Honiton Town welcome back Blackwell and Ogden to the Mountbatten Park hot seat
PUBLISHED: 14:03 08 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:03 08 June 2018
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Honiton Town moved quickly to make a new appointment following the midweek departure of managerial duo Graham Bedford and Alan Lewis and have announced a return to Mountbatten Park of popular pair Kevin Blackwell and Nick Ogden.
Here on the Midweek Herald we welcome the return of arguably the most successful management pair in the club’s history for it was they who master-minded the rise and rise of the club from the Devon and Exeter League Division Two to then lofty heights of the South West Peninsula League which the Hippos played in last season and will begin a second season when the Eastern Division returns in just over two months time.
We have managed to get an interview with the returning ‘gaffer’ and we began by asking – ‘When you left at the end of the promotion winning 2016/17 campaign you intimated you had taken the club as far as you felt you could, so what has changed to see you and Nick back within 16 months?
Kevin replied: “When Nick [assistant Nick Ogden] and I decided to leave, it was down to me and Nick fully supported me.
“I had just got a new role for myself at work and the time that I had invested in the club was far too much with two young children at home, as well as an understanding wife.
“At that time I was also sorting the kit, food as well as training so it really was struggle trying to fit everything in – and wasn’t fair in my family.
“I had also put myself under tremendous pressure in the last few games of that Devon and Exeter League Premier Division campaign.
“I knew that if we weren’t promoted we would struggle to maintain our run the following year with teams such as Cronies and with Elmore strengthening on top of Newtown and a number of strong teams also in the league it would have been difficult.
“We may have lost players so going up that year was vital and I beat myself up regarding every decision, and listening to everyone chewing my ear in the bar and took too much of it to heart!
“The good thing with taking a year away is that I have been able to reflect on how I was and now being able to have the confidence that these decisions were purely football ones and standing by them.
“My history shows that I have made a number of correct decisions for the benefit of this football club, however, unpopular and the current position and status of the club backs up that view.”
We then asked how much of a closeness did he keep with all things Honiton Town AFC – he replied: “Initially my full intention was to remain at the club and cheer on all of the teams at the club, as well as support the tremendous work that is carried out of the pitch.
“However, I felt that I needed to stay in the shadows whilst watching the first team. I fully respected Paul (Ashford) in what he was going to take on, and having me standing on the side lines didn’t sit well with whilst he was running his team.
“So out of respect I backed away a bit – I always followed the scores and fortunes of the club but as you step away you can find other things to do – following Man City, Exeter City and the odd game watching my eldest son Lewis at Dunkeswell, although I should have watched more of his games!”
During the last campaign how concerned where you that all your previous efforts at getting the club promoted would be undone with possible relegation back to the Devon and Exeter League? Kevin responded saying: “I never felt concerned that the first team would go down, they, for me, had too much quality on the pitch – coupled with the drive and ambition that there is off it, I was more than confident that the boys would be safe – ultimately this proved to be the case.”
Next, we turned out attention to next season and what the returning boss would consider as an improvement on the past campaign. He said: “As regard to improvement on last year, I probably feel that this would be unfair to comment really on last year’s team.
“The players no doubt worked hard, and I know from personal experience how much the management teams would have also toiled away. All I can say is that when Nick and I get back into the club we will expect at the minimum will be hard work and commitment, what will follow is I hope the lads playing football, expressing them selves and hopefully impressing the fans all with a smile on the player’s faces.”
So, with that in mind are you looking to make wholesale changes to the squad?
Kevin responded saying: “I will not be looking to make wholesale changes – no doubt, as every year this seems to happen, a few lads will look to move on, and myself and Nick have put the feelers out on new lads coming in.
“However, I am looking for quite a big squad for the coming season. The league is massive in terms of both quality and sheer numbers, so I need squad numbers and the investment from the players on what we will be trying to do.”
Since your departure there is now an extra team at the club with the advent last season of a new third team. Is that something you are pleased about? He replied: “Indeed I am delighted! Running three teams is great for the well-being of the club in terms of the wider picture. What’s more, having worked closely with the reserve team manager John Lewis, and third team manager Andrew Pike, I know how hard they work and that they are committed to the Hippo cause. I fully expect to work closely with these two guys, the reserve team and the third team should be a gateway to the first team and will follow the progress of all of the players in the club.”
Are there any noticeable changes at the club that you are coming back to? Kevin responded to this question saying: “I am not sure what has changed at the club, but I do know that off the field there is a lot of hard work that can often go unnoticed and minus any thanks!
“Chairman Roger Doble is really driven to push the club on, and, with Alan Mackay, who has worked miracles at the club balancing the books I know they would have both worked hard.
“On the pitch the step up from Devon and Exeter League Premier Division to the South West Peninsula League, whilst only being one league, is massive in terms of quality.
“Every game is massive and presents its own challenges and one that myself and Nick will prepare and manage for as we deem appropriate.”
Back to next season and any pre-season plans? Kevin says: “Myself and Nick will be looking to get the players back for a meet up and a bit of a social.
“We are planning to speak to the lads with regard to our expectations and how we expect them to act and how we want the team to play.
“Training will probably start early July – but the players must take responsibility for themselves with regard to fitness.
“I cant get the players fit with one or two sessions a week. In this league players must be fit to play in it, that’s the absolute minimum and they must be accountable for that.”
He continued: “We go into the season together as one. We [Blackwell and Ogden] will share the responsibility of the team, training etc – we are a team off the pitch. Nick ‘Oggy’ Ogden is a 100 per cent football man and he has a wealth of experience that I will draw on having managed a number of local teams and has vital experience of the Peninsula League.
“We are both on the same page with regard to how we want to play, how players should conduct themselves and is the best man motivator I have seen in a dressing room.
“We are, in my humble opinion, a great blend and mix – and we can’t wait to get things going.”
Our final question for this opening interview is with regard to the appointment of a team captain. Kevin says: “We will look at who is captain once we have got all the players back together.
“What we will have, is a squad every match day fully committed to the team and each other as we will all have a common goal. We are looking for, not only an investment from the players, but also the off the field and most importantly, from the fans.
“We want them to feel involved every step of the way as we will need them to support us in every game.”
We wish Kevin and ‘Oggy’ all the very best as the plot the forthcoming campaign for the Hippos of Mountbatten Park.