A little while ago, Off the Post took a visit out to Stanwell to visited Ashford Town boss Luke Tuffs. He was only appointed a few months ago, having an impressive coaching history at Hartley Witney and last season with Knaphill. Ashford had a successful history at Step 3 over a decade ago but have suffered relegations down to Step 5 in the last few years. The club is now settled at Step 4 and has a bright future ahead.
You were appointed this summer, the club had finished 17th before curtailed due to COVID-19, will you be looking to improve on this?
I am looking to improve on this for the season ahead . The manager last year had a tough job with limited resources. We are not the richest club, here at Ashford Town, but we work within our means. I’ve got a great group of lads together and few contacts which I’m hoping will help us attract more players if ever needs be and reach a higher position this season.
What made you want to move from Knaphill to Ashford?
We were 2nd in the league on PPG ,last season at Knaphill when the season was stopped but had 3 games in hand. Our player group is ambitious and wants to play higher. Therefore when the opportunity came up to move to Ashford, it was the right fit and to try and manager at a higher level with this group.
What are the team’s aims for the season?
Our ambition has to be too be competitive in every game we play, whoever the opposition is. There are some good teams in this league and some great managers, but we will find a way to compete and see where it takes us!
What type of football do you like your side to play
We are fluid at this level. The FA say you need to have a set philosophy and a way of playing and stick to it. But you have to be adaptable as one shoe doesn’t fit all so to speak.
How has preseason gone so far?
It’s been a good pre-season so far as we look to build on what we had last year. We’ve learnt loads which is obviously the main aim but there are still a few unanswered questions.
Have there been any comings/goings since the summer?
All but 2 came with me from Knaphill, we had a lot of Ashford’s town players from last season and they were offered the chance to train with us as obviously they deserved this. As things pan out it’s now a mix and I like to think we’ve joined up the best of the two squads and added here and there from elsewhere.
Any players we should be looking out for this season?
We have a few… George Spires and Jack French are two but the rest of the squad are very good.
Do you think the FA were right to void all leagues below Step 2?
It should have been one rule for all, but there were more important things going on in the world at the time.
How will non leagues have changed due to COVID-19?
I think more people will come and watch non-league, Ashford are a well supported side anyway but it’s been even better. People want to get out, get some fresh air and watch football. But I think there will be less money in the sport and this will trickle down.
What club do you support
Nottingham Forest although I’ve been a terrible supporter since I started becoming more involved in the game.
Best player you have played against
Dean Holdsworth, when I was about 16. I won’t say the score, but I attempted to mark him and he had an absolute field day.
How have you developed your coaching during lockdown?
I have recently begun my UEFA A Licence which is pretty much taking up my life. A lot of hard work, but I’m learning loads around good people.
What manager/coach do you admire?
Chris Wilder as he has worked all the way up from the conference to the premier league. He’s just been a success wherever he has gone. Also Danny Cowley for similar reasons.
In non League, I appreciate all i learnt off Anthony Milerick at Hartley Wintney where I spent 4 successful years coaching before moving to Knaphill.
What are the clubs plans for the next 3-5 years?
The club have told me they want to stay up this season and retain their Isthmian league status this season. Going forwards, the club have an ambitious project to regenerate, and once it does it will be in a strong position to get back to Step 3 which was one of the major attractions for me.
How hard was it during lockdown to keep the players fit and motivated and looking after their mental health?
Mental health is a strong part of this, in terms of fitness, i just gave the players time off as we didn’t want to burn the players out if they trained too much. But it’s not only Mental health, it has been other events in the world, there has been so much going on. Everything from Jobs going to the Black Live Matters movement, so much has affected our players and as a manager we have had to help with this.
Who do you think will win the league this year?
Bracknell I think will win the league, people always say it but in Bobby Wilkinson they have a good manager who will get them over the line this season. Chris Moore at Hanwell always builds well and I expect Chertsey to do well also.