New era at Walsham
Walsham-le-Willows chairman Keith Mills has revealed the need for ‘fresh ideas’ was a leading factor in the club’s decision to part ways with long-serving manager Paul Smith.
The Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division club announced the shock news on Wednesday that Smith, who first took charge in 1998, would not be in the dugout for their season opener at newly-promoted Woodbridge Town on Wednesday (8pm).
Walsham have enjoyed a memorable rise under Smith’s guidance, with the former Sudbury Town striker having led the team from the Suffolk & Ipswich League up to Step 5, as well as the Suffolk Senior Cup in 2005/06.
However, on the eve of the 2018/19 campaign getting under way, Walsham have opted to move in a different direction and appoint well-known Trevor Newman as Smith’s replacement.
“We had a committee meeting where it was generally agreed that we needed some fresh ideas and Paul understood where we were coming from,” said Mills.
“Not many managers last as long as Paul and he only did because of how successful he has been.
“There is never a good time to do this sort of thing, whether it had been at the start of the summer or now.
“We have a similar squad to last year so we wanted a different approach.
“Paul has done exceptionally well to get us – a village club – to the level we are, but the time was right for a fresh start.
“Trevor is a former Walsham player and we are confident he will carry on the good work from Paul.”
Newman, meanwhile, has stepped into the breach following a stint as Smith’s assistant last term.
The 40-year-old, who made a couple of appearances in 2017/18, has a long association with the club, having spent the majority of his playing career on their books.
He accepts that with the season curtain-raiser just around the corner the timing of his appointment is not ideal, but he hopes his familiarity with the squad will mean it is a smooth transition.
“I am hoping there will not be a big difference,” he said.
“If someone new came in they would have to build up a rapport with the squad and introduce new coaches and physios, but we will not have to do that.
“We have a tough start, but if we can pick up some early points we have enough quality to have a good season.”
Having retained the majority of last season’s squad, Walsham have added experienced goalkeeper Steve Fenner and midfielder Matt Collins, who has previously played for Bostik League North Division duo Bury Town and Mildenhall Town.
In a further boost for the club, captain Craig Nurse is fit to start the season after undergoing knee surgery.
In terms of the campaign ahead, Nurse believes Walsham should be looking for a top-half finish.
“It is a young squad but we want to create a winning mentality,” he said.
“There might be two or three at the top who get away, but after that anyone can beat anyone.
“We have some good squad depth now with the additions so we should hopefully be looking at the top half.”