Once again, Stephen Burgess has been about during the off-season and this time took time to speak to Westella’s Assistant Manager Chris Spinks.
Westella: last season was your first season as Manager. Mid table. Semi-final of the East Riding Cup. I’d class that as a good season. As the Manager, do you think it was a good season for yourself?
No. Obviously getting to the East Riding Senior Cup semi-final was the highlight of the season. We got there through a default: a bit of a mix up at Ferriby, which everybody got to know about. In terms of the full season, it was more disappointing for me, really.
I took the job at Westella last year. I presented a two-year project to Westella and they were happy with it. One of the big things was moving back to Hilltop after groundsharing with the likes of Barton and Hall Road. Westella were playing in the North East Counties when I was at Hall Road so I was very, very familiar with what was going on there. I said I wanted to take them back to Hilltop and establish Westella as being a good local side again. I think they’ve lost their mojo over the last few seasons.
Last year was a big, massive learning curve for me. It was one of those things I jumped into. Management is something I’ve always wanted to go into as well but maybe I’ve done it a little bit early, tried toget some experience and get on the ladder, so to speak. So yes, it wasdisappointing. On paper, with the players that we had, realistically we should have been up there and, for one reason or another – lack of commitment, attitude and all the other things that come with it – it was disappointing really, the League position.
The Senior Cup was okay. We did alright against Bridlington in the Senior Cup.
Talking about Hilltop: I’ve heard rumours but I don’t know how true they are. It was supposed to be closing down?
No. As everybody’s probably aware, they’re building lots of houses around there. With that comes a community and I believe there are things in place in terms of grants and receiving moneies from the government to develop Hilltop. That’s been ongoing for a number of years.
As a club we do strive and we are looking to push ourselves back towards the North East Counties. When that’s going to be I couldn’t tell you but, from my previous meetings with the Board and the Committee, they’ve promised that they are trying their best with Hilltop to make sure they get back to where they want to be, which is the North East Counties, ultimately.
On the subject of the Humber Premier League I’ve talked to other managers about no go because of their grounds. At Pocklington you can get a stand. At Beverley you can get the floodlights. Do you think in time any more Humber teams will go into the NCEL?
Yes, hopefully. That’s what we want. We want every local team to be heading that way and if local teams aren’t then you need to ask the question.
Great for Beverley. We played there last year at Norwood and it’s a fantastic playing surface; probably one of the best in the area. I understand that they’re putting a stand up there. They’re going in the right direction and they seem to be doing it right down at Beverley so fair play to them.
And Pocklington as well. I feel sorry for Pocklingotn because I think they’re in a bit of a predicament with the houses around there, planning permissions for stands etc. I’m not totally sure what’s going on but I do know that that’s where they’re striving: to get into the North East Counties. There are all sorts of restrictions there and I’m sure you’ll know the early kick off times etc., which are affecting them at the minute.
Next season, what exactly is your role at Westella?
My role this coming seson will be to assist Palms. I’m Assistant Manager and predominantly just concentrate on getting myself back playing. I’m going to get a good preseason, which I couldn’t really do last year with everything I had to sort out off the pitch, players etc. Moving back to Hilltop took a lot of our time up, sponsors, stuff like that.
Realistically we’ve built a sort of a base in terms of sponsors. We’ve got our good sponsors in terms of Eddie Beadles have signed on again for another year. VIP Energy, whom I’m involved with, they’re going to continue their support as well.
Just for me, I assist Palms and, at the end of the day, the buck doesn’t stop with me any more, it stops with Palms! [Laughs.]
Is this an end of the season thing or was it talked about more or less nearthe end of the season about bringing a manager in to help you this coming season?
It was difficult last year. Ultimately I was doing it on my own. I must mention Paul Surrell, who was a godsend to me last year. Without Paul I would have probably ended up wrapping it in halfway through the year. Paul keps us going. He had a great relationship with the boys and he was there for me, really, in terms of when I was on the pitch and he did his best to help out in every way possible.
Why was it Palms?
Palms actually approached me and we had a chat with five/six games to go at the back end of last season. It was something he was looking into; getting back into managment with him doing bits for Sculcoates, I believe. He’d gone to Beverley and played a little bit at Beverley. He injured himself so he said this coming season he wanted to solely focus on management, find a club and put his stamp on things.
Fair play to Palms, he’s come in and everything’s new to him at Westella. He’s never been involved with Westella so he’s learning the ropes of how Westella works himself. One thing with Palms is he attracts players. He’s very well-respected in the area. He’s played at a very, veryy good level himself so Palms is a great appointment and I think he’s a great guy to move us forward.
I notice Martin Jones: his first signing.
Jonesy! He’s a great kid is Martin and I’ll be honest with you: it’s all Palms’ dealing with there. I think they’ve been together at Liv Supplies so they’ve built a bit of a relationship between themselves there.
Has he come in at the right time, with Billy Gill going to LIV?
We might have spoken to Martin at the right time. Ever since we sat down with Martin – the whole signing situation, whether you do it now or do you wiat until 1st July – Martin had given us his word. You go on players’ words and if it turns, it turns. We took Martin on and he listened to what we had to say, where we wanted to go and what we expect from him and he took it on the chin. He’s ready for a good season.
One of the favourite grounds you’ve been to?
Playing wise, there are a few. Brigg Town is always pristine. The pitch/playing surface there is always immaculate and they always do things right down there from top to bottom. I’d have to probably say Brid. Keeping it local as well!
What was your best game last season? The semi-final was a bit disappointing.
Our best game last year was probably Beverley Town’s homecoming at Norwood. [Grins] I’ll get a few dislikes I reckon when people listen to this! We went there with a bare eleven and we ended up beating them 4-0 in their first game back at Norwood, which again was in the Senior Cup. It was good to go there and do that.
I noticed on Facebook you’ve got three of your regular players signing up for next season. Do you have any more players coming back?
We’ve spoken to quite a few players. Eggsy, Stim… There is some serious talent around Westella, not just with what we’ve got currently but the Under-19s from Simon Wares last year. A few of their boys have committed and wanted to come down preseason.
We had very, very good numbers last night at training. Palms has got us in early. He wants to set his mark on things and get people into doing things how he wants to do it. We had ample numbers last night and a lot of them were new faces, which is good to see.
Existing players, the likes of Petrie and everybody knows Alex Wood and his ability. We just need to get those sort of players that maybe had an off-season last year and have been plodding along, if you like. We need to get the best out of them and I think Palms can do that.