RUGBY TOWN: Rugby manager says new post feels like ‘coming back home’

Head coach Martin Sockett and new manager Gary Moran
Head coach Martin Sockett and new manager Gary Moran

FA Trophy trip to Bedworth for Moran’s side on Saturday


Skipper Louis Connor catches safely in Saturday's game    PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

Skipper Louis Connor catches safely in Saturday's game PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

Gary Moran becomes the latest incumbent of the Rugby Town hot-seat, after the club confirmed last Thursday that the 33 year-old would now take permanent charge after two games as caretaker boss following the recent departure of James Jepson.

Jepson quit after just four months in charge at Butlin Road, and Moran now becomes Town’s fourth new manager since Dave Stringer left in May 2015.

His first game in full charge at the weekend against Northwich Victoria ended in another defeat for Valley, leaving them at the very foot of the Evostik NPL South Division table – facing another mid-season battle to maintain their non-league level four status.

Despite the challenging task facing him, the newly-installed manager was looking forward to getting into the role.

Tom O'Callaghan aginst Northwich Victoria

Tom O'Callaghan aginst Northwich Victoria

Moran said: “I’m a Rugby-lad and it feels like I’m coming back home. I’ve got a long association with the club and a real affinity towards them, and I will be trying my hardest to do well for my home town.

“Of course things aren’t going that well at the moment, but I want to put that right.

“With the experience and contacts that I’ve got within the local non-league football scene, added to those of Martin Sockett and Scott Hadland, I’m sure that we can stabilise things and then ultimately get the club back up a level in the pyramid again.”

Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat to Northwich meant it was now five straight league defeats for Town, and they now sit three points adrift at the bottom of the table.

Jake Woolley in last week's 2-0 defeat

Jake Woolley in last week's 2-0 defeat

Moran continued: “We know we have to change the make-up of the side over the coming weeks, but I’m happy to work with what we have here for now, whilst we identify the new faces that we think we need and work hard to bring them to the club.

“In the three games that I have been in charge, I feel that we have been competitive and only lost by the odd goal or two, but we are just lacking that extra bit of quality – that final pass or finish that we need to start moving up the division again.”

Three new signings – Simon Fitter, Sean Brain and Aaron Moses-Garvey - made starts against Northwich, with another Adrian Boitos featuring from the bench, and Moran was hoping to tie-up deals for further arrivals soon.

He said: “Whilst it’s always going to be difficult to build a squad once a season is underway, on the plus side you often find that ten games or so into a new campaign players are starting to realise where they are at clubs and whether they will be getting a regular game or not, so there are often plenty of unsettled players looking for a move.”

David Kolodynski

David Kolodynski

Two of last week’s three main signings (Simon Fitter and Sean Brain) played for Moran’s newly appointed right-hand man Martin Sockett at Bromsgrove Sporting last season, where the experienced non-league campaigner was assistant-manager.

Sockett returns to the club for a fourth spell - this time as Head Coach, after two stints as manager between 1998 and 2001 and for the 2010-11 season, in addition to a spell as assistant to Stringer the following year.

Reflecting on the appointment, Moran continued: “I have played for Martin a number of times in my career now, and as well as being someone with excellent knowledge and connections at this level, he is also a man I really trust – and that is something that is very important within football.”

Sockett is joined in the backroom team by Scott Hadland, who played alongside Moran at Stratford Town, where they enjoyed a promotion season into the Southern League Premier Division in 2014/15 followed by a 19th placed finish there the year after – with Moran also holding the role of assistant-manager to Carl Adams in this time period.

Moran concluded: “I feel I have had a good grounding at Stratford and learnt a great deal about what is involved from the management perspective.

“We were a club punching above our weight in certain ways, but we achieved success by installing an excellent squad mentality and that is something we will be looking for here at Butlin Road.

Aaron Moses-Garvey returns to Rugby

Aaron Moses-Garvey returns to Rugby

“I guess this opportunity has come quicker than I expected, but I would not have put myself forward for it if I hadn’t felt I was up to the challenge.”

Town Director Neil Melvin welcomed the new appointments: “The timing of James’s resignation has left us in a difficult position, but we feel this time with Gary and Martin we have taken on people whose character we know well and have confidence in their ability and contacts to carry out what will be a testing job.”

# Next-up for Rugby Town is a trip to local rivals Bedworth in the Preliminary Round of the FA Trophy, with Moran looking to both bring an end to the club’s poor record in the competition in recent times as well as halt their current five match losing run.

Rugby last won a Trophy tie back in 2010, and since then have been dumped out of the competition at the first time of asking each time.

Saturday’s opponents have made a reasonable start to their first season back in the NPL structure after they were relegated from the Southern League Premier at the end of 2015/16, and currently sit in 11th place in the table.

However their FA Cup exploits for the season were ended last weekend with a Third Round Qualifying 4-0 defeat at National League North Curzon.

The current Greenbacks squad includes a number of recent ex-Valley players, including Richard Blythe, Justin Marsden, Craig Kelly and Marcel Simpson.

Moran will be hoping to boost his own roster with more new signings this week to add to last week’s new quartet.

30 year-old Fitter can operate in a variety of defensive and midfield positions, and signs from Highgate United who he joined in the summer from Bromsgrove, having previously featured for Evesham and Stourport.

21 year-old striker Brain played at Butlin Road earlier in the season in the FA Cup for Bromsgrove and scored 22 times for them last time round, whilst ex-Stratford attack-minded Moses-Garvey (27) returns to Town for a second spell after having made five starts at the club in 2013.

Romanian-born midfielder Boitos featured from the bench for Saturday’s opponents Bedworth a couple of times last season.