‘It’s the right time’

Badshot Lea vs Jersey Bulls, Combined Counties League Premier Division South football. 250223 Kevan Nelson Picture: SIMON ROE. (38000132)

WITH a heavy heart, the outgoing Jersey Bulls assistant manager believes that “it was the right time to step away” from the role.

Kevan Nelson, alongside manager Gary Freeman and coaches Richard Hebert and Dan Seviour, left their posts after the Islanders were knocked out of the Combined Counties Premier South play-offs at the semi-final stage to AFC Croydon over the weekend.

Nelson, who entered the fray right at the formation of Jersey Bulls, alongside Freeman, believes the manager’s “shoes will be tough to fill”.

“It’s really difficult. Especially with the messages of support following the announcement, you start to doubt yourself and question whether leaving was the right thing to do,” he said.

“But ultimately I think the club needs something different and something fresh.

“I think we have done a lot of good within the club and our squad. It has been a really tough journey and taken a lot of energy and hard work from a copious number of people within the set-up.

“I feel very fortunate to have been part of the process and to have had the chance to shape the team, but it’s only right that chance is extended to someone else, who can put their own stamp on the club.

“I will be fully supportive of who begins the next chapter.

“I’ll be able to be a fan in the stands, rather than collecting grey hairs over the far side on the touchline.

“I want to see this club succeed and I truly believe the players deserve to be competing at a higher level.”

The conclusion of the 2023/24 campaign saw the Islanders enjoy a rich vein of form, which propelled the side to a second-placed finish, their highest since entering the CCFL Premier Division South.

What perhaps goes unnoticed is the work behind the scenes to change the squad’s fortunes on the pitch. Something the outgoing assistant was keen to address.

“Being the first and only manager in the club’s short history thus far, it’s very difficult to understand Gary’s impact right now. But I truly believe he will have a lasting legacy,” continued Nelson.

“Much of his work to get this club in the position it is now goes vastly unrecognised.

“In the past three to four months, he’s taken the side to a different level.

“We were struggling around Christmas and we, and especially he, managed to turn that team round.

“The squad evolved and became increasingly tight as a unit and I think that is really important.

“His team talks, philosophy and training sessions have all been around the right way to play and they’ve done it together so it’s really quite a tough pill to swallow that we’re sort of giving that up, having built it.”

The question now is who is the right person to take the reins dropped by Freeman?

Elliot Powell seems a natural fit, after enjoying much success with St Peter, before steering the Jersey Men’s side to Island Games glory last year in Guernsey.

Since then, he has been chosen as the permanent manager for Jersey, but, as Guernsey have proved, a split role between the national side and club football is plausible and, more importantly, achievable.

“I think he [Elliot] is the obvious candidate,” continued Nelson.

“Gary will be a very hard manager to replace, because of how much he’s put into the club.

“The job is all-encompassing and will take over your life.

“I would hope that if Elliot is the next person in charge, that he is afforded that time and given every opportunity to go and make the role his own.

“I’m sure a discussion with the board and his team would follow and they will probably look at things completely differently.

“He would bring a fresh impetus and the club needs that.”

Powell, in turn, has been clear in the past of his desire to further his coaching endeavours, with Jersey Bulls seemingly the obvious step.

“It would be an opportunity I would very much be interested in,” he said.

“Clearly I haven’t got a club responsibility next season, but I have just taken on the Jersey role and I haven’t yet had a discussion with the JFA as to whether a dual role would be possible.

“I think Guernsey have proven that it can work, but if there is a chance for me to take on both positions, it would certainly be a conversation we would have.

“I do think there will be a lot of people interested in the position, with similar thoughts that they would like to further their coaching career with the Bulls.

“I’d throw my hat in the ring, but I’m positive there will be many others doing the same.”

The outgoing St Peter manager is familiar with Bulls’ squad, having coached the majority to Games glory with Jersey

Powell has also kept a keen eye on Freeman’s side during their campaign and believes a lot of his work has gone unnoticed over previous years.

“I think what the whole management team and Jason Carpenter in prior years have done is very under-appreciated,” he added.

“Their level of commitment to the side year upon year has been brilliant and I think everyone saw that in the outpouring of love and appreciation over the weekend – and rightly so.

“It was tough for those involved that their season’s efforts didn’t have a tangible reward at the end in regards to promotion.

“The role requires an awful lot of commitment and someone that is going to put that same effort in, or maybe even an additional one or two percent to get the side over the line and promoted.”

– Advertisement –
– Advertisement –