Last weekend, we had the opportunity to witness the opening round of the Isthmian League Division one central fixture between Chalfont St Peter and Ashford Town. We sat down with Luke Tuffs manager of Ashford Town, after the game to get his thoughts on how the season had started and more.
How do you think today’s game went?
It was always going to be a strange one with our centre half going in goal as the goalkeeper was self isolating, I did think we started well and Perry hit the post. If we had scored early, we might have gotten something from the game. Once they scored, they banked up well and i don’t think we looked like scoring after that. They were very experienced and took the string out of the game.
Were you disappointed with the chances not taken in today’s game?
Of course, but I was more disappointed at how few chances we created. Once they edged in front, I’m not sure how much we tested them. There was a way to win and we reminded them but our team didn’t take it. We need to find a way to win those tough games.
Next up is a trip to Knaphill your former club. Is this an opportunity to write the wrongs of today’s game?
Today is a process. Today will be relevant going forwards. We won’t forget today’s game and other games that have not gone our way, to use from our board of experience and learn from this.
How was your pre-season this year?
We won our first game in the fa cup, but lost to Chalfont. One of the weirdest pre-seasons I’ve been involved in. People have gone on holiday and priorities have changed for players and management. Plus with isolating it’s been hard like other managers to have your first 11 out. It also made us realise we were threadbare and helped us look at areas and bring in cover, well every position except for goalkeeper as you saw today.
Have you made any players/in out this summer?
I thought we were going to keep the majority of the group from last year but we lost a few. Steven Duff retired. Kane Fitzgerald wanted to play as a centre midfielder so left for Badshot Lea. Bradley Sweeney tried his luck higher up the pyramid. I didn’t really think I was going to lose any, but it left us a little bare at the start. We have recruited well though and have brought some strong players into the squad now. We have Angelo Theophelous & Dillon Ives as well as Cameron Rohart-Brown on loan from Hartley and Siao Blackwood and Louie Blake who joined us late on in pre-season. Adding in Perry Coles as well and we have all areas covered
How important is a player like Perry Coles toward achieving your goals for the season?
Perry is very important to us, but he needs to get fit. When he’s fit he is one of the best strikers in the league. He will be massive to us achieving our goals.
What are the clubs aims for the season ahead?
As a club, my task is to keep them up. As a group we are ambitious, but we don’t want to say we will finish here or there. We want to be competitive in each game.
The club made changes to the U18 management structure this season, will this further help the club to develop youngsters which the club was very good for the last 15 years?
The previous manager Paul Gower, who had taken them from the U8 all the way up, but with work commitments he had to give this up. We then bought in Jermaine and Victor who have attracted a lot of young exciting players and their training sessions so far that I have seen are very good and will only improve the quality of the players during the season.
Do you think/hope the season will be completed this time? What do you make of the league front loading fixtures?
I think the season will be completed this time, i don’t think they have front loaded it that much. I’ve always thought they should have more games early on when the pitches are good and so is the weather because as soon as we get into the weather we have games called off for waterlogged pitches. We need to get as many in as early as possible!
Who do you think will be the hardest team to take on in the division given the sideways moves?
I think it will be Bracknell, they have a great manager in Bobby Wilkinson, but the league has a lot of good managers and good resources. It is the hardest step 4 division in the country. Chertsey will be there along with Hanwell and Basingstoke and then other teams like Uxbridge and Binfield, it’s so tough. It’s Very competitive and exciting league.
Who is the player we should be looking out for in your squad?
We have a young lad who we signed called Angelo, so it will be exciting to see how he gets on this season.
What are the club’s aims for the next few seasons? Is it to play at step 3 or higher?
It is to play at step 3 in the next few years,hopefully next year the club will have a 3g pitch and will affect how we and the club are run on and off the field and will help us go forward and be competitive and take a step forward.
What are your aims in management?
To make the highest league possible, I’ve come from nothing and I have a good group around me who I’m always learning from, so we will see where we are in a few years.
What are the biggest issues facing non league and your respective club?
This year it will be covid, in terms of players and volunteers having to isolate. Lots of clubs are looking for volunteers. The other side is finances and we will all suffer with these. This along with good quality training facilities for sides is hard.
Do you think covid will bring more people into watching non league games?
I think it did last year, last season we had more than 200 people for most games, but with more things opening up, our numbers have gone down, but hopefully a few of them have stayed.
What coach/manager did you learn from the most and influence your thinking as a manager?
As a manager this would be Millers at Hartley Wintney. Daniel Turkington gave me a lot of experience for me to develop and on my journey and how I think as a manager.