Wit, wisdom and Widdrington
By: Kevin Anderson
BBC Sussex’s Kevin Anderson writes for Sussex Soccer to reflect on 10 games in charge for Eastbourne Borough’s new boss…
When Eastbourne Borough switched managers in mid-season, it was with a deal of self-doubt.
Replacing a management team – Garry Wilson and Nick Greenwood – who were simply part of the fabric of the club was a heavy-hearted move. It would always invite some criticism, alongside the cautious general approval. But, 10 games in, supporters are starting to think they need not have worried. The stats are dead level – W4 D3 L3.
True, Borough’s league position is still not watertight. True, there are some tough games in the run-in. And true, Borough should have done better this weekend than a colourless defeat at Eastleigh. But the future is bright – and it talks with a broad grin and a Geordie accent.
Widdrington is undaunted and realistic. In my own reporting career I’ve met a few managers who ‘talk a good game’. Tommy only talks sense. He points out the merciless schedule of fixtures for virtually two months: “We, more than any other club, have played more midweek games and the players have given an awful lot.”
And Widdy knows the need for some push-me-pull-you psychology with his players: “My half-time talk was quite calm and collected. Conceding a goal straight after that means the hairdryer might have to come out a bit more often.”
The future is bright – and it talks with a broad grin and a Geordie accent.
Discipline is there and has, if anything, been tightened, but the Gaffer, you sense, is actually close enough to his players – and to his own playing days – to understand their capacities, their limits, their strengths and weaknesses.
On the touchline, Widdrington is a cameo of animation: barked, pithy instructions; the full semaphore range of gestures; the unfailing word of approval for good play on the pitch in front of him. Above all, it’s about engagement rather than passivity. Hands on rather than stand off.
The man is generous – witness the warm and public gesture of walking across to give a reassuring handshake to Woking’s Garry Hill, a man with whom he had a serious falling out a few years back. And he is witty – a priceless summing-up of Eastleigh’s rather direct, dead ball-based approach on Saturday: “Eastleigh are a better team when the ball’s out of play. If they played that sort of football in my back garden I’d shut the curtains”.
There were a fair few names in the hat for the Priory Lane job, some of them better known than Widdrington. But this was a canny appointment of a canny new boss. Sports have a manager who understands the balance between change and continuity and who is getting most things right. On what we have seen so far, the future of Eastbourne Borough is in good hands.
Pictured: Widdrington (left) with assistant Alan Kimble. Courtesy of Eastbourne Borough FC.