Adam Gusterson reflects on tough decision to leave Thurlow Nunn League First Division North leaders Harleston Town for his former club Dereham Town
Adam Gusterson has described stepping down as Harleston Town manager to take charge of his former club Dereham Town as the ‘hardest decision’ he has had to make in football.
Rumours were rife that Gusterson was going to swap one set of Magpies for another as early as Sunday when Dereham announced the departure of their boss Neal Simmons following a run of form that had seen them drop to the foot of the Bostik League North Division.
The news was eventually confirmed on Tuesday, with Gusterson, his assistant Olly Willis and coach Chris Linehan all moving on after more than three years in situ at The Rec.
It has been a successful spell for both the club and Gusterson, who oversaw last season’s Anglian Combination Premier Division and Mummery Cup double triumph, as well as a run to the semi-finals of the Norfolk Senior Cup in 2017.
And they seemed on course for further glory this term with Harleston sitting seven points clear at the top of the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North – their highest ever level.
But the lure of a return to Dereham – a club he helped to win the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division title and two Norfolk Senior Cups as a player – proved too much.
“This is the hardest decision I have ever had to make in football. It is only Dereham that could have lured us away.
“Harleston is a great club with some incredible people and to come away from that is difficult. But Dereham is a massive club and if we did not take the opportunity I think we would be wondering what if. When that happens, moving on is the right decision, no matter how hard it is.
“It is a great opportunity for Olly and myself in the Bostik North. It is a great level and we believe we can keep the club in the division.”
Gusterson will now switch his focus from a battle to get up to Step 5 for a fight to avoid dropping down to that level, starting with Saturday’s home game against high-flying Heybridge Swifts.
Nevertheless, he will still take a keen interest in events at Harleston and is eager to see the club go on to make it back-to-back promotions.
“I cannot express enough just how much I hope they go on to win the league,” he added. “They are the best bunch of lads I have worked with and I am sure they will continue to do what they have been doing.
“There are no bad eggs in that dressing room and they will want to finish the job they have started. I cannot speak highly enough about so many people at the club and I hope they get the success they deserve at the end of the season.”
For the club Gusterson leaves behind, they are now planning for the future.
There is no immediate rush to secure a replacement, with the team playing just once between now and February 2 when Norwich CBS will be their visitors.
Chairman Adam Mullin and former boss Craig Trudgill – now secretary – will be in the dugout for the trip to Leiston Reserves on January 19, after which there will be more clarity.
Trudgill said: “The fixtures have fallen kindly in a way, so it means there is not as much of a rush as there may have been.
“Adam and I will be in charge for Leiston then we will decide on whether we make an appointment or do something internally until the end of the season. I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of quality applicants we have heard from.”
Trudgill also confirmed the club had lodged planning permission to put up floodlights at The Rec as they prepare for possible promotion to Step 5.