Thinking realistically, to try to get to eighth position or above this year is going to be a tough ask, admits Whitstable Town boss Will Graham
WHITSTABLE TOWN manager Will Graham admits finishing in the top eight again this season will be a tough ask.
Graham was part of Jim and Danny Ward’s management team that guided the club to their best ever finish in the Ryman League – but that turned out to be the brothers’ only season in charge as they decided to return to league rivals Ramsgate.
The Oystermen kick-off their new league campaign with a trip to Walton & Hersham on Saturday 8 August.
“It’s something that I’ve been after for so long,” admitted Graham, who has been promoted from coach to first team manager.
“Obviously with the few bad (pre-season) results that we had it was very stressful at one point. I was starting to think ‘what am I doing?’
“It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be tough trying to rebuild the team after the manager’s and players leaving, but it’s something we’re definitely trying to do our hardest to do well at.”
But despite being only 29 years of age, Graham insists he is the right man for the job – but he is willing to listen to more experienced managers in the game.
“Youngest manager in the Ryman League I would imagine. I spoke to the Non- League Daily the other day and they said that I’m the youngest manager to manage in the Ryman League!
“I put enough pressure on myself. A lot of people will look at it and think I’m too young to manage at this level but I’ve done all the badges and all the certificates, left, right and centre so qualified wise I’ve got it and I’ve got experience of playing at this level.
“Everyone looks at the youngest manger of the league and sees it as a negative, but that’s maybe my surprise for people.
“I’ve spoken to Neil Cugley a couple of times mainly about players. Simon Halsey is an experienced manager and he’s my number two and he’s invaluable for me.
“I speak to Keith McMahon at VCD and Tommy Sampson, he’s a legend. I have him phoning me at least once a week, so I definitely use these people to speak to. All advice is good advice at the moment.”
Looking ahead to their opening day visit to Walton & Hersham, Graham said: “Tony Reid and Walton & Hersham on their own patch are no mugs. It’s going to be a resilient game, a tough game. They’re a good side, able to beat you on the break and tough and resilient at the back.
“I’m sure we can go up there and get something out of the game.
“We’ve got a scouting network and we’ll try to watch them once or twice before the season starts, as well as Folkestone on the Tuesday.
“We’ll go out and watch them and make sure we all know what they need to do.”
Graham then welcomes Neil Cugley and his title-favourites Folkestone Invicta side to Belmont Road on Tuesday 11 August.
Graham said: “I was pretty glad to get them out of the way early. Neil Cugley is probably the best manager in the league. He’s got some quality names down there as you know, people like Josh Stanford and Carl Rook, excellent players.
“It’s always going to be tough playing against Folkestone. It’s one of these things to get them out of the way early. You may get a little advantage of them not being as glued in as they need to be, so it’s probably a good time to be playing them on a Tuesday night at home.”
When asked about whether he can push Whitstable Town into the top seven this season, Graham is playing it safe.
“Thinking realistically, to try to get to eighth position or above this year is going to be a tough ask,” he admitted.
“We have to rebuild the side. We’ve got to replace the likes of Ian Pulman, Joe Kane and Jake McKenzie and see if we can build a side to try and compete.
“Why I took this job we’re seeing a bit of a long-term plan here. That’s why we’re developing young players like Ira Jackson and Kieron Campbell, who are hopefully going to be here for a few years and hopefully every year that goes by we can be stronger and be higher up the league.
“The first season, literally will be suck it and see and see how we go. I don’t turn up into any job expecting to be fighting it out at the bottom of the league. I want to be competitive but I’m not going to set my sights on play-offs of anything like that and aim to fail.”
Visit Whitstable Town’s website: www.whitstabletownfc.co.uk
Walton & Hersham v Whitstable Town
Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 8th August 2015
Kick Off 3:00pm
At Stompond Lane, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey KT12 1HF