Dale Hurley who has been key in the Under18s development. Joe & I believe we have put together a fantastic back room team. Now we have everyone in and settled Joe and my jobs have become a lot easier that’s for sure!
We have been relentless in focusing on player recruitment this summer. I’ve always been someone who is fully committed to football and put in a lot of hours in the quest to become successful, In Adam Drew I’ve certainly met my match. His work rate is outstanding, we must speak 6 times a day at least and we have spoken about hundreds of players this past 2 months, but as Adam has found out we have a very specific type of player we are looking for in certain positions. I know he understands that now and I can imagine he got very frustrated with me constantly saying “he’s not the one”. Thankfully now he gets me, so we don’t have as many of those conversations. He’s been brilliant and he’s one of the best signings we’ve made this summer!
Now to Pre-season preparations. We played a mix of sides from Step 2 to Step 5 and we won seven, drew one and just lost one. Our single defeat was to Tonbridge Angels, by a single goal, playing for forty minutes with ten men. In terms of results it was good, in terms of performances it was a mixed bag, I suppose that’s to be expected when you put a new side together. So I guess coming into the season that maybe the question mark hanging over us, can we put consistent performances together?
Apologies to supporters for the lack of announcements on some of our new signings. There were a number of factors why we didn’t want to announce squad members, one of the main reasons was from me, even up to Wednesday night we were still signing players. So I wanted to get everyone in before we announced the whole squad (stay tuned for those announcements next week) and also I like to go under the radar. The whole summer you see clubs making announcements about signing this player and that player, really talking up them up and underneath you see all the comments ( baller, big signing etc etc). I just don’t buy into the fanfare of it all. I’d much rather go and achieve something than talk about it or over hype it, but I do understand it is part of the game and maybe we could’ve been a little more open this summer. Going about our business quietly is exactly what I want to do and let other clubs talk up their chances and their players. Trust me when I say we have given everything for this football club from the moment Joe and I walked through the dressing room door (let’s not talk about that video again!), we have coached and recruited our socks off and we still have a little more work to do in both areas but I believe we have put together a squad that can make the town, the club, the owners and the fans proud.
Cray Wanderers away (it had to be didn’t it?) it’s gonna be tough for a number of reasons. They, like us, have pretty much bought in a new squad and have been trying different personnel the whole of pre-season. So in terms of preparing for the game it’s been tricky, but I’m confident in the squad we have and we trained really well on Wednesday and know the boys are really excited to get the season started. On a personal level it will be strange going back to Cray that’s for sure. I spent 6 years there and will always be proud in the part I played in getting them knocking on the door of Step 2. So going back there trying to beat them will feel strange that’s for sure but that’s football!
Joe & I are loving life at Lewes. We were talking in the car the other day and saying how lucky we feel to be part of the club. Thank you to everyone for making me, Joe, the staff & all the players feel so welcome at the club, I am determined to pay you all back with success and I won’t stop working until we achieve that. We are at the start of it so there will be ups & downs for sure but stay with us and I know in the end we will bring good times back to the Dripping Pan. The longer the season goes the stronger we will get so buckle yourselves in for an interesting season ahead.’
You can buy your ticket in advance for tomorrow’s game here or pay on the gate. Hayes Lane has been transformed over the past 18 months since we were last there with a new main stand and bar facilities. Let’s hope we can get as many Rooks fans there tomorrow to cheer on the team.
Come on you Rooks!