New Harleston Town joint managers looking to inject some positivity following relegation
Their appeal against relegation may have been unsuccessful, but with a new management team in place, Harleston Town are hoping it is a case of having to take one step back to move two forward.
The Express revealed online last Friday that the Football Association had upheld their decision to demote Harleston over ground grading issues, sending them back to the Hadley & Ottaway Anglian Combination Premier Division after a positive first campaign at Step 6.
The club reacted to the news by parting company with head coach Leon Moore by mutual consent and subsequently appointed a joint management team of Nicky Howell and Nathan Stone, both of whom were part of last season’s playing squad.
The duo know the Anglian Combination top flight well, having been members of the Harleston squad that clinched the Premier Division title during the 2017/18 season.
And Howell, who was raised in the town, is hoping that their experience of the league can help Harleston return to the Thurlow Nunn set-up at the first time of asking.
“It is not an ideal situation because we wanted to remain in the Thurlow Nunn League, especially after doing so well last season,” he said.
“But there is still plenty to be excited about. We are looking to keep last season’s squad together and it looks like most of them will stay.
“Some of the lads have had offers and that is no surprise. They are very good players, but they also know what Nathan and I are looking to build. We want to get back to where we were quickly. We know the league we have been relegated to and we know what it takes to win it.”
The 33-year-old will continue to be available in a playing capacity next term, but management is something he has had his eye on for a little while now.
The former Dereham Town winger added: “When Leon came in halfway through last season he got me doing some of the warm-ups and we talked a little bit about team selection and things like that.
“I was encouraged to do a bit more around the dressing room and really enjoyed it.
“I have always thought that I would stay in football after I finished playing. I have done it all my life so I was never going to walk away.”
In contrast, management had not been something 35-year-old Stone had ever really considered.
However, after the FA refused to reverse their original verdict, he wanted to do everything he could to help the club bounce back.
“There was never any indication that I would go into management,” said Stone, who was Harleston’s top scorer last term with 28 goals.
“But when I was asked if I wanted to take the job alongside Nicky, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to add something after the relegation decision.
“It is going to be new, but that is something we will both have to get on with.
“I have played under a lot of managers over the years and I will look to take the good things from all of them, and also try to avoid doing things I did not agree with.”
Stone, who intends to sign on as a player again, is also in agreement with Howell when it comes to what the target should be for next season.
“It is a strong league and there are some good players, but it cannot be regarded a successful season unless we go straight back up,” he added.
“You always get knock backs and it just depends how you react to them.
“This is a big knock back but we have a lot of quality in our dressing room – we need to react positively.”