INTERVIEW: James Anderson explains decision to hand Woodley United reins over to Jon Laugharne

Woodley manager James Anderson
James Anderson is taking a new direction at Woodley (Pic by Neil Graham)

JAMES ANDERSON is confident new Woodley United boss Jon Laugharne is the man to fire the Kestrels back up to the Hellenic Premier Division.

The club confirmed late last week that former Finchampstead manager Laugharne has taken over the hotseat from Anderson following relegation to Hellenic Division One East, becoming Woodley’s third manager in nine months.

He arrives with assistant boss Darren Purbrick and coaches Arun Brar and Charlie Lauri after a year out of the game.

But Anderson, who stepped up from his position as assistant to replace Michael Herbert as Woodley manager in September, is staying on at the club in a new director of football role.

“It was conversations that I had with the general manager (Mark Rozzier) and the chairman (Colum Moon) and we came to this role between us,” Anderson told The Wokingham Paper.

Woodley missed out on Hellenic Premier survival by two points

“I very much wanted to stay a part of the club and wanted to perhaps help in the off-field ambitions of the club without necessarily having the responsibility of the day-to-day management of the first team.

“I think the club is really well run and they’ve got such fantastic people who give up their time on the board.

“But I felt there was a gap for what has now become this director of football role, somebody perhaps thinking a bit strategically about the football side of the club, specifically the first team.

“Hopefully in the five-year plan we can progress the footballing side of the club.”

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When it was established that Anderson would be stepping aside from the first team manager post, the search for a new man quickly moved to Laugharne.

The former Finchampstead boss left Memorial Park this time last year following their voluntary relegation into the Thames Valley League due to ground grading issues.

He had been due to take over at Henley Town but following committee changes, he never took up the the position so has been without a club for 12 months.

Laugharne spent six years as Finchampstead first team manager, guiding them to a fourth-placed finish in Hellenic One East in 2017 before stepping away.

And Anderson believes Woodley have made a smart appointment.

“We’re really pleased,” said the Kestrels director of football.

Anderson says he would consider a return to management in the future

“We sat down with Jon and his assistant Darren and just had a really good football chat. Not necessarily specifically about Woodley or what they want to do with the team but they’re just football people.

“They really understand the club, they really understand this level and what it means to manage people as well as players.

“It’s getting that balance between putting enough pressure on but also seeing that this is a part of people’s lives and not necessarily their whole lives.

“I’m really excited to see what they do because they’re both such good football people so I’m really pleased to get them in.”

While Anderson was unable to keep Woodley afloat in the Hellenic Premier, he did take the fight down to the wire and had they won on the last day, they would have avoided the drop.

And the former manager says he may look for a similar role again at some point.

“I really enjoyed it and they were such a great group of lads,” said Anderson.

“It really didn’t feel like a hierarchical system, it was very much all of us in it together and it was really good.

“I think it’s something I would perhaps like to do again in the future but certainly just for now, the change of pace would suit me really.

“It’s been great that the club have been so accommodating.

“In terms of last season, it’s still quite painful that it was so close to staying up, because that really would’ve been

Jon Laugharne is back in management

an incredible achievement given the resources and everything.

“But we didn’t disgrace ourselves. We very much took heart from our performances and I think hopefully we’ll be back at that level again very soon.”

Having had that taste of step five football, Woodley are hopeful Laugharne can be the man to take them back there.

But with the likes of Burnham, Wokingham and Emmbrook and Penn and Tylers Green also in the mix, the 2018/19 One East title race is set to be a thrilling one.

“Of course we want to go back up,” said Anderson.

“I think it’s easy to say that before a ball has been kicked but until we see what the level of the other teams are and we see what squad we end up with, it’s difficult to say that.

“But certainly Jon is super ambitious. As a club we’re ambitious, we want to go forward but I think until we see what we’re working with, we’ll reserve aims and ambitions for this stage.”

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