We had the pleasure of speaking to Ben Williams recently, the manager of Aylesbury United. Ben has been on our radar for a long while here at Off the Post and we must thank Jack Thorpe for putting us in contact Ben. The club Aylesbury United, were formed in 1897 and currently play their home games at the meadow in Chesham.
How was your pre-season?
We had a long break, compared to other sides, but for us at Aylesbury we started back on 1st July. We then had an 8 game pre-season which got the lads fit and ready for the season.
So far this season you have had some good results in the FA Cup and the league, how welcome has this been after pre-season?
It’s been refreshing to start well, we did however lose our first game of the season to Didcot, that was challenging as we had a few players isolated prior to it. But the first part of the season is about picking up results, finding a settled squad and consistency within that. But it’s going to be challenging throughout the season with covid.
How vital is it for you to keep hold of your best performing players such as Max Hercules and Jamie Jellis?
They are both vital along with other players to what we are trying to achieve here at Aylesbury. After 9 months off, it was good to keep the same squad from last season, albeit with a 9 month break. Max is keen on how we want to play as a side as well.
Are you still looking for some last minute signings or is the team complete?
We are always looking, but we have a 24 man squad, so we should have depth in all positions and they all buy into what we want to achieve as a team.
Any new signing/outgoing since last season?
We haven’t signed any new players, but we did have a few players from last season returning to playing, so they are like a new signing for us.
Does the Aylesbury history help when recruiting new players?
It helps a lot, especially with someone like Max. The age group we have now, i let them know the history when selling the club to them, but most of the age group we sign now, they don’t know about Aylesbury’s history at the top of the game. Hopefully when we return to the city of Aylesbury this will change.
It’s now been 3 years since you were appointed manager at the club and since then had 2 mid table finishes and 2 incomplete seasons, what are your aims while managing the club?
Just to keep the team stabilized and be competitive in the league, we want to be in and around the playoffs come the end of the season.
How visital is it in the near future for the club to return to Aylelsbury and what are the current plans for this?
I think it’s crucial in the medium/long term, and we are actively trying off the field either through a community stadium and we have to keep going. We love playing at Chesham, but the size of the city now if we got back would have good crowds.
What are the club’s aims for the next few seasons? Is it to get to step 3?
Just to keep winning games and to be competitive, if it happens within the next few years that we are fighting for promotion and it happens, it happens.
What is the club’s target for this season?
When we sat down in pre-season, I told the players that we wanted to be in the hunt for the playoffs come the end of the season. If not in it, then around it. I’d love for us to have a cup run like any non league team such as Marine. The prestige and the financials would help as well.
Who do you think will be the hardest team to take on in the division?
It’s quite an even division, Bedford town should be up there with their resources, but 8 or 9 others will be in and around there come the end of the season. We should know after the first 10 games a bit more about the division.
What made you want to become a manager?
There wasn’t anyone specifically that made me want to become a manager. I came into this club as an assistant manager and was here for a few years as assistant under Glyn Creaser. I learnt a lot from them, but when he left and i was caretaker manager until they found a manager. Then we got some players in and turned it around and asked if I wanted to stay at the end of the season and the rest is history.
Who has had the biggest influence on your footballing career?
I took a bit from everyone I played under, and took bits from each of them. As a Man utd fan, I loved watching football under Sir Alex Ferguson and how he built teams on and off the field.
What are the biggest issues facing non league and your respective club?
Regionalising cup competitions and leagues, in terms of travelling distances and resources to do this from players, coaching staff week in week out . Our league got changed last season and is now more regional for us, but this isn’t the case everywhere.
Do you think covid will bring more people into watching non league games?
I do hope so, crowds might be up a little now and entice a few more people down and support their non league.
If you could change one thing about non league football what would it be?
Just travel in divisions. Prize money in the early rounds and when it gets to the pro rounds to help non league clubs. More resources in non league as well.