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New Long Melford boss Liam Joyce looking to give side ‘new identity’ as former Braintree Town and AFC Sudbury first-team coach prepares for maiden managerial role

New Long Melford boss Liam Joyce believes he is taking over a side that is ‘low on confidence’ and ‘in need of a new identity’, and hopes the squad will achieve success by tapping into his winning mentality.

The former Braintree Town and AFC Sudbury first-team coach, who is preparing to embark on his first managerial role, was appointed as David Hennessey’s successor on Tuesday last week after impressing an interviewing panel on Saturday, May 4.

Joyce, who was one of three managers spoken to by the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division outfit, received a call from chairman, Geoff Thomas, notifying him of their admiration for him just half an hour after he left the interview.

Long Melford's new manager Liam Joyce (right) with chairman Geoff Thomas Picture: Long Melford FC
Long Melford's new manager Liam Joyce (right) with chairman Geoff Thomas Picture: Long Melford FC

Following back-to-back mid-table finishes, Joyce is itching to meet the players, on May 25, and hopes he can inspire them to buy into his way of working and style of football.

“If they were a side that were knocking on the door of the play-offs for two years in a row, I’d probably say I might be able to get the football that I want across maybe before Christmas,” he said.

“But I don’t see that. I see a side that’s probably low on confidence, I know they finished with a couple of good results at the end of the season, but a side that needs a new identity.

“If I’m going to be really realistic, this season my team are going to be hard to play against, in terms of being very organised and very tight. We’re going to press high and suffocate space in the final third.

“I think we’re going to be very clever without the ball, in terms of set pieces. We’re going to have lots of clever triggers to set stuff up. But once the season’s done, and I’m happy with where the squad’s at, I think the season after will be when I’ll be braver and we’ll play a little bit more out from the back.”

Joyce, who is looking forward to a ‘new exciting era at the club’, inherits a squad that had a strong end to the season to finish 15th, whilst also reaching the semi-final of the Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup.

But on top of the current squad, the new Melford boss also wants to bring players through from the under-23s and under-18s sides, to give them an opportunity to make their mark on the first team.

He believes the under-23s should be coming to him saying ‘gaffer, I want a quiet word, I’m ready to come and play with the first team’.

Joyce spent the 2021/22 season with Sudbury working under Rick Andrews and Angelo Harrop before following the latter to Braintree, where he helped The Iron into the National League South play-offs. Last year, he took time out from the sport due to family reasons.

“It’s all about the mentality of people. I’ll be honest, I’m a born winner. I’ve sacrificed a lot of time and effort to go and improve my learning, and also I haven’t always had it easy,” said Joyce.

“When you do experience good moments, you have to really cherish them because they don’t always come around often. I think it’s just getting the mindset of the players up to my mindset, helping them to adapt their mindset first and foremost.

“If you look at their last two seasons, something’s going wrong somewhere, and for me it’s just making sure they’re mentally prepared before they’re physically prepared about what my expectations are.

“If I’m coming to training for two hours, I’m leaving my family at home for two hours, so are they, let’s make the most of our time and use it wisely. I want them to want to learn everything and really give everything when we’re together.

“When you’re not scoring goals and you’re conceding them, for me that’s a no brainer of what I’ll need, and it gives me good food for thought for how I’m going to train them in pre-season.”