We want to rejuvenate AFC Uckfield Town – and make the community proud

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Billy Wood is well-known to football fans across East Sussex – and the former Hastings United CEO has now left his role at Eastbourne Borough to take over at AFC Uckfield Town, where he will oversee all football operations and be first-team manager.

We asked him about the move and his plans for the Oakmen…

Tell us about your move to AFC Uckfield Town - how has it come about, and was it a hard decision to leave Eastbourne Boro?

The only thing hard about leaving Eastbourne Borough was my players and the supporters who grew in numbers for the team I was representing as a manager. When the ultimatum was put to me (that I couldn’t do a women’s team at Borough and a County men’s side elsewhere) that was the only thing I thought about, the players. I respect what Simon Leslie is looking to achieve with the club but if I am completely transparent, operationally it didn’t always sit well with me, and I leave knowing I left that team in a better place than when I found it.

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Billy Wood at AFC Uckfield | Contributed pictureBilly Wood at AFC Uckfield | Contributed picture
Billy Wood at AFC Uckfield | Contributed picture

It seems like Uckfield need a fresh start after relegation - do you envisage a lot of changes?

On the pitch and off the pitch, the team will have new players coming in to strengthen, the club used nearly 60 players in their first team last year, that shows you the inconsistency and probably a little lack of experience in what building a team means, so firstly we have to create a bit more stability and consistency on the pitch instead of chopping and changing week in week out.

I want players coming here who see the vision, the works off the pitch will make the club an attractive county football club option and whilst it’ll be a process we will not over promise and under deliver, we will go about our business and let the results speak for themselves.

Another major change will be our footballing structure from 18s to first team, and our connection with the local intermediate clubs. Our job as the senior club is to support them, with the meetings I have had I have made it clear I am not interested in pointless local rivalries, especially when really we aren’t hurting each other.

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So, my aim, if we can, is to see how we can support local players play football with local clubs even if their individual journey isn’t going to be the first team at AFC Uckfield Town. You’ve got Ringmer AFC, Ridgewood, Buxted FC and many more, again I do not see them as rivals and want to see them thrive and who knows, I am sure if there are players in those teams who should be challenging themselves higher and could do so, the clubs will be pushing them to play senior football. It should be a two-way street.

What will be the aim for the first team - straight back up to SCFL premier at first attempt?

Our aim is to challenge, I think there’s a fair few clubs who have more pressure on them to get out of this league, our ambition of course is to play at the highest level this club can, it shouldn’t be an SCFL Division 1 club but it is, we have to respect that and go to games in the knowledge we will be a target.

Again, if we didn’t say our aim to challenge at this level isn’t a minimum we would be lying. The first six to eight games will be a real settler of where we go in our first season, and we aim to be at it.

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What about the rest of the club - what plans do you want to bring forward?

We are looking to rejuvenate the club locally, get the community involved in all aspects and have a bit of pride in their local senior club. Proof will be in the pudding but give us time to deliver, give us time to create excitement and give us your time on a Saturday, coming to support your local team.

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