New Haywards Heath Town boss outlines what he wants from his players

“We want to be dominant in all aspects” says new Haywards Heath manager Naim Rouane as he discusses his start to life at Hanbury Park.
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Rouane recently replaced Jay Lovett, who took up a new coaching position at Eastbourne Borough, and the former Heath captain was pleased to get the job: “It’s a big job, it’s a big club it’s exciting in an ideal world as a manager you would walk in the summer preseason you can get your ideas across and how to implement them but It’s a passion, I’m passionate about football so it doesn’t feel like a job.”

Rouane previously managed Lancing and was halted on his charge to promotion by the Covid pandemic in 2020 but believes the experience gained can help him build a good foundation at Heath.

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“Yes definitely, it’s all experience it’s all time spent with a group and on the training pitch and matchdays which obviously you gain knowledge and understanding from and in any walk of life it’s all about the hours on the training pitch or the hours in the job so it’s definitely a positive.

From left, Matt Bubb, assistant manager; Naim Rouane, and senior player/ part-time coach Tom Gilbert | Picture: Ray TurnerFrom left, Matt Bubb, assistant manager; Naim Rouane, and senior player/ part-time coach Tom Gilbert | Picture: Ray Turner
From left, Matt Bubb, assistant manager; Naim Rouane, and senior player/ part-time coach Tom Gilbert | Picture: Ray Turner

“Anyone that watched the Lancing team of 2020 would have seen the clear principals and the framework and body of work we put together it’s something that I would like to replicate and go further.”

Heath defeated Eastbourne Town on penalties last week to progress to the second round of the FA Vase – in which they will visit Holmesdale on November 11 – and Rouane was pleased with the performance saying: “Really the game shouldn’t have gone to penalties it was a dominant, dominant display and they were lucky to get it that far but credit to Eastbourne they kept going and took it the distance but very pleased to get the win.”

There was another shootout for success last night (October 31) when Heath fought back from 2-0 down at home to Hassocks to draw 2-2 in the Peter Bentley Cup, winning 5-4 on spot kicks.

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Rouane talked about the type of football identity and his aims for this season but claimed that it’s not so much about the long term at the moment but about taking it day by day and being strict about core values at the club.

Haywards Heath currently sit seventh in the Southern Combination Football League with 23 points from 13 games as they try to recover from their relegation from the Isthmian League south east division. However, Rouane wasn’t keen to set targets so soon after coming into the job.

“Right now it’s just about getting my ideas across, the framework, the philosophy the identity and so far the lads have been brilliant they’ve bought in and the culture for me it’s all about morals and being a good person, respecting our staff, our committee and all the people that put in long hours around the club,” he said.

“If you don’t have those morals it seems to carry over on to the pitch so that was one things I put across in the dressing room, everyone will have to buy in – if the buy-in’s not there and they’re not playing to my ideas, my structure, my set-up, it’s not going to work and I’ll obviously give everyone the max opportunity but if I see it’s not there and their not grasping we’ll make changes where needed.

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“The football identity is all about a technical-based game, it’s about high levels of possession, creating overloads but we want to be dominant in all aspects we want to improve week on week we want to be the fittest, the strongest and the most comfortable on the ball in and out of possession, these are the fundamentals I’m looking for.”

Rouane has already added experience with the additions of Lewis Finney and Liam Hency to his squad but isn’t keen on a massive overhaul. “We’ve just brought in Mitch Hewings from Saltdean – he was with me at Lancing as a 16-year-old and he’s an extremely talented boy but as of now it’s not a squad that I want to rip up and bring in a load of new players, there’s an extremely talented bunch there, they just need guidance and time.”

Haywards Heath face Hassocks in the Peter Bentley Challenge Cup next on Halloween night. They then play third place Newhaven in SCFL action on Saturday. Rouane believes the fans can play a key part in both these fixtures and for the rest of the season.

“The fans are amazing, they’re the life and soul of the club and without them there’s nothing, they were amazing against Eastbourne Town in the (FA) Vase they didn’t stop signing till 6.30 or 7pm in the clubhouse and I’m sure we’ll give them a side that’s exciting to watch and they’ll be proud of.

“Their support gives us that extra ten per cent and they actually got us over the line I thought in the penalty shootout.”

This Saturday Heath visit Newhaven in the league.