With the Jersey Leagues suspended until further notice I caught up with St John’s manager Elliot Powell to discuss how his team are doing in the Championship season, as well as touching on different topics such as the level of officiating on the island and David Kennedy being named the new CEO of the Jersey FA.
Here is what the young coach had to say!
How has your first season as manager of St John’s gone?
It’s been great – really enjoyable and I’m really pleased that I took the opportunity in the Summer. I love coaching,obviously, but I’m the kind of person that is motivated by a challenge and a long term project. You could certainly class St John’s as exactly that. I’m lucky to be a young manager (22) in charge of a first team and I can’t think of too many who’ve been as fortunate as i have in that regard. So to summarise – yeah I’ve really enjoyed it and I’m really grateful to have been afforded the opportunity.
What would you say the hardest part of being a manager is in Jersey football?
It’s a tough question and probably something that doesn’t have a definitive measure. I’d probably have to compare it to coaching and managing in England. Overall coaching over here is far easier. The facilities are better, the access to the players is greater and ultimately the financial support is more readily available. The only thing that I could probably say is that in the UK, and certainly in the leagues I’ve worked in up North, is that football is much higher up on each individual’s list of priorities. That’s not saying we are uncommitted over here, far from it, but there’s a different level of appetite for amateur football in England from my experiences.
Has the season gone to plan so far?
Well we’re at crunch time now obviously. So far, so good I guess. We’ve had a sticky run recently with a few poor performances but hopefully the recent 3-1 home win against St Peter’s is a turning point again. We are 2nd at the moment and promotion is in our hands. We’ve come an awful long way from the side that finished down at the bottom last year and hopefully the lads can pull over the line to complete their terrific turnaround.
What are your thoughts on Jersey Bulls FC – do you see it as a positive move?
Absolutely – the top players are getting the opportunities they need in order to push on and that hasn’t always been the case in Jersey. There was a big fear at the club’s creation that it would be detrimental to league football but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a significant number of people who would say that that has been the reality. Yes we’ve probably sacrificed a bit of quality but the league is finally competitive again. For me that is far more important. The quality will rise again over time with the improved infrastructure that we have across the island at a junior level.
Do you think officiating has been at a good level on the island?
Look, officials have an incredibly hard job and we as players and coaches don’t always help. That being said, I would probably suggest that Jersey officials have a unique talent for not helping themselves either. Ability aside, the main thing for me with officiating locally, is that it is very much “Us (the officials) vs Them (Players + Coaches).” That is a restrictive attitude and highlighted by the fact that it leads to a lack of respect being shown by both parties in my opinion. We have to address that as a football community, and sooner rather than later. I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom though! We are incredibly lucky to have some top referees in Jersey. That talent, accompanied by the fact that the JFA have recently appointed a Referee Development Officer, leads me to honestly believe that this talent will grow and continue to develop and that the subsequent relationship will improve in the not too distant future!
Back to St Johns – have you been impressed with anyone imparticular in your side this season?
As a coaching team we are really lucky to have put together a side who are all incredibly passionate about the game and more importantly are all really eager to learn and improve. So from that perspective, they’ve all been really impressive. The player who probably gets the most attention at the moment is young Jack Hardisty. He’s been sensational since we’ve come in and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s in the mix for player of the year in the Championship come the eventual conclusion of the season. He’s a match winner and fortunately he’s done it many times for us this year – so much so that he’s caught the eye of the Centre of Excellence again who he actually got dropped by 3 seasons ago. That’s a big comeback effort from him and he deserves the plaudits.
How far has this team come in one season?
They’ve come on a ridiculous amount. We’ve had to go through some pretty tough times together and identify what works for us but the players have taken everything in their stride and are really now starting to move forward. The whole club is. We’ve probably surprised a few along the way and I think the perception of the club is changing once again. It’s probably not seen so favourably in some higher quarters but I think our peers, proper football people who understand the game at a grassroots level, can see that we are building something up at St Johns and obviously one indication of that is a competitive first team. The lads deserve huge credit for turning last season’s struggles around. There’s a long way to go though and plenty more feathers to ruffle along the way I suspect.
What are the people off the pitch at St John’s like – do they just love football?
Everyone at St John is incredibly passionate about making the club as good as it can possibly. It’s a good mix of club stalwarts such as Paul Cottiard (Secretary) along with some fresh blood in the likes of Barry Hardisty, Andy Moon and Dan Garton. Obviously the club is led by Nigel Perree (President) and in him we have the single most committed, hard-working and passionate bloke I’ve come across in club football. He’s steered what at times looked a pretty doomed ship and it’s fitting that he’s leading the club into far more prosperous times towards the back end of his tenure. If anyone deserves a successful St John FC, it’s Nigel.
You know David Kennedy from Jersey Sport – do you think he will do well in his new role as CEO of Jersey FA?
I’m really conflicted when it comes to Dave. Firstly I’m absolutely gutted he’s leaving Jersey Sport on both a personal level as a mate and also a professional level as he’s very much been a mentor and source of advice for me at work. Also his new role means that we’ve lost our coach mentor at St John which is something we were, and still are, really keen to implement as ongoing coach development doesn’t really happen over here for whatever reason that is so we sought Dave’s help in terms of mentoring Dan and I especially and it’s been invaluable. It shows the humility of the guy that as 3 time winning Muratti manager he was willing to drop down and help coach in the championship this season.
On the other hand and probably why I am conflicted, Jersey Football is crying out for someone as respected, knowledgeable but probably more importantly, approachable like Dave. He will be unlike any CEO in the past I suspect and that can only be a good thing that I’m really looking forward to as a football fan. There have been some positive changes at the JFA in recent years but Dave in my opinion is very much the next step up. He will demand better from everyone in local football, he’ll drive our standards up and he will take football in Jersey to a whole new level. Crucially, he’ll do it with the people of football. That’s what Jersey football needs – a sense of direction and unity. Dave understands the game at every level, more so than anyone I know and certainly more than previous incumbents of his new role. He will be able to give expert advice on each area of the JFA’s operations from school programmes, to talent development, to club football and of course representative football which I know he has big plans for with his professional contacts etc. He’s a football man through and through – local football needs someone like him. I’m excited to see him take the reigns.
What are the goals for the rest of the season?
The goal for the rest of the season (when we resume) is simple really. Finish the job and get promoted. We want to be pulling up a seat at the big table next year and be playing Premiership football.